The Veteran Farmer Magazine PO Box 408, Halfway House 1685 Republic of South Africa
A unique one-off event was held in South Africa in April this year , designed to bring together all aspects of agricultural preservation in the country.
The event was promoted by South Africa's agricultural preservation magazine, The Veteran Farmer, on the site of a large commercial farming estate, Sandstone Estate (Pty) Limited in the Eastern Free State.
This property, which is some 400 kms from the sea, lies at the foothills of the majestic Maluti Mountain range in an area well known for its agricultural diversities. The farm itself is situated on the border with the small mountainous country of Lesotho, which finds itself with South Africa as its only neighbor on all sides.
Preparation started more than a year before the show took place. Organisers were appointed in each of the following categories: Vintage Tractors, Stationary Engines, Agricultural Steam, Main line and 2 ft. Narrow Gauge Steam, Vintage Commercial Vehicles, Cars and Light Trucks, and Old Earth Moving Equipment.
If one had something to display and it did not fall into one of the above categories--no matter, they brought it along anyway.
Gert Beukes, for example, worked a beautiful team of trained indigenous Nguni oxen. He gave a demonstration on how these highly trained intelligent animals ploughed with a precision that most people living today could not believe. A last century traditional ox wagon was also in daily use during the event.
The show was built around one specific event--the Great 100 Working itself. On the Saturday afternoon anyone who owned a machine that could pull just about anything was encouraged to participate in one land at one time. A spectacular send-off of more than 100 vintage tractors and agricultural steam engines (not forgetting the oxen) set off across a large land pulling cultivators, ploughs, disc harrows and just about anything that could disturb the ground.
Chris Wilson, who organised this event, ran around frantically for two to three hours before the event cajoling and urging people to start their machines up and move in the direction of the event. Only half an hour before, it seemed a futile exercise with little order emerging from the chaos. Miraculously as so often happens in these cases, when the flare was fired at 2:00 p.m. the helicopter was in the air to take the photographs and every machine that had been assembled was on its way. Of course some were quicker than others, and some ground to a halt after a while.
For the 106 people who did participate in this attempt for a place in the Guinness Book of Records, in the category of the widest variety of old agricultural machines of all ages and the most number of different models all working together in one field, it was great fun whether they broke the record or not. The necessary submission has been made to the Guinness Book of Records.
An excellent 1.5 hour documentary video on The Great 100 has been released and can be purchased from RF International as follows, for U.S. $ 19.50 (postage and packing included). Write to Roger Capper, RF International, P.O. Box 2127, Apopka, Florida 32704 USA; telephone 407-886-7751, fax 407-886-7762.
For anyone interested in preservation, particularly agricultural, this video will provide a unique opportunity to understand and view the huge diversity of American, British, German and other makes of equipment that were shipped in volume to South Africa throughout the century to support agricultural, mining and industrial activities.
How did the event compare with major rallies in the UK and the USA? For a start, a 6.5 kms two foot narrow gauge railway was specifically constructed for the event using old earth moving machinery. A range of old Foden dump trucks, a 1939 Scammell, and a variety of old Cat dozers and scrapers were used to build the line, to put in the cuttings, and to construct a dam over which the railway line was completed barely hours before the event was started.
A two foot narrow gauge 65 tonne South African-manufactured Garratt NGG type No. 16 ran throughout the show and was always full to capacity.
Seven thousand people made the trek to this relatively remote part of the country to attend the event--they participated or just soaked up the sights and sounds of paraffin, steam, and the clatter of old threshing machines.
It was big, it was broad, it was noisy, and nobody won a prize! To be there was a win in itself.