Big Bad Bertha

1911 Holt 60 Engine

Content Tools

309 Monroe St, Box 247, Monroeville, OH 44847

This time it's true love!

Sure, there have been others-
There was the spoker 'D'.
There was the Lindeman.
And of course the Waterloo Boy.
Not to mention that cute little '62'.
But this is definitely different!

It's not that she's a little thing. . .
It's hard to call fourteen ton tiny.
And she's definitely not a youngster.
Built in 1911 hardly qualifies you as a
spring chicken.
And cute she ain't!

But I guess that big, old, and ugly
somehow has a certain class all it's own.

And now BBB has moved in with us, so I
guess it is definitely developing into something serious.

It all started with a blind date back in March. The new issue of Gas Engine Magazine had just arrived and Ried Rush, a really neat guy that we had met casually in Portland a couple of years ago, had a few old Cats advertised. ('We' are a bunch of Herner Boys from Monroeville, Ohio who tend to like Cats and Deeres. ) I called Ried and found out that a Holt '60' is the one with the big wheel out front, and not at all like our Cat 60's. We quickly made arrangements to stop out the next weekend to look them over.

We didn't set an exact time because our local basketball team had advanced to the state finals and we didn't know how they would make out. As a matter of fact we live between Monroeville and Willard and both teams were in the finals so all we knew for sure is that we were going to Columbus!

Willard lost in the semi-final game but Monroeville won it all. We were the State class 'A' champions! So we were in great spirits when we headed for Indianapolis about 6:00 Saturday night.

We called Ried about 9:00 from Indianapolis and went out yet that night to see what he had. Not only did he have the 1911 Holt '60', he also had a 1918 Holt '10 ton' military model and a 1023 Best '30'. They were all in nice shape and he had them all well along on their restoration.

It was obvious that Ried wasn't lying when he told us how many hours, phone calls, and trips west, he had invested in getting those three tractors into that nice a condition. We thanked them for showing us their tractors so late at night, went back to our motel, and wore out our calculator, trying to figure out how we could afford that '60'. (And maybe the '30'too?)

We went back the next morning, looked them over in the daylight, swallowed hard, and committed ourselves to all three! A down payment and a dollar a minute for the rest of our lives. (Ried and his wife made it as easy as they could, and they were great tractors.)

It was June before we could get back to Sharpsville and our tractors. We knew that without manuals or information we would never get those four bushel baskets of parts sorted out and back onto the appropriate tractor without Ried's help!

All five Herner boys left Friday night after work and we got out there about midnight. We got up early and worked from eight to eight on Saturday.

Steve worked on the oil lines on the '60' engine (really a '75' engine because that is all Ried could find to replace the original engine that was shot.) There are actually three separate oiling systems on that engine and that doesn't count having to oil the rocker arms with an oil can. I worked on a temporary fuel system and David cleaned, chased parts, and kept the thirsties away.

Art and Paul put the head, which we had taken home and rebuilt, on the Best '30' and then worked on reassembling the '30' engine. It took two trips to town for parts but we really did well. We fell into bed that night dead tired but very happy.

By the middle of the morning we were ready to start the '60'. For those readers who might not know, you start a big old gas Cat by sticking a three foot length of one inch steel bar into a hole in the flywheel, pull the engine over compression, the engine fires, the bar is kicked out and the engine roars into life. (It doesn't always work that way.) The holes were worn, the bar didn't fit, and generally it wasn't working at all like it was supposed to. We finally figured a way that three of us could all pull directly on the flywheel and actually keep it rolling over. Those of you who know how big a 75 horse Holt engine is know that you don't do that for very long at a time.

To make a long, very tiring, story short, it wouldn't start. (It would pop now and then, but not catch and run.) We finally let her rest (or was it us?) and worked on other details.

About a half hour later Ried's son showed up. We kidded him about new blood and sure enough he had to try... You guessed it... Second time over it took off and ran like the proverbial sewing machine! (We had been flooding it.) I wish I had pictures of the smiles, but you know how we looked... You have all been there yourself somewhere along the line.

We loaded up the Best '30' on our truck and headed back to Ohio with firm intentions of going back the middle of August to get Bertha. We like to take a new acquisitions to our Agricultural Heritage show at the Huron County fair every year if we can. (We have a great show with an 1875 farmstead and all sorts of authentic crafts, a sawmill, threshing, and quite a nice antique machinery show.)

It was not to be. 1984 was not the year the Herner family had hoped it would be. We had a couple minor setbacks and then David and his mother were in a serious auto accident that gave David a severe concussion, a week in the hospital, all of us some anxious moments, and me the expense of replacing a car we had planned on running another year or so. We simply had to give up on buying the '10 Ton'.

All in all it turned out well for all of us. Ried decided he would keep the '10 Ton', finished the restoration and even showed it in the fall.

So it turned out that it was the first week in October before we could head for Indiana to bring Bertha home. Art, Dave, and I met our rented lowboy at 5:00 Saturday morning. We arrived in Sharpsville at 11:00, were loaded by noon and headed for home. It would have been a very pleasant trip if I hadn't had to listen to Purdue beat Ohio State on trip home. We made it home by 5:00 and actually got her put to bed yet that night.

We are very happy with Bertha at this point, but we could sure use some help!

Does she have any relation out there? There certainly aren't any of her generation around here and we don't want her to get homesick! So Please drop us a note if you own or know of another Holt with front wheel steering. (From 30 to 125 horsepower) We don't really need parts, but we certainly do need literature and we would like to correspond with any of you who are also in love with those big old ugly beautiful cats!