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Edwin R. Winter, inventor and entrepreneur Sept. 2, 1920 -- April 22, 2007

A procession of fire trucks, heavy equipment and farm machinery promises to make Edwin R. Winter's funeral Thursday one of the biggest events ever in the tiny North Collins hamlet of Langford.

Mr. Winter, an inventor and entrepreneur who likely could have told you more than a little something about anything in that procession, died Sunday in the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Cheektowaga. He was 86.

The collection of equipment that will escort Mr. Winter to his final resting place in St. Matthew's Cemetery promises to be impressive, rivaling the collection he assembled across from his home at the intersection of Route 75 and Shirley Road.

There, anyone who stops can view a 70-ton wheel from Bethlehem Steel, an 80-foot-long engine, a 50-foot-tall rocket and a locomotive that are part of what is considered one of the largest collections of industrial artifacts in North America.

Mr. Winter was born to a family of 11 children in Langford. He and his wife of 61 years, Pearl Goodemote Winter, had 10 children. "Four and a half-dozen," he would joke when someone asked him how many children he had. "Do the math."

Although his formal education never went past the eighth grade, Mr. Winter was an industrious man who always seemed to have several irons in the fire. Several of those irons helped make him a financial success.

While working at Bell Aircraft during World War II, Mr. Winter bought a tractor and, along with one of his brothers, started a business plowing fields and baling hay when he got home from his day job.

At 18, he was granted a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline tractors. With many former soldiers returning home to farm after World War II, the farm implement business grew steadily.

"He had a close connection with the farmers," said one of his sons, David, who mentioned his father's first big invention, a self-emptying grain wagon.

Called in to help when a train derailment spilled grain in Hamburg, Mr. Winter and one of his brothers, Clarence, soon started a business that specialized in dealing with rail emergencies, Winter's Railroad Service.

It would grow to handle derailments anywhere within a 500-mile radius and inspire another invention, called a rail grabber.

Edwin Winter was fascinated by many things, perhaps nothing more than machinery. He began collecting antique farm equipment and heavy pieces from Western New York's industrial heritage as longtime manufacturing operations here began to close.

Using the field across the street from his home, he assembled an eclectic collection that was open to anyone who wanted to stop and view it.

On two other corners, he and his brother constructed ponds and a covered bridge. The beautiful, parklike settings attracted many regular visitors, which was a source of joy to Mr. Winter.

"He would sit and look out the window, and I knew that gave him an immense amount of satisfaction," said one of his granddaughters, Amy Vanni.

A partner in the creation of the Buffalo Southern Railway, Mr. Winter was a founding member and former chief of the Langford-New Oregon Fire Company and helped put together the company's main fundraising event, a tractor pull, which has been held for 61 years.

His friends and neighbors will also remember his annual party, to which all were invited, and his donation of the use of heavy equipment when a neighbor needed a big job done.

Surviving, in addition to his wife and his son David, are two other sons, Michael and Robert, and six daughters, Kathleen, Eileen, Dana, Michelle, Patricia Romero and Cheryl Yepiz.

Expect to hear train whistles and fire sirens during the procession and burial that will follow a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Martin Catholic Church in Langford.

As longtime friend Fred Furminger said, "It's Edwin's last ride."

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

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