The Tractor Trials of 1919

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Lismore County Water ford, Eire

A reprint from Old Farm Tractors with permission of author Major Revd. Philip A. Wright, M.B.E H on C.F. Queen Anne Cottage, Greensted Nr.Ongar, Essex, CM5 9LA

The organizers of the trials at South Carlton, Lincoln, really set out to help the farmer to make a choice, and they held a firm conviction that there was a tractor to suit every farm. They therefore tried to get every tractor of importance represented, even if made abroad, providing it was actually on the British market. Ploughing, cultivating, threshing, and hauling were included as tests, but naturally the purely motorized plough did not participate in belt work. In addition to the farmer judges (six in all) a consulting engineer was engaged to make exhaustive examination of the tractor's structural features. No prizes or medals were awarded as in the case of R.A.S.E. trials, as the organizers felt there was no such thing as a 'best' tractor, nor would there be in the foreseeable future. Tractor entrants were ordered to provide their own ploughs and cultivators, and steam-driven tractors were not excluded.

I think it best to list the entries in alphabetical order with a brief note of their qualities: Messrs. Alldays &. Onions, of Birmingham, had three similar models of their 30 HP Mark II tractor. She had four cylinders and the final drive was by chain. This four-wheel tractor had a gross weight of three tons, and was priced at ?630.

The Austin Company of Birmingham had by this time produced a four-wheel model of 25 HP with four cylinders, spur-wheel drive, weighing one ton eight cwt. laden. At ?300 this was an outstanding value. An uncle of mine (the late Arthur Honey wood) purchased one during the 1914-18 war, and my cousins were using it at Norton, Suffolk, until a very short time ago. There were two of these working at the trials, as well as a 30 HP model which demonstrated threshing and hauling. In the main, the Austin bore a really striking resemblance to many modern machines, and at these trials it was described as easy to handle and safe in operation.

The 28 HP Avery had four cylinders, spur-geared transmission and a belt pulley. She weighed three tons five cwt. and sold at ?500. She was entered by the firm of R.A. Lister & Co., Dursley, Gloucester.

The Blackstone (built at Stamford, Lines) was rated at 25 HP and two models were at work, one on wheels and the other on tracks. These models had only three cylinders, weighed two and a quarter tons and sold at ?500.

The 35 HP Clayton was built by the famous traction-engine firm of Clayton & Shuttleworth, Lincoln, had four cylinders and was governed. She sold for ?650.

The famous U.S.A. firm, J.I. Case of Wisconsin, had an 18 HP and a 27 HP model, each with four cylinders and weighing one ton thirteen cwt. Neither model was spring mounted and the prices were ?375 for the smaller tractor and ?475 for the larger model. The Cleveland Company, H.G. Burford & Co. of Regent Street, S.W. 1, had three models present. Each had four cylinders, weighed one ton eight cwt. and sold for ?397. The horsepower rating was 21.2. This tractor named Cletrac was one of the smallest and most compact track-laying models of its generation. The engine was water cooled, mounted on to a main frame. The sub-frame carried the track wheels and was linked to the main frame by a laminated transverse spring. A most peculiar feature of this little low-built machine was the belt pulley, which extended in front of the radiator. Drive being at right-angles to the tractor line made setting up for stationary work a very tricky business.

A fine little Essex-built tractor was the Crawley Agrimotor, built by the two Crawley brothers at Saffron Walden. It had already earned a great reputation for efficiency. There were two driving-wheels, one of which ran in the furrow; the driver sat behind and steered, and other farm implements or haulage wagons could easily be fitted. She was a four-cylinder 30 HP tractor and had two forward speeds; transmission was by toothed gearing, and she weighed thirty-eight cwt. and sold at ?500 complete with plough. Mr. S.W. Crawley has recently written me from Harwich and tells me he built an experimental model of this excellent tractor at the age of fourteen, just after leaving school. A considerable number of the machines were exported between 1913 and 1924 as far afield as Australia. They were powered by a Buda or Puterber engine and would run on petrol or paraffin. Mr. Craw-ley's brother farms at Hadstock, near Saffron Walden, and both these clever engineers are most humble about their grand little Agrimotor, and have pointed out that they did design an experimental prototype as long ago as 1908 which was not proceeded with and which Messrs. Hedley & Edwards of Cambridge, built for them. Mr. F.A. Standen, of St. Ives, exhibited one of these at the Huntingdon Show in 1913. The ploughmen of those days referred to the contols as the 'reins', as they were very much 'horse'-power-minded at that period. This business of having the power and the work in front of the driver was excellent, and I personally have often wondered why such a system was not used in the modern tractor. The ploughman who does not look back (St. Luke 9, verse 62) is at least able to see where he is going without constantly getting a pain in the neck!

Another interesting tractor in the Lincoln trials was the Emerson-Brantingham, entered by Messrs. Melchior, Armstrong & Dessau, of Great Marlborough Street, London. It had four cylinders, the final drive : being by enclosed spur wheels. A belt pulley was fitted, she weighed two tons and sold at ?446. George Garrard of Gislingham, Suffolk, bought one in 1927 and used it with a three-furrow plough.

The Eros tractor unit was an attachment whereby a Ford car model T could be converted into a tractor for ?65. Amazing claims were made for the strength and adaptability of this unit, as a two-furrow plough, binder, cultivator, harrow, and roller. Fitted with a pulley it could drive a circular saw. When not required for tractor work, the Ford could be made roadworthy as a car in twenty minutes. By fitting a Russell vaporizer it could even be run on paraffin. Messrs. Morris Russell & Co., of Great Portland Street, London, marketed this device.

The firm of Fiat Motors, Ltd., 5, Albemarle Street, London, had two of their 25 HP Fiat tractors; one ploughed and cultivated whilst the other did some hauling and threshing. A four-cylinder tractor with final drive worm and wheel, it was a light tractor (one ton six cwt.) with four wheels, but no selling price was given. It was made in Turin, Italy.

The Fordson will be mentioned again when we review American influence, and it will be seen from the accompanying photographs by comparison that the general appearance of this world-famous tractor today is very little altered from the first model. Henry Ford had, in fact, been experimenting with a series of prototype tractors culminating in Model F, which although ready in 1913, did not come to the world's notice until four years later. Rated at 22 HP, the Fordson had four cylinders and worm and worm-wheel drive. It was light in weight (one ton three and a half cwt.), almost too light in the early model, for there was a strong tendency for the front wheels to lift during heavy pulling. From the very first the Fordson was an attractive proposition at the comparatively low price of ?280. Of the three Fordsons present, one had a belt pulley (?12.5s. extra) and did threshing. By this time Ford had a factory in Cork Ireland, and these tractors were made there.

A neat-looking little tractor was the Garner made in Birmingham and rated at 27 HP, weighing one ton fourteen cwt., with transmission of worm and wheel. Chain drive was on the way out, as can be noticed. The price was ?385, and a second model was there for threshing.

The G. O. tractor was made in Birmingham and marketed by Stock-wells of Norfolk Street, Strand, London. There were four cylinders with final drive spur gears to live axle; one and a half tons in weight and usual four-wheel layout. She was nicely enclosed from weather and dust, and the selling price was ?480, which, we are told, 'included ?30 worth of spare parts'.

From the D. L. Motor Company of Motherwell came a Scottish-built tractor, the Glasgow, rated at 27 HP. A four-cylinder engine transmitted power to the rear wheels by bevel pinions and spur wheel. Weighing one ton sixteen cwt., this tractor sold at ?450.

The American Tractor Company of Avenue de Bel Air, Paris, had a very powerful machine, the Gray, of some 36 HP. There were four cylinders and the final drive was by roller chain. A belt pulley was fitted, but the forbidding weight was no less' than, two tons fifteen cwt., and, of course, the price was high-no less than ?600 being asked.

Only ?5 less was being asked for the American Illinois tractor, which had four cylinders and spur-gearing transmission. Her laden weight was two tons eight cwt. In the preceding chapter I mentioned the Mogul 30 HP sent over by the International Harvester Company, who then had a London office in Finsbury Pavement, E. C. 2. There were two of these tractors entered, still only twin cylinders, priced at ?580.

The same company by this time had produced what was to become a very popular tractor in the Eastern Counties. Known as the International Junior, and rated at 22 HP, it was a good proposition for the smaller farmer. There were four cylinders and with a weight of one ton sixteen cwt. she was easily handled. The price was ?300 and the second model present at the trials did some hauling and threshing.

The same intrepid firm also produced the 25 HP Titan and, in fact, sent 3,500 Titan tractors into Britain from 1914 to 1920, when the model was discontinued. It was a twin-cylinder tractor with two forward speeds and tooth-geared transmission which ran in an oil bath. The weight was two and three quarter tons and the selling price ?410. There are a few of these popular tractors still at work, and in 1956 a splendid model was given to the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading. There were two others of the same make at these 1919 trials. More than any tractor, the appearance of the Titan was very like a small traction engine minus its chimney. In place of a smoke-box, there was a 32-gallon rounded water tank. The tractor did not have a radiator, water was instead circulated through a pipe from the bottom of the water tank, around the cylinders and back via an overhead return pipe. The engine had a half-compression device for easy starting.

Entry number 36 was a Mann Steam Cart and most properly belongs to my Traction Engines book. It was designed, however, as a steam tractor for direct traction, rather like Garrett's Suffolk Punch. It was a smart little compound steam engine priced at ?825. One of these steam tractors, owned by Mr. R.B. Haigh of Thaxted, has been beautifully reconditioned by Mr. A.L. Frost of Takeley, Essex, and his son, Peter. She regularly visits rallies in the Eastern Counties and was built in 1921 at Hunslet, Leeds; the photograph is by Barry Finch.

Martin's Cultivator Company Ltd., of Stamford, Lincolnshire, had two of their 28 HP tractors on view. These had four cylinders and chain-driven transmission. They weighed about two tons and one was of the crawler type. The plough was incorporated in the tractor and fitted with a power lift operated by pedal control. The price, complete with plough, was ?400. The other model was a four-wheeled type and some seven cwt. heavier, the price being ?450.

A rather pleasing little motor plough emanated from Mr. J.W. Maskell of Tillingham, nr. South-minster, Essex; it was later made by Messrs. Petters of Yeovil. Of great simplicity, this was the smallest type of two-furrow plough, and there were only two wheels, both of which ran on the land; the off-side wheel was the 'driver' and the near-side wheel a mere balancer to keep the plough upright. The operator walked behind and held the handles as if driving horses. For its one ton six cwt., it was easily manipulated and well balanced. The price complete with plough was, however, ?400, and the name of this tractor was Maskell.

The American Moline was for some time as well known as any other motor plough in the United Kingdom. She had four cylinders, spur drive, and a belt pulley. Not unlike the Crawley, this American machine incorporated a three-furrow plough, the two driving-wheels being in front and two supporting small wheels taking the weight of the plough. There was a seat fitted on this tractor and a steering-wheel extended from the front driving-wheels. The tractor sold at ?450 and there were three models present, all rated at 25 HP, and marketed by Motrac Engineering Company, of Hazlett House, London.

The Omnitractor was a 35 HP twin-cylinder model from the Omnitractor Syndicate, Great St. Helens, London. Spur-wheel drive and a belt pulley made her a very strong tractor, but she weighed three and a half tons and sold at ?650. Mr. Ernest Talbot supplied the picture, and tells me he took over the manufacture of this tractor in 1916.

The American Overtime had by now been established in Britain and was well advertised. There were only two cylinders, which developed 28 HP. The transmission was by exposed teeth gearing and the tractor weighed two tons. Priced at ?368, she was marketed from the Minories, London, in this country. The engine, radiator, and fuel tank of the Overtime were all independently mounted upon a main frame; these very obvious features always marked this machine and caused it to stand apart from the crowd, so to speak.

As the photograph indicates, the Pick tractor from Stamford, Lincolnshire, had a really modern appearance. There were four cylinders and the final transmission drive to the rear wheels was by roller chain and spur wheels. Weighing two tons complete with a four-furrow self-lift plough, she sold for ?550. Her horsepower rating was 30.

One machine which was entered, but did not participate in the trials, was the Sander, from Malvern. Only two cylinders produced 25 HP. Spur-geared transmission was fitted, but there was no belt pulley. It was one of the self-contained motor ploughs complete with two sets of ploughs, one set for ploughing one way, and the other for use when travelling in the opposite direction. Of the four wheels, two were in the centre of the machine and one at each extreme end supporting the ploughs

The Saunderson Universal is described in the preceding chapter. By 1919, two cylinders were incorporated and the tractor was rated at 25 HP. Spur gears were still fitted, but the price had risen to ?510. At the trials there were three models present and the judges described this tractor as 'a good general-purpose tractor- substantially built, simple in construction, and easy to handle and turn at the headlands'. Accessibility was also a good feature, and both engine and radiator, as well as the gearbox, could be dismantled without disturbing the rest of the assembly.

A firm called Summer scales Ltd., of Keighley, Yorkshire, had a 25 HP Summer scales four-cylinder steam tractor at work. Chain-driven transmission and a belt pulley were featured. She weighed four tons and cost ?600-the only three-wheeled steam tractor on record.

The Ancone Motor Company were showing three Wallis Junior tractors, each of 30 HP. They were a Massey-Harris project from Racine, Wisconsin. Each had four cylinders and weighed one and a half tons. The gearing was totally enclosed down to a live axle and the price was ?420. The bearings all ran in oil and this little three-wheeler was extremely popular.

W. Weeks & Son, of Maidstone, made the Simplex, a four-cylinder tractor of 22 HP. Transmission by toothed gearing gave three forward speeds, and the tractor had a car-like appearance and weighed twenty-five cwt. A belt pulley was fitted and this little tractor was supplied with rubber tyres for road haulage purposes. With its top gear it was quite a fast machine. Priced at ?400, the spare wheels fitted with rubbers cost ?70 extra.

The last entry in the trials, alphabetically, referred to the Whiting-Bull tractor, a twin-cylinder American machine of 24 HP weighing two and a half tons, bevel-geared drive, and with a belt pulley, which cost ?395. It was designed as a one-man tractor to work with a self-lift plough, and this was by no means common in 1919. Two of these tractors took part in the trials.