This story about the Hunday National Tractor and Farm Museum, comes to us from our friend, J. M. Harrison of Westwood Farm, Start forth, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, England. The museum is located near Corbridge, in Northumberland, England.
Five or six years ago I used to attend a Farmers Discussion Group in one of Leedale's villages. One evening the speaker was Mr. John Moffitt, a Friesian cattle breeder whose reputation in that sphere is probably known to some G.E.M. readers but on this particular occasion the subject was his collection of barn engines and tractors. This was the moment I got bitten. The following evening I turned off the T.V. and started work restoring the Lister 'D' which used to drive the milking pump but had stood idle for some years and as you know only too well one thing leads to another.
John Moffitt started his collection in 1964 with an Oliver 80 tractor which stood on the roadside in a country lane not far from his home. Barn engines soon followed and some of the men on his farm started taking an interest and spending much of their spare time on restoration in the workshop. Some years later a neighboring farm (West Side) was bought but as the buildings were very old and not suitable for modern farming it was decided to restore the buildings and house the collection in them. At this time the museum was not open to the public put parties were taken round by special arrangement. By the summer of 1979 the museum was in the charge of a full time curator and was opened to the public by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
So what better place to write about for G.E.M. readers? On my arrival I was met by the curator Leo Blackmore who showed me all around the now vastely extended premises including all those places the public cannot see-workshops and a large barn filled with tractors and engines waiting to be re-built. He also left me alone for half an hour to look through the hundreds of files of instruction books and entine charts, etc. Leo is at present setting up another barn engine display so he left me with my camera to try to do justice to this vast collection. I must say I failed miserably. Fortunately he gave me a lot of illustrated literature which has been published over the years so I hope to give you some idea what it is like.
There are 147 tractors on display in a purpose-built building, the favorite one being the Ivel made in 1903 when it cost $600 new. This is the actual exhibition model shown at the 1903 Royal Show where it was awarded first prize in the new machinery section. It was said that it replaced three men and six horses.
The tractors can from many countries including the United States, one from as far away as Australia.
There are about 150 engines not all of which are yet restored. The larger ones are housed in one building mounted on individual concrete bases. They are all open crank engines up to about 22 HP. Black-stone, Tangy, Drake & Gorham, and a 1907 Gardner town gas engines among many others including a few steam engines.
At one end of this building there is a unique steam engine built into the wall which looks very much like a church window. This is the Bingfield Steam engine which was made about 1835. It was rebuilt to its original with the assistance of Newcastle University of Mechanical Engineering Department. It is coupled to a threshing drum, mill stones and straw chopper housed in the adjourning barn. The whole outfit is driven by an electric motor.
There are many interesting small engines; one which caught my eye was a Blackstone oil engine and a spray pump made in 1916 and pulled by a horse.
An air cooled Bamford of 1922 was of particular interest to me as I am at present restoring one of these rare models to drive an unusual turnip chopper. An even rarer engine is the Robinson Hot Air which is pre-1890 and still in full working order.
One of the engines I had not seen before was the Fairbanks Morse an unrestored single cylinder open crank verticle 5 HP with make and break ignition of 1925 vintage. The oldest engine in the Museum is an 'Otto Crossley' built in 1886 and one of the few of this age left in existence using the original Otto Patent.
The Museum caters for all the family with a display of live-stock including some of our rare breeds. There are two water wheels, the larger of which is 20 feet in diameter and has been completely rebuilt and will soon be grinding flour again.
A complete blacksmith's shop, a large display of farming tools and domestic utensils along with all sorts of horse drawn machinery are but some of the attractions for all the family.
Well, I had quite a day there and it won't be long before I go back again to see what's 'old'!