(first posted 3/26/2011) Every summer, the sputtering, popping hit-and-miss utility engines, the booming exhaust pulses of a giant antique gas-powered generator engine, the hissing and huffing of steam engines and the popping of old John Deere tractors floats down the Willamette valley and awakens in me a primordial need to commune with these elemental beings. I don’t always heed the call, but every time I do, my soul is nourished. It may not be everyone’s cup of gasoline, but the sounds, smells and sights of Powerland Steam-Up are as rejuvenating for those susceptible as a health spa for others.
I can’t begin to do justice to all that transpires over the course of any given day here; its much more than just tractors and engines. There’s an operating trolley and museum. A truck museum. A Caterpillar history building, and vintage cars and racing cars. And much more…I didn’t really try to capture a full range of things, as I was mostly interested in shooting the tractors I drove in my youth this last time.
Next time, I’ll bring a camcorder to capture some of the big stationary engines at work; still pictures just don’t do them justice.
But when they fire, and a puff of black smoke erupts from the that big unmuffled pipe along with a deep-from-the-bottom-of-a-well BOOM! Electric motors are slick and clean, but will never have the living, breathing and farting rhythms that make up the soul of an internal combustion engine.
Of course, the old timer steam lovers felt that way about IC engines too. I love steamers too; deeply. But just not quite in the same way; early exposure probably accounts for that.
Anyway, we’ll do a quick tour of some of the classic vintage tractors, which so many of us were exposed to in our youths. But before we do that, let’s pay our respects to our foreign visitors. The Porsche Diesel is always a crowd favorite.
Not a product of the same actual company that builds Panameras today, Porsche-Diesel-Motorenbau built a line of tractors from 1948 through 1963. In typical Porsche fashion, it was air cooled, and by using individual 822 cc cylinder barrels and heads, modular engines in one, two, three and four cylinder version were easily built. This is 1959 Standard, a twin, has 1644 cc, and an output of some 20-30 hp.
This name is usually associated with alloy engines, not crude cast iron. Ferruccio Lamborghini indulged his car-building dreams with the profits of his tractor company, which he started shortly after WW2.
Don’t know much about this R365 except that it does not have a V12.
Our distinguished visitor from England is the renowned Field Marshall.
What makes the Field Marshall truly memorable is that it has only one cylinder, but a very ample one. As in a 6″ bore and 9″ stroke, giving some 6 liters capacity. And it was a two-stroke diesel at that. Hearing one at work, running at some 500 – 700 rpm and chuffing its exhaust out that chimney is mind altering. Here’s the starting procedure, from wiki:
To start the Marshall a smouldering piece of special paper, containing saltpeter, is inserted into the cylinder head by means of the special screw-in holder in the cylinder head. The engine is then turned over with a starting handle placed in the starting dog on the flywheel. This is aided by the decompression valve, which decompresses the engine for anything up to 6 revolutions (generally 3 revolutions is sufficient – a spiral groove on the perimeter of the flywheel is used to determine the number of revolutions and position before top dead centre where the decompressor mechanism disengages and permits compression) to allow the flywheel to gain speed and inertia to turn the engine through compression, and get the engine to fire. Depending on the condition and mood of individual tractors, it is possible to get a thorough workout starting the Marshall.
A cartridge starting system is also fitted to the tractor. A shot-gun type cartridge is loaded into a breech on the engine’s intake system. The smouldering paper is placed in the cylinder head, and the cartridge is fired by tapping the protrusion pin with a hammer. This puts a charge into the bore, sending the piston through its stroke, bursting into life. This method, however, deposits carbon which often causes jamming of the decompression valve if cartridges are regularly used. It also puts significantly more strain on the engine.
No wonder they disappeared in the fifties, along with so much other wonderfully eccentric British iron.
How about something a bit more conventional? I ran out of time in the related Auto-Biography chapter, but the first year I spent at the Mennonite farm, they had one of these, before it was replaced with the two Farmalls. It had a hand clutch lever, which was a bit odd and easy to pop.
Cases were common too, and I drove one like in the back. Except for the six cylinder Olivers and two cylinder John Deeres, most American tractors had four cylinder engines. And diesels were still quite uncommon in the fifties.
The remarkable Ford 8N and 9Ns are still earning their keep all over the world. At about $2k today, they can still give a modern tractor a run for their money in terms of productivity. There’s an organization that buys and ships these to Africa to give farmers their first wheels. Not bad for a design that goes back to the mid thirties.
Four wheel drive is now ubiquitous, but it took a long time to become commonly adopted. This is a very early example.
Its reduction gears are incorporated at the top of the big wheel hub.
This 1954 Farmall Super M-TA is the equivalent of a ’55 Chevy with the optional power-pack engine. It was the biggest and baddest machine in the catalog that year, and my happiest childhood days were spent behind its wheel. King of the Field!
I probably would have felt the same about the Olivers, with their handsome sheet metal, paint and creamy smooth six cylinder engines.
It was the equivalent of being a Chevy, Ford or Mopar man back then. And John Deere ended up winning the competition, as the only American tractor maker that never got sold or merged. The Ford of tractors.
Diesel engines slowly penetrated the market, and some of the smaller tractor companies bought GM’s Detroit Diesel engines. But I’m a bit suspicious of this is an original or retrofit, as the V6 DD didn’t appear until about 1959 or so. And this MH 66P looks a bit older. Anyone know?
If these tractors look small by today’s standards, check out this British Tri-Trac built by David Bradley.
I need to stop, otherwise the CC servers will be constipated every time someone tries to load up a page. We’ll be back there this summer. Any special requests?