Reanacoolagh, Lismore County Waterford, Eire
You have already read about how I came by the Interstate Tractor (GEM January 1988); that was in the summer of 1973. I am now talking about the late 70's, about '78 or '79; at this time we still had the old tractor.
We never did a whole lot of ploughing with it because then it was a 4-bottom plough and always needed someone seated on it to work the levers in order to let the plough into the ground at one headland and take it out at the other. When we would use it we would get to plough quite a lot of ground in one day.
In the autumn of '78 at a ploughing match in Lismore, I had entered for the 'Vintage Class' with my helper Micky on the plough. Things started off very well, we opened a very nice straight middle with the four ploughs, but halfway through the return closing the tractor cut out, the engine stopped. There was some firing from it but I thought that the engine was just cold and was failing to vapourise the paraffin, so I switched it over to petrol after draining the carburetor. We started up again and began to move on but, alas, it again began to fire even on petrol.
Around this time my son Liam had taken up employment in an agricultural sales and repairs garage in a nearby town, so on seeing us in trouble, he came over to us, as he now knows a bit about such machines. Also around were a number of spectators, all with their own ideas about what could be wrong with it.
I began to test it. First the sparks while Liam turned the engine over by hand; I tried all four leads- nothing. The tractor had a 'Wico Magneto', and if such a magneto could be got in Ireland there would have been no problem, but no, so we had no choice but to pull out of the competition. We stayed to watch the rest of the ploughing and then loaded our whole outfit onto a transport truck to bring it home in.
It was mid-October at this time and the evenings were getting short. Liam, now with plenty of experience in this sort of job from his work in the garage, had a good idea of the problem encountered. In the garage where he worked it was mostly all diesel tractors that were sold and repaired, but the odd T. V. O. paraffin one did come from time to time. Well we now had to try to repair it. We had a fair size work house on the farm, where we had things like an electric welder, a gas welder, other necessary equipment and tools that we used for repairs to farm machinery and tractors.
On the following Monday night Liam and myself with our friend Micky who lived near us, got together to try to repair the old tractor. Micky our friend was always around when there was anything happening. We had rented a bit of land from him, as he was now retired and living with his sister. Micky had a great knowledge of everything.
It was a mild night and so we set to work. We started with the magneto; there was an advance and retract fitted to it. As Micky turned over the engine, Liam tried different things including fitting a separate coil on the mag; he also cleaned the points. Still there was only a small improvement, not enough to get it started. He then took the mags off the engine marking them on the engine, opened them up on the bench to find quite a lot of wear in the main spindle. He also took off the radiator, which we had drained off the night before, we put a tin of caustic soda into it and what came out I must say was not very nice. Hoping for the best we decided after the radiator we would overhaul the engine, and if there were parts needed they could be got.
In some ways the Interstate tractor was before its time, as it had a governor driven by two wheels. The governor was mounted atop of the magneto housing, through which a spindle and gear ran. There were two 1 ? x ? ' bolts through slots at top and bottom of the mag and at the connecting point underneath the governor. The rod at the carburetor end was spring loaded, I would say for release purposes. All this set up is from looking at the engine from the front, with the radiator and bonnet off.
The following day Liam took the mag with him to the garage, to show it to his boss Mr. Regan, who told him that he was going to Cork the same day and that he would see what he could do for him. When he returned he had with him a 'Lucus marieen' mag that would fit our tractor, and he had also gotten some gear wheel that he thought we might need.
Once Liam had finished his dinner and with Micky around, we started the repairs on the old tractor. The cost of the new mag was ?20, the rest would be free. This was a German mag used mostly on Fordsons. Well, it fit the Interstate tractor fine, but the gear wheels would not fit. However, with the new steel pins releasing the ones through the axle and the gear wheel housing, things would not be too bad, we hoped. Problems were encountered trying to get out the coupling pins. An electric drill had to be used, and the pins had to be punched out. With the help of small steel selves got from a motorbike engine they fit and took up the play in both the axle and gear wheels, and then everything fit perfect.
A last clean-out of the carburetor, a check on the jets, and everything was alright so far, petrol flowing. The float chamber had a most funny type of float operator. Both the inlet and exhaust manifolds were grey in colour and none had lost their colour.
From the exhaust pipe to the inlet pipe, connected to the inlet manifold from the carburetor, was a kind of heating piece that had an outside pipe that could be turned on and off as needed. Petrol and kerosene were stored in the tank; it looked fine outside. The tractor had a hand-operating clutch lever. I made a cover for overhead and fit a lorry fuel tank underneath to hold the gear oil, so now there would be no need to oil the gear by hand.
Now Liam had all the front fitted, he had the mag and governor tuned up, the radiator on, water hose connected, oil in the pump, gas tank filled with gas and kerosene, carburetor fitted, now everything was ready to have ago.
Micky cranked up the engine 3 or 4 times but no start. 'Be gor,' said Micky, 'it's wound up.'
Liam gave the carburetor a few tips, Micky started to crank it again, and it then burst into life, sparks, oil, water. I forgot to put on my cover. There was great splashing inside the oil tank over the gear as Liam let the clutch back in, as he was backing out of the workhouse into the yard. It was a moonlight night and very bright, so he drove into the paddock beside the yard. It was now driving on kerosene. He drove it around several times, and then took it back to the yard. It was now running fine but I adjusted a lever and it ran even better.
We later sold the Interstate tractor to a family interested in vintage, and I have not seen it since.