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HOLMBERG: Colonial Heights truck and tractor museum filled with history that changed our world

Posted at 12:29 AM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 17:15:36-05

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- As the nation and the world wrestled with plunging stock markets, terrorism, politics, crazy weather and nonstop outrages, I came down to earth by visiting the Keystone Truck and Tractor Museum just off I-95's exit 53 in Colonial Heights.

Friends, you need tractor power to rip up and plant the earth and haul freight across the land. (Why big trucks are called "tractor trailers.")

Mass-produced, petrol-powered tractors and trucks truly started transforming our world a century ago.

We have been able to live the way we do because of tractor power.

So I finally stopped in to check out this vast, non-profit showplace that settled down here five years ago, and found it is one of the very finest truck and tractor museums in the nation.

Just endless rows of perfectly restored tractors and trucks spanning 100-plus years: 300 tractors and 60-plus trucks. The showcase included big name brands and total oddities.

Keith Jones is the soft-spoken but very detail-oriented founder.

"My dad was in the lumber business and we had trucks that we worked with," he recalled as we visited Thursday.

"We had a few tractors around but I never really had one of my own until I bought this one," he said, patting the first in a long line of antique John Deeres

It had been buried in a hedge of honeysuckles, the tires practically rotted away.

"I got my hands on it 1997, sent it to Ohio and had it restored, and I kind a got the bug . . . It's more of a disease then a bug."

You've got to be rich to have this disease, and Keith Jones is. He's the founder and owner of Abilene Motor Express.

But another key to Keystone is curator/co-collector/mechanic/designer "Bones" Stone, who knows the machines - literally - inside and out. You'll be lucky if you go there and get him talking or even Jones for that matter.

These guys collect anything old. Hand tools, chain saws, bottles, toys, gas pumps, antique locally made stuff. You want to see how an early washing machine agitator works?

I'm not exaggerating in saying that most of these machines are in as good a shape as they were when they were brand new. Or better.

The paint jobs are simply amazing. The old tractor seats are pristine. Virtually everything has new tires. Good luck finding an oil leak.

Check out the video, or go there. They do charge admission ($8 or less).

It's really something to see all the deep-down, hard-pulling history, all in one vast museum.

Their push pin map of the world showing where their visitors have come from shows how elemental this history is for civilization.

And, to me, it's much better seeing how stuff works and how well it can be put back together than worrying about how things seem to always be in danger of falling apart.