Heard In The Freight Yard

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(A reprint from Tractor and Gas Engine Review, Nov. 1918), Sent to us by Ted E. J. Worrall, Star Route, Box 62 Loma, Montana 59460

It was a freight yard, located in an energetic dirty city which boasts of the volume of implements that are distributed through it each year.

It was that portion of the yard sacred to tractors. Busy switch engines were shunting in cars loaded with new tractors, who under the stimulation of attendants, snorted as they felt their sparks and rolled out of the cars onto the long platforms, and then down the runway to the big tractor stables.

In one corner, there was a disconsolate group of old tractors who looked as if they had been out on a week's drunk. It was in this corner that the tractors conversed life as they knew it and insulted the reputations of their ancestors, the designers.

'How did you get here, old Behemoth?' asked a rattle trap tractor which was suffering from a broken connecting rod and a few other ailments. The question was addressed to a mammoth track-layer.

Behemoth raised first one track and then the other trying to shake the mud and grit out of his links. A couple of link pins fell out. 'It's not a pleasant story,' he answered. 'You know the people who made me claimed that I could stand anything. They said I could go through mud, over snow, clamber ditches, ride sand, in fact do everything but chase U boats and fly to the moon. Well, I could, pretty near, if my engine was only big enough. But you see, the man who bought me got the idea that I could pull anything that would not stall my motor. He forgot that just because I never slipped I could be overloaded. There's not enough babbitt left in my system to bush a watch bearing.

'Then he would make me go through sand, and it gets in my crawlers. That of itself would not be so bad, but he would smear grease all over the tracks because he did not like the noise I made. You see, my track links can't help making an awful clatter when I walk, and he did not like it. Well, the grease made the sand stick, and you can see the condition of my tracks now. I shed pins every step I take.

'The factory man who looked me over swore when my owner was out of hearing, but he said they could put me in fair condition if I was sent to the hospital at the factory. And that's where I'm headed.

'I don't know what you're here for,' concluded the Behemoth to the machines around, 'but I'll say just one thing more. Don't let your owner overload you. He's heading you for the tractor graveyard just as sure as greasy sand eats my tracks.'

'I never had a chance to wear out my babbitt,' snickered Rattle Trap. 'I was sold for a three plow machine, and I had as much chance of pulling three plows as you, Old Behemoth, have of plowing corn.

'When my designer bought his motors, he wanted to save money. He did all right, but to show enough power on the block, the engine man speeded up my engine fifty percent over what it was designed to run.

'Another thing, my designer never had plowed an acre of ground in his life, and he put 8-inch wide drivers on me. Then to save money, he bought cheap bull gears, and my drive pinion was not even heat treated.

'The dealer who sold me did not know these things, and I was almost pretty when I was new.' The tractor here simpered to the assemblage at large, and a homely one cylinder machine in the corner snorted under his breath.

'Well,' continued Rattle Trap, 'my dealer drove me out into the country and all the farmers came for miles to see me run. I was hooded over just like an automobile, had fenders over my wheels, and was beautifully painted, and they all admired my trim figure.

'But it certainly was sad. They put me to work in some nice black gumbo and hitched on a brute of three bottom plow. That scared me too for the plow growled something about what it would do to me when I started.

'As soon as I began to hit on all four, my driver jerked in the clutch and dropped two plows. I strained till I almost cracked my radiator but I managed to keep going. Then he dropped the third bottom, and goodnight. I simply dug myself in. The driver asked me if I thought I was a blooming boche digging for cover.

'Then he got out some big lugs and put them all around my wheels. I started off better, but no sooner did he drop the third bottom than I felt an awful pain in my crank case, and something punched a hole in it.

'They examined me and found that my third connecting rod had broken in two. I had stripped half the teeth off my bull gears, and my crank shaft had sprung. So here I am, and I don't know what they will do with me when they get me back to the factory.' Rattle Trap dropped a few tears from his carburetor.

'That's a sad story,' volunteered a business-like looking machine next to the shed, 'but I think mine is worse.

'I was designed by a man who knew his business. I've got the best heat-treated cut gears; a high compression motor that's as efficient as you find outside of airplanes. When I got on my farm, I settled right down pulling four 14-inch plows without even a knock. You see I was designed for gasoline and I'm a real tractor.

'Then what happened? My owner read an ad about how a certain machine burned kerosene and cost only half as much for fuel as a gasoline tractor like me. I don't believe it, but that's simply a matter of opinion. At any rate, my owner bought a double bowl carburetor and put on another tank. Then he began to shoot that dirty, smelly, greasy, indigestible stuff into my cylinders.

'I don't mind admitting I balked somewhat. I boiled my radiator for the first time in my life. I pre-ignited and knocked my bearings to attract his attention. There wasn't anything I didn't do to show I was not running right. In spite of all that, my owner persisted. I began to gum up with carbon. My rings stuck. That blamed low-grade fuel began to leak into my crank case. My lubricating oil was all cut to pieces. It forgot what viscosity was. Then I cut out my bearing, scored my cylinders, wore my pistons and rings, and now I have not power enough left to pull a baby carriage. And to think that I once was the best acting tractor in the country.' He grunted and leaned against the shed disconsolately.

The Rattle Trap turned to the staid looking Single Cylinder with an inquiring look. 'You burn kerosene, don't you?' he inquired.

'Yes and I get by with it too,' said Single Cylinder. 'My designer knew that you high compression fellows were a failure on kerosene, so he forgot the word efficiency when he laid me out in his blue prints. And, believe me, when I rolled out of the shop, I could take far worse fuel than kerosene and get by with it. I don't say that I don't blow some of it out of my exhaust, my compression isn't high, but I'm a whale on kerosene. You see,' he said, turning to the four cylinder motor that had been ruined by kerosene, 'I never use the same lubricating oil twice. I have a mechanical lubricator which shoots fresh oil to each bearing. Furthermore, my cylinder lies on its side and any unburned kerosene blows out my exhaust instead of getting between my piston and cylinder.

'My trouble came in the way I was hitched to my plow. I got pneumonia from too much side draft. They would not run me so that the line of pull was the same as the line of draft. When they attempted to throw the side draft into the plow, it simply refused to scour. So I had to take it all.

'The result was that one wheel and the differential had to do work they never were supposed to do. I'm a two wheeler, so far as driving is concerned, and when you overload one wheel and make the other a loafer, I begin to wear about ten times as fast as I would if I were run right. I stood it for two seasons, and then I broke. The expert said he could fix me up temporarily but that I had better go back to the factory for a thorough overhauling. Then he gave my owner fits. I think they'll hitch me right next time.'

A powerful Two Cylinder tractor interrupted by coughing consumptively. 'My trouble,' he said, 'is that I went to a section where the dust is nothing but fine sand. I had no air-cleaner on my carburetor, and when I was put to plowing the latter part of the summer, I did nothing but suck that dust into my cylinders. It wore out in two weeks my rings, pistons and cylinders. I've got to have an entirely new outfit, all for want of a measly little ten dollar air-cleaner.

'That dust also wore my driving pinions and bull gears. You see they are not enclosed, and although they are good stuff and heat treated, when my owner put grease on them the dust stuck to it and formed a grinding compound. That's a terrible section for a self-respecting machine. Before I return, I have an idea the surgeons will house my driving gears and put on an air-cleaner.'

'Then the trouble with all you fellows except Rattle Trap there is that you were not treated right,' timidly suggested a new tractor who had been listening to the experience meeting.

'Yes, that's about the size of it, was the reply of Behemoth. 'Rattle Trap here never was a tractor. He was built for a stock seller and from what we have heard, he did that nobly. Real tractors never will get a square deal until our owners know more about us than simply to fill our tanks in the morning and to throw our switches at night. And I suppose human nature is such that they never will learn unless they pay for it. We tractors going back to our factories really are lessons for them. They'll think so when they get their hospital bills, and they will remember next time and tell their neighbors.'

'I hope my owner has paid for his experience,' sighed the new tractor plaintively.

A train of empties crashed into the siding and the crew began loading the derelicts.

'Well,' continued Rattle Trap, 'my dealer drove me out into the country and all the farmers came for miles to see me run...'

'And, believe me, when I rolled out of the shop, I could take for worse fuel than kerosene and get by with it. I don't soy that I don't blow some of it out of my exhaust, my compression isn't high, but I'm a whale on kerosene.'