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Douglaston man donates tractor to farm museum

After years of restoration, Douglaston resident Tip Sempliner will donate what he calls "the prettiest of tractors," a red and white 1949 Ford 8N, to the Queens County Farm Museum this month.

"It's the right place for something like this," he said. "It's better than in my garage."

Sempliner, a longtime cartoonist for TimesLedger Newspapers, purchased the tractor on eBay five years ago. It was Sempliner's first tractor and one he has idolized since childhood. He said he was so excited when he found it online that he might have paid too much.

When he received the tractor, which was shipped from Wisconsin, the tractor looked all right, but would barely start and was not very reliable, he said.

So Sempliner did what other tractor enthusiasts do who rebuild the popular 8N: He found manuals on the machine and started to tinker around with it. He later sent it to a tractor mechanic in eastern Long Island to do the major restoration work, such as installing a new engine.

Three years after his purchase, Sempliner's tractor was running like new. In fact, he used it in recent winters to plow snow in the roadway outside his home.

Sempliner, who works in industrial design, spent the early years of his life around tractors. Raised in Michigan, Sempliner grew up near farms and remembers friends owning the classic tractor. "They all had 8Ns and loved them," he said.

Ever since, Sempliner had wanted one of his own.

"I had this picture in my head of the ideal tractor being an 8N tractor," he said.

He hopes his tractor will get plenty of use at the farm museum. For instance, every year at the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, a farm museum float is pulled by a "modern kind of tractor," Sempliner said. He hopes his restored classic will be used next year.

Even after the museum picks up Sempliner's donation this month, another tractor will remain on his Douglaston property: a modern John Deere tractor. It is smaller and more practical, he said, and will do the snow plowing next year.

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