Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Old Iron

I love old machinery--doesn't matter what it is--planes, trains, automobiles, or ancient firearms... Having worked in and around machine shops a good part of my life, I can appreciate what it took to make these things with the tools available at the time--no computers, no automated machine tools, not even a calculator.  All the math was done with slide rules and "stubby pencil".

On one of our trips to Southeastern Utah, we stopped in Monticello. The Pioneer Museum there had a display of old farm tractors from the surrounding area.  I was told that most of the tractors came in there on their own power--quite a feat since some of them are close to 80 years old.

Note that this is not a permanent display... they were brought in by private owners and removed again after a couple weeks... I just was at the right place at the right time.

Anyway, here are some of them... I have an account on Pinterest, and will post others there (as soon as I learn how to do so...).

 BTW, if any of you know the exact model of these machines, leave a comment.  I had written down the serial numbers, etc. but have lost my notes...

This old John Deere has seen better days… but then, I would guess it was built in the 30’s so it's close to 80 years old—based on the spoked wheels.  Note also that someone put wheels off a military 2 ½ ton Truck (Deuce and a Half) on the front.  The right tire is even the military universal tread. A close look at the left front wheel in the 2nd picture will show spokes that were used to attach the new wheel to the old hub…



A Fordson Model B.  When Henry Ford wanted to start building his own tractors, the Ford name was tied up due to an earlier, failed partnership, so, he named them “Fordsons” instead.  I’ve generally seen these with steel wheels… this one has hard rubber tires, with duals in the rear… not sure what it was used for but my guess is as an orchard tractor.


Here R to L, we have 3 crawlers-- a CAT D4?  An International (IHC) TD-9?  and a John Deere that I don't know the model of. Crawler tractors were used to drag large harrows or gang plows to work dry farms.  Their low ground pressure allowed them to go places a wheeled tractor couldn't. The JD crawlers actually used a modified wheel tractor chassis--mounting track frames on it instead of front and rear axles.

If you look carefully on the engine of the orange IHC crawler, you'll see that it has sparkplugs--even though it's a diesel engine.

The old IHC UD and ND series engines were interesting--though they were diesels, they also had spark plugs, a carburetor, and a magneto. I've seen them in various sizes and 4 and 6 cylinder versions powering everything from generators and motor graders to huge bulldozers. I overhauled a 4 cylinder model out of a Galion Motorgrader while in college back in 1982.

There was a third valve in the cylinder head that just opened to an empty pocket--it didn't go anywhere.  What it did do was lower the compression. by putting more space above the piston. This was one of the first "Hybrid" engines.  It could run on gas, or diesel (if it was warm).

To start the engine, you pulled a lever to open the valve, which also opened a valve to a small gas tank.  When you cranked the engine, gasoline went through the carb into the engine and was ignited by the magneto and plugs.  The lowered compression ration allowed it to run without "knocking".  After the engine warmed up, you shut off the lever while simultaneously pulling the throttle to start diesel flowing to the injectors. Apparently this took a bit of coordination, but it must have worked pretty well because it was used for many years. 

This system was unique to International.  Cat used a "pony engine"--a small, inline 2 cylinder gas engine connected to the diesel with a clutch.  You started the pony engine... which also helped to warm the coolant in the diesel (they shared the same cooling system), then engaged a clutch to turn the diesel over... quite an undertaking but it would start it up... John Deere used a similar system on their larger engines, but it was a "V-2"

Straight electric start eventually replaced these older systems, but even while working at a used machinery dealer from 1997 to 2003, we'd still have machines come in with pony engines, or, in the case of the IHCs, a diesel engine with spark plugs.

So, you can win a bet with someone if they say diesels don't have sparkplugs. 


A nicely restored Farmall (IHC) Cub. 

This tractor was built from 1947 to 1981 under the McCormick-Deering, Farmall, or International names--one of the longest manufacturing runs for any tractor.  While the little 4 cylinder flathead engine only put out about 10 hp, it had a long stroke, so it had plenty of torque.  This was the original garden tractor--you could plow with it, cut weeds, and mow the lawn.  IHC also built a "Lo-Boy" version which was very popular in landscaping, mowing golf courses, etc.

          1977 International Cub Lo-Boy

The Cub and some other IHC tractors had an unusual feature on them called "Cultivision:.  The engine, transmission and rear axle were all connected together as one unit--no external frame was needed.--as is common with most tractors. However, in the Cultivision series, the center line of the tractor was offset to the left, while the operator's seat was to the right. Notice the steering shaft goes down the right side of the tractor. This allowed the operator to look directly at the furrow or line of crops he was working on.  It made the tractor look a little odd and off-balanced, but it was a good system.

My father-in-law had a IHC Cub with plows and a sickle bar mower.  He had bought 5 acres in rural Davis County, Utah, and used it around the "homestead".  He planted a garden, fruit trees, etc. but the weeds from the former pasture sprang up quite high.  We were living with them at the time while I was in school, so one day I decided to help out by mowing weeds.  Little did I know that I also mowed down several of his young sapling fruit trees--the weeds were so tall I couldn't see them... ooops!!!

This shows the front view of the Farmall Cub, along with a Sears SS16 garden tractor in the foreground.  The Sears tractors were built in the 1970s to the early 80s.  They were a development of the older Sears Suburban Series.  The GT series followed the SS models and were the last Sears tractors built by Roper before they changed the name to Craftsman and Sears started buying them from American Yard Products (AYP). The SS and GT series tractors had Onan flat twin cylinders in 16 or 18 hp... quite the brute for a small tractor!! I have both models and work them hard.

Here we have R to L, a Case VAC?, an Allis Chalmers, and a John Deere.  Do you notice anything unusual about the John Deere?

Here's another picture... Give up???

Oh, alright!!!! One last picture... anyone familiar with the old John Deere "Johnny Popper" flat twin engine will know immediately. 


This John Deere has had a Chevrolet Small Block V-8 "grafted" on to it!!

The V-8 is sitting above the area where the two, flat-lying, side-by-side cylinders of the factory engine would normally be. A large flywheel, now replaced by the larger pulley on the lower right side of the picture, was attached directly to the crankshaft.  Whoever installed the Chevy did a great job... even if it's V-belt drive!  Notice that the engine is painted John Deere yellow and green...

 Although a 4-stroke engine, the spark plugs of the John Deere "Johnny Popper" both fired on the same revolution. It had a distinctive sound when running, hence the nickname... the cylinders were quite large, but it was the huge flywheel on the side of it which made the tractor a lugging fool.  Many tractor pulls were won by them in the 40s and early 50s.

As a boy in the 60s, one of our neighbors used a John Deere Model B to drive an irrigation pump.  His farm was a mile down the road, but on a warm summer evening with the windows open, that old tractor "sang" me to sleep many a time.

Here's a picture of another John Deere with the "Johnny Popper" engine. Notice the sparkplug and wire of the right hand cylinder just above the frame rail.  The large pipe is to bring coolant from the engine to the radiator.  The large flat pulley was used to power belt-driven machinery such as pumps, threshers, etc.

If you're interested in old tractors--restoring them, or getting more information, check out these websites:

Tractor Data  A good site for basic information about just about every tractor ever made--agricultural, industrial, and even the small garden/lawnmower tractors. 

Yesterday's Tractor  A good site for parts, manuals, and a great forum as well.

Smokstak  This site deals with antique engines of all types, but also has a well-supported forum on tractors and other machinery...

Garden Tractor Talk  I love this website!!!  It deals with all types of garden tractors, antique and modern--one, two, three, or four-wheeled.  It has .pdf copies of many manuals, and a diverse forum dealing with specific models... For example, have you ever seen a Roof "Palomino".  It's a lawnmower built to look like a Jeep.  How about an old David Bradley or Bolens walk behind tractor, or a Pennsylvania Panzer?  They're all located here.  Want to convert your Garden Tractor to diesel power??? you can find step-by-step instructions here as well... There's also a classifieds section to find those (increasingly) hard to find parts.

You can browse for free, but I encourage you to join as you can then post to the forums, as well as contribute articles, etc.

Well, that's all for now, but I'll post more later when I get a chance.



  1. Wow that's some really interesting tidbits!

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  3. I sold Industrial, Construction and Mining equipment in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho for a couple of decades. Spent a good deal of time on the road, and I especially loved coming upon older and retired machines and then checking them over.

    It was nice to be alone and take 15 minutes to walk around and crawl over history as it was preserved in the varieties of the equipment I had the satisfaction to inspect. It was almost like we were old friends of sorts as I connected with this equipment.


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