IHC Baler Unit

By Staff
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Charlie holding the plunger rack after removing it from the plunger rack gears.
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Charlie holding the plunger rack after removing it from the plunger rack gears.

This story begins with a phone call some years ago to Henry
Abel, Clay Center, Kan., and an inquiry about a Reeves six-bottom
plow. For many years Henry and his brother, Wilfred, had a
reputation for being serious collectors of antique machinery.

The 1914 IHC motor baling press at the Col. Fulkerson Farm in
Jerseyville, III., before restoration. The Titan engine had already
been removed at this point.

Irvin Bruhn (at left), Charlie Bethmann (center) and Jim
Philipps (right) check and adjust the friction clutch and power
jack drive gears after reassembly.

Shortly after my phone conversation with Henry my son, Rick, and
I made the trip from Illinois to Kansas and visited with Henry
about the Reeves plow. After deciding to sell the plow to us, the
topic of conversation changed to balers, and with that Henry turned
and walked around to the east side of his barn. Stopping to part
the tall grass growing there, he stepped aside and showed us a rare
1914 International Harvester Company motor hay press. Rusty, but
basically complete, it was one of the most unusual balers we had
ever seen – but the icing on the cake was the original 4 HP IHC
Titan engine that was still mounted on the 7,000 pound baler.

The Baler

It turned out that Henry had tried for years to buy the baler
from its original owner, but without any luck. Time passed and the
owner died, and Henry bought the baler at public auction. At the
time we came along Henry had owned the baler for several years, and
as he showed it to us he told us he wanted to see it restored. We
might as well, Henry told us, buy the baler and make our hauling
trip to Illinois worthwhile.

We bought both items and prepared for our trip back to Illinois,
quickly realizing there was no way we could haul both items in one
load. After making two trips from Clay Center to the Douglas County
Historical Festival site at Arcola, Ill., we had both pieces safely
tucked away. Time passed, and the baler took a back seat to other
priority projects. In 1995 the festival moved from Arcola, Ill., to
the 60-acre historic farm of Col. William Fulkerson in Jerseyville,
Ill., under the new name of the Jersey County Victorian Festival.
The three-day festival is always held on Labor Day week end, and
after settling in at the new festival site the unusual baler began
to draw new interest. The Jerseyville festival has also become the
official Illinois event for the ILL-MO Tractor and Engine Club
(with over 140 members in Missouri and Illinois), and two members
of the club – Jim Philipps and Charlie Bethmann, both from St.
Peters, Mo. – took special note of the baler and offered to assist
in its restoration.

Rick Nolan paints the wood feed apron while Charlie takes a
break and Jim checks last minute details for the baler’s first
show.

Jim Philipps, who has a well-deserved reputation for his
excellent work and assisting others in their restoration projects,
picked up the Titan engine and took it to his shop in St. Peters.
Once there he completely tore down the engine and began its
detailed restoration. The engine was well worn from the heavy
demands of running the baler, and Jim had to give it a complete
rebuild. Jim’s patience never wavered, and with the assistance
of his many friends the engine began to take shape. It made its
first showing at the 2001 ILL-MO Old Time Picnic Show in St.
Peters, and the beautifully restored engine was truly a crowd
pleaser and a testament to Jim’s untiring efforts.

The following winter, Charlie Bethmann suggested we move the
27-foot long baler to his shop for a complete restoration. Charlie,
with help from friends, disassembled the baler and then assessed
its condition. Like the engine, the baler was well worn, and it
became clear its restoration would be no small undertaking.
Inspecting worn parts for wear, Charlie commented several times,
‘This baler must have baled half of Kansas – twice!’

Cinder Charlie’s direction work on the baler began
immediately. As parts were cleaned and rebuilt they were prepared
for painting working from detailed baler reference material and
color schemes provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Meanwhile, the 2002 St. Peters show was fast approaching, and the
restoration of the complete baler unit became a priority. Club
members Jerry Hill, Charles Bryant, Ervin Bruns, Gary Pflum, Dan
Schneider, Denny Puck, Jude Arras, Jim Philipps, Charlie Bethmann,
Jim and John Bethmann, and Fred and Rick Nolan all worked together
to meet the target date for the 2002 show. And meet it they did.
The baler was fully restored, the original Titan engine mounted,
and both performed beautifully for the first time in approximately
72 years for the crowd at the 2002 Old Tyme Picnic.

Hats off to the people who united in an unselfish goal to
preserve a part of our agricultural history for future generations.
This is most certainly a rare occurrence in this day and age, and
we owe these people our thanks and gratitude. The baler is now a
wonderful addition to the Col. Fulkerson Farm Museum at
Jerseyville, Ill., but will always return to the Old Tyme Picnic
every July.

Contact engine enthusiast Fred Nolan at: 25007 U.S. Highway
67, Jerseyville, IL 62052.

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