Constructing the Lee Traction Company MODEL L-2 TRACTOR

By Staff
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Photo # 8

5210 Springton Lane, Spring, Texas 77379

Well, where do I begin? The story of the Lee Traction Company
Model L-2 tractor begins more than 10 years ago. As my wife Vicki
will attest, I am a terminal pack rat, and the preparation and
building of this tractor is a testimony to this. My friends also
know of my affliction and they are more than willing to stimulate
it. In reality, this tractor building project represents a decade
of parts collection with the actual construction requiring
approximately six months.

Before embarking on the discussion of this construction
adventure, let’s review the details of the Lee Traction Company
Model L-2. Photo #1 illustrates the completed tractor. The tractor
is a narrow front end design with the following specifications:

Length: 120 inches Width (rear wheels): 46 inches Height: 56
inches

Weight: Approximately 200 pounds (without operator)

Engine: Stover CT-2, 600 RPM, Hit and Miss, SN 276978
Transmission: 4 speeds forward, 1 speed reverse

Rear Axle: Chain driven with differential

Steering: Exposed worm gear Clutch: Hand and foot operated (dead
man design) with drive shaft brake Brake: Belt tension design (foot
operated)

Lights: Front and rear kerosene lanterns Fuel Capacity: 3
gallons (main and auxiliary tanks)

Whistle: Exhaust manifold type Ground Speed: 1 to 4 MPH Forward,
2 MPH Reverse

My interest in tractors is not limited to just the model L-2,
but includes the large stuff, too! 1 have squirreled away in my
parents’ (Paul and Alma Lee) barn a 1937 Farmall model F-20 and
a 1946 IHC model M. Both are restored and in good running
condition.

To complement these tractors, I also have a 1920s vintage IHC
corn shredder, a steel wheeled wagon, and the newest addition to my
collection, a 1910s vintage horse-drawn mowing machine.
Unfortunately, these are 1500 miles away from where my work is
located (petroleum geologist in Texas) and I only get to
‘play’ with them when I visit my parents on vacation. This
dilemma had to end, so what originally was a project to build a
little cart to move my Stover CT-2 engine around in my garage,
turned into building a tractor from the ground up.

My first goal was to make the tractor large enough to
comfortably ride on. Since my power plant, a Stover CT-2, did not
have a throttle assembly, I wanted a multi-geared transmission with
a reverse. Finally, to run stationary equipment, a belt pulley
drive was also desired. So, after a few rough sketches and
measuring the available storage space in the garage and the width
of gate to the back yard, I was ready to start construction.

The overall design was controlled mostly by what was in my shop
materials inventory, or as my wife calls it… my pack rat nest.
The collection of materials to build the tractor is a story by
itself. I am always on the lookout for bar stock, shafts, gears,
and drive assemblies etc. It is not too uncommon for me to scavenge
the neighborhood trash to add to my inventory. My friends tell me
that I am the only one they know who goes into a junkyard
empty-handed and comes out with my arms full of stuff. I abide by
the first law of the pack rat… ‘Gee that looks interesting,
maybe I could use that for something someday’.

With the above in mind, the search for the construction
materials for the tractor began about ten years ago. The rear axle
and differential assembly was given to me by my good friend, Mike
Gilley, when we lived in Corpus Christi, Texas. That’s right,
when you move due to a transfer at work you also have to move all
your stuff in the shop too. The last time it took about a third of
a moving van to do the job. The Stover engine, seat, flat belt
pulleys, worm gears, and manifold whistle were all purchased from
the flea markets at the various National Threshers Reunions in
Northwestern Ohio from 1985 to 1994.

The steel for the frame was a real find. I was grazing at a
garage sale several years ago in my subdivision. I noticed a lot of
and 1 inch square steel tubing on the floor of the garage. The
owner had just completed a fence around his pool. The contractor
bought too much steel and had never gotten around to remove it.
There was about 200 feet of 1 inch tubing and about 400 feet of Vi
inch tubing lying on the floor. I asked the owner how much he
wanted for it and he said if you take it out of here today, you can
have it all for $5.00. How about that for a deal!.

The transmission came from a riding lawn mower. Prior to its use
in my tractor, the transmission drove a sidewalk car for our two
children (Jeff and Kate). When they outgrew the car, the frame was
discarded, but the metal components were saved. After all, you
never know when a person may just need them again! The origin of
the steering wheel is also unique. I salvaged it from a wing valve
assembly of a surplus oil field Christmas tree.

The belt tensioning idler pulley assembly for the clutch was
part of a reel lawn mower given to me over thirty years ago by my
uncle, Ted Schetter. The steel wheels were purchased at a junk
store in Willis, Texas. The front and rear (tail lamp from a Model
T Ford) lights were discovered at a flea market in Round Top,
Texas. Now that the origin of the major components have been
discussed, let’s proceed with the details of the construction
process.

On November 20, 1994, the first phase of the tractor
construction began with the fabrication of the frame assembly. The
material used in the frame was a combination of the 1 and inch
square tubing. I knew that the frame must be strong enough to not
only support the weight of the engine and the operator but also
handle the vibration. I thought the best way to do this was to weld
a frame with an I-beam design. To accomplish this, I took two
lengths of the inch tubing and sandwiched a piece of inch tubing
between them. This yielded an integrated beam of great strength and
yet the hollow square tubing kept the weight to a minimum.

To test the strength, I placed one end of a seven foot length of
the I-beam assembly on the ground and the other on the step to the
patio. My wife and I then stood in the middle of the beam, and it
did not yield a bit. Even with this strong fabrication design, I
later had to add a truss assembly to the bottom of the frame to
remove the harmonic vibration of the engine. I will-discuss the
construction of this truss further on. I then cut the I-beam
assembly to size using my circular hand saw with a metal cutting
abrasive blade. The ‘ saw made short work of the metal cutting
through out the project, thus saving a lot of hack saw arm motion.
The frame was then welded together in the form of a rectangle. Two
sections of the fabricated I-beam, which would support the axle
assembly, were welded at right angles to one end of the frame.
Eight short lengths of the 1’ square tubing were then welded
vertically to these cross members and the rear differential/axle
assembly, complete with four roller bearing supports, was then
bolted to the vertical supports (Photo #2).

This axle assembly, which came out of a junked 3 wheel ATV, was
just what the doctor ordered, as it filled the requirement for a
differential, and its large diameter drive sprocket provided the
needed speed reduction from the transmission. At last, the project
was taking shape, and I no longer had to worry that the trash men
would mistakenly haul off the frame components if I stored them too
close to the garbage cans.

Now I thought, what to do next? Lugging the frame around the
patio was getting a bit old so it was time to put the rear wheels
on the axle assembly. The rear spoke wheels are 30 inches in
diameter with a rim of 4 inches in width. These wheels originally
supported a large industrial fire extinguisher and were in pretty
good shape. The hub area was large enough to cover the flanges
attached to each end of the axle. The wheel hub had a 1.5 inch hole
through it and the axle flange had a center that was recessed about
1/16 of an inch.

To make sure that I mounted the wheel square and true to the
axle flange, I machined an aluminum jig the same diameter as the
flange, with projections that matched the hole in the wheel hub and
the axle flange recess. I then drilled holes in the jig that
matched the holes in the axle flange. I took the jig and
transferred the flange hole spacing to the wheel hub, then drilled
the holes in the hub and taped them. To add strength to the wheel
mountings, I used the jig as a spacer between the axle flange and
wheel. Now I had the two wheels bolted to the rear axle and I could
then proudly announce to my family. . . ‘See, it is getting to
sort of look like a tractor!’

With the rear wheels in place, it was now time to focus on the
front wheel assembly. I toyed with several designs, but landed on a
narrow front end configuration. The basic concept of the steering
assembly used on my tractor is a steering shaft that rests on and
turns inside a support sleeve which is welded to the frame. The
steering shaft consists of a 3/4 inch
diameter 36 inch long vertical steel rod with the front axle welded
perpendicular to it at one end. A pipe flange, which supports the
weight of the tractor’s front end, machined flat and smooth,
was welded to the steering shaft approximately 10 inches above the
axle. Bushings were then machined to fit the wheels and grease
zerks were added to the wheel hubs. The two front wheels are 16
inches in diameter and were originally used on wheel barrows. The
wheels were then mounted on the axle and secured with cotter pins.
The front steering shaft was then placed aside while the support
sleeve assembly was fabricated and welded to the front frame of the
tractor. This support sleeve assembly consists of a 24 inch long
piece of 1 inch diameter pipe. A flange, machined flat and smooth,
was then screwed to the bottom of the pipe. The flanges on the
steering shaft and support sleeve perform a very important
function. When the steering shaft is placed into the support
assembly, the machined smooth side of these two flanges rub against
each other allowing the tractor to turn while holding up the front
end.

Another section of the I-beam assembly was welded cross-wise to
the tractor frame 5 inches back from the front edge. After bracing
this I-beam to the main tractor frame, the steering support sleeve
assembly was welded to it. To give this support assembly added
strength, two additional braces were welded to it and to the front
edge of the tractor frame. The complete steering assembly is
illustrated in Photo #3.

Completion of the steering shaft and the front wheels was
another milestone in the construction process. At this point I
could push the tractor from the patio area to the driveway or into
the garage if it were raining, to continue the building adventure.
The next step in building the tractor was the installation of the
transmission. After welding on the various cross members and
vertical supports in line with the drive sprocket on the rear axle,
the four speed transmission with reverse was then bolted to the
frame. After welding on several cross braces to the vertical
supports, the transmission installation was complete and the
tractor was ready for the next step (Photo #4).

The transmission is driven by a horizontal drive shaft which is
located along the center line of the tractor underneath the engine.
The drive shaft is supported by two flat pieces of steel (2 inches
wide), which were welded to cross braces attached to the frame
after drilling two holes to accommodate the drive shaft. Two roller
bearings were then fabricated and welded to the flat steel pieces,
and the drive shaft was then installed through the bearings. The
next trick was to install the flat belt drive pulley on the drive
shaft and connect it to the transmission.

Even though the transmission, engine, and frame were all
connected in line, I still thought that some flexibility between
the drive shaft and the transmission would be appropriate. To
accomplish this, I went to a surplus auto parts store and obtained
the universal joints from a used steering column. The universal
joint was placed in line on the drive shaft between the flat belt
drive pulley and the transmission. Now the drive train could
tolerate a slight misalignment and still not shake the entire frame
to pieces when the drive shaft was rotated.

Now the decision, what to do next? You have those problems when
you are building a prototype model and are working without the
benefit of plans. I always felt that drawing up a set of plans took
too much away from the precious building time. Well, at this point
I felt it was time to mount the Stover gas engine on the tractor
frame. At the location where the engine was to be installed, I
welded two cross-wise I-beam members to the tractor frame. Always
being mindful of the environment, a drip pan which the engine would
be placed in was installed. The bottom of this pan was beveled and
a drain valve was installed at the lowest point.

To minimize the effects of engine vibration, two strips of 1
inch thick foam rubber were placed in the pan for the engine to
rest on. The pan assembly was attached to the frame, and holes for
mounting the engine were drilled through the I-beams and drip pan.
Now came the time for placing the engine on the frame. To match up
the pulley on the engine to the drive shaft pulley underneath the
tractor, the engine had to be installed with the line of the crank
shaft parallel with the long axis of the tractor.

With my son Jeffs help, I set up a block and tackle over the
strongest beam in the garage and moved the engine stand underneath
it. The engine was then lifted off its stand, the tractor frame
rolled underneath, and the engine lowered onto its new home. And to
my amazement, the frame did not buckle when the weight of the
engine was placed on the frame. I optimistically thought, maybe my
I-beam concept will actually work!

Now, I thought it was time to take the pair of vise grips off
the top of the steering shaft. I had them clamped to the top of the
steering shaft and was using them to steer the front wheels when I
was moving the tractor frame in and out of the garage. It was now
time to install the worm gear assembly. I realized that this was
not going to be an easy task, as a support assembly had to be built
to house the worm gears, and it had to be lined up with the
steering control shaft which traveled back to the steering
wheel.

At this time, I also noticed that the heights of the engine
flywheels were too high to run the steering control shaft in a
direct straight line from the steering worm gear assembly to the
driver’s seat in the rear. So now, I was forced to actually
sketch a design out to make sure everything lined up right. Here is
the path I took to handle this part of the building adventure.

The circular gear of the worm gear assembly was placed on top of
the steering shaft and secured with set screws. This was the easy
part! I then fabricated a support structure to hold the worm gear
and welded it to the top of the steering support column at the
right height so it would mate with the circular gear and be at the
correct angle so the steering column would bypass the engine
flywheels. To bypass the steering column around the engine, I
welded a vertical support to the frame just forward of the engine
in line with the worm gear assembly. After running the steering
column from the worm gear to the vertical support, I placed a
universal joint in the column, which turned its direction parallel
to the frame and straight back to the steering wheel.

The whole assembly may appear somewhat crude, but the mechanical
advantage gained with the worm gear is very effective, as I can
steer the front wheels with just one finger. This Rube Goldberg
steering assembly is detailed in Photograph #5.

The next step in this adventure was connecting the drive pulley
from the engine crank shaft to the drive shaft pulley. This was
done with a spliced two inch flat belt. Once that was accomplished,
the clutch assembly was next on the list.

The clutch consists of an idler pulley belt tensioning device.
This particular idler pulley was part of the belt clutch in a 1950
reel type lawn mower that my uncle, Ted Schetter, gave me when I
was 12 years old. Since then, it has seen service in my first go
cart, built when I was 15.I also used it in the sidewalk car that I
built for my children, and now at age forty five, I found it to be
a valuable component in my tractor project. Just goes to show, you
cannot violate the first law of being a pack ratyou can never throw
anything away! Oh well, I have digressed enough and now on to the
discussion of the clutch linkage

While sitting one evening pondering my next step, I began to
wonder if, when the clutch was disengaged, would the drive shaft
pulley stop rotating. If the drive shaft pulley would not stop
turning, then shifting gears would present a problem. To avoid
this, I designed a linkage assembly consisting of a brake shoe
which is pressed against the drive shaft pulley when the clutch is
disengaged and is released when tension is placed against the drive
belt. This motion is controlled by a single movement of a dead man
style clutch, which can be operated by either hand or by foot.
Photos #6 and #7 illustrate my innovative clutch/brake
assembly.

The seat, gear shift lever, and drawbar were attached in quick
succession without any significant problems. Now it was time to
stress test the frame. The best way to accomplish this was to start
the engine and see what effect the vibration would have. Well,
after filling the gas tank, water hopper, and checking the oil, I
attempted to start the engine, which had not been run in over two
years. I set the choke and spun the flywheels . . . and spun the
flywheels again and again. . . . The engine would not start! Even
after priming the cylinder, I only got an occasional explosion but
still nothing!

The thought had not occurred to me while I was building the
tractor that the engine would not run. So, I sat there
contemplating the meaning of life, and why my vintage Stover would
not start. Checking the spark yielded a good arc from the Wico
magneto. The solution suddenly came to mecheck the fuel flow. I
took apart the carburetor, which seemed in order. 1 pulled the gas
check valve from the tank and there I found the problem.

The 50 year old spring-flapper check valve assembly was covered
with gum and dirt. After carefully cleaning the check valve and
re-assembling it, I set the choke and brought the piston up to
compression and gave the engine a spin. The vintage Stover came to
life, running as it had over fifty years ago.

As the engine came to life, so did another design challenge. The
running engine was producing a very noticeable vibration in the
tractor frame, especially in the middle. I didn’t think my
welding could handle this prolonged abuse with the whole tractor
shaking to pieces. It was obvious that the frame was not rigid
enough to absorb the vibration of the engine. The best way to solve
this problem with the materials that I had on hand was to fabricate
a truss assembly to stiffen the frame. Surveying my garage, I
noticed that I still had a large quantity of Vi square tubing lying
on the floor. I took a piece that was approximately 18 inches
longer than the distance between the rear and front axles. I bent
an S turn at both ends of the tubing. The piece of tubing was
welded underneath one of the I-beams which ran between the rear and
front axles. The S-turns in the tubing provided for approximately 5
inches of clearance between the tubing and the bottom of the
tractor frame.

I then proceeded to weld vertical and angled struts between the
frame and the tubing the entire length of the tractor frame. I then
repeated this operation for the other side of the frame. Now for
the acid test. I moved the tractor to the driveway and started the
engine. To my amazement, the vibration was been reduced about 90%.
The truss assembly did its job (Photo #8)!

At this point, the tractor was almost complete. The next step
was to route the exhaust system to the front of the tractor between
the engine and the steering support column- At this location I
installed an exhaust splitter valve with one end going to the
engine muffler and the other end connected to a manifold whistle. A
control line from the splitter was then run back to the seat. The
exhaust assembly was then covered by a sound baffle box to help
deaden the noise. This baffling system was a consideration to my
neighbors in the subdivision and the details of it can been seen in
Photo #1.

After priming and painting the tractor I was ready for the big
day the road test! It was a sunny Memorial Day, 1995, when I rolled
the tractor out of the garage, filled the gas and water tanks,
greased and oiled all the bearings and gears, set the choke,
brought the piston up to compression, and spun the flywheels. The
Stover came to life on the second spin. I climbed up on the seat,
grasped the clutch handle and applied the brake to the drive shaft
pulley, and placed the transmission in first gear.

Well, I thought that this is the point where the rubber, steel
in this case, meets the road. The efforts of several hundred hours
of work came down to this moment. Would the engine pull the weight
of the tractor? Would it pull the weight of the driver? All of
these questions passed through my mind as I pulled the clutch lever
back, releasing the drive shaft brake and applying tension to the
drive belt. The governor began to respond to the increased engine
load, releasing the catch on the magneto linkage, causing the
engine to fire more and more frequently. From my vantage point on
the seat, I could see the drive shaft pulley starting to rotate,
the chain drive from the transmission turned, and the tractor began
to move under its own power down the driveway.

I turned the tractor into the street and away I went. The
tractor was moving under its own power, the project was a success,
and the neighbors cheered! A sense of great accomplishment came
over me as I came to closure on another project. I thought that
Henry Ford and Thomas Edison must have shared these same thoughts
as their projects came to life for them also. As a fellow gas
engine and steam hobbyist, I hope that you, too, are able to share
these feelings, as your projects come to completion. It’s a
great feeling.

Since the road test, I have had the tractor out several times
making adjustments and additions. I have installed an axle brake to
complement the one on the drive shaft. It’s a simple design
where I attached a large (10 inch) V-belt pulley to the axle drive
sprocket. I then took a V-belt, cut into it and attached one end to
the frame ahead of the axle. I then ran the belt through the V-belt
pulley on the axle and attached the other end to the frame in front
of the axle.

I then installed a small pulley on a linkage controlled by a
foot pedal in line with the bottom of the belt. Braking is
initiated when the foot pedal is depressed. This forces the small
pulley against the belt. The belt in turn is compressed into the
large pulley on the axle which applies resistance to the turning
axle. Crude, but it does work.

On a recent trip to the Round Top, Texas, antique show, I found
a kerosene tail lamp from a Model T Ford, and a large lantern. I
bolted the tail lamp to the tool box on the rear left, side of the
tractor and attached the lantern to the front frame. I now have
tractor lights, because you never know when you may have the
opportunity to run after dark! I have also mounted strips of tire
tread on the steel rims of the wheels. This addition greatly
reduces the road noise and provides for a somewhat softer ride. My
latest modification to the tractor consists of a flat belt pulley
for operating stationary equipment. The power source for this
accessory is from a V-belt pulley attached to the front of the
drive shaft located underneath the engine. The belt pulley, 8.5
inches in diameter, is located on the right side of the tractor
just ahead of the engine (Photo #9). The major component of the
belt drive assembly is the right angle drive transmission. This
component originally was the self propelled drive mechanism from a
lawn mower rescued from the neighborhood trash. I have not belted
up to anything yet, but I have a reciprocating water pump and a
small buzz saw which hold great possibilities.

The tractor project is now complete and I enjoy riding it around
the neighborhood. I get many comments about it and people find it
very interesting learning about the old technology that helped
develop this country before the age of the vacuum tube, transistor
and the computer chip. I am happy to have the opportunity and
resources to help preserve this old iron and keep it running. I
sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading about my tractor
building adventure and I look forward to reading about your
projects in GEM.

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