‘The Old High Bike’

By Staff
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Wm. J. Earl

1102 West River Rd., Battle Creek, Mich. 49017

I received my copy of the ‘Tractor Operating Book and
Directory’ and have found it very interesting. Some of the
makes mentioned and pictured I don’t recall ever having seen
nor heard of. Some of those companies must have been very short
lived. Farmers in those days were not as well versed in the care
and maintenance of the internal combustion engines as at present,
and of course many were not mechanically inclined at all.

The Allis-Chalmers 10-18, page 12, brings back memories. More
than 40 years ago a contractor undertook the job of grading and
gravelling 1.3 miles of country road near my former home. In a deal
he had become the owner of this tractor, and employed me to operate
it pulling a Fresno scraper. It was located about 18 miles from
where the work was to be done, so I drove it, with lugs removed,
that distance over gravel road in about half a day. It was designed
similar to the old ‘Happy Farmer’, one front wheel, and the
right rear wheel supposed to run in the furrow while plowing. It
was not the ideal type tractor for the work we did with it. Another
thing, I was not an experienced operator at the time and knew
nothing of road work. There were several things wrong with it,
which might have been quite easily and cheaply repaired. The
draw-bar had been broken, and the line of draft was now from the
level of the rear axle, making the front end lift at times while
pulling a heavy load.

Set screw holding front fork in place in frame was missing, and
when front end would start to lift the front wheel would nearly
drop out. The governor had been disconnected and a foot accelerator
substituted for speed regulation. It was originally equipped with
individual brakes to aid in turning, but the turnbuckle to the left
hand brake had been broken and while it could make a very short
right-hand turn, turning to the left was very uncertain. Clutch
linings were about worn out, and I was told to throw a handful of
sand in it if it slipped. Result was that the bronze throw-out
bearing soon cut out, making the clutch action somewhat erratic.
There never was sufficient time allowed for filling the many grease
cups in which we had to use gun grease which was too thin. It was
rather dangerous to crank as the crank was long and quite high,
fitted into hub of belt pulley, You needed both hands on it to turn
the motor over, if it had ever kicked back, I believe it would have
nearly killed anyone. Boss wouldn’t consider fixing it up, said
he had very little in it and was going to run it as long as there
was any breath in it. He gave it the name of ‘Old High
Bike’.

Motor was 2 cylinder opposed type, rated to run about 720 rpm,
but we greatly exceeded that speed. Motor lubrication was by
Madison-Kipp multi-feed lubricator (Fresh oil system) Carburetor
was Kingston double bowl type, could be switched from one fuel to
other instantly, by the flick of a lever. It was located right next
to the rear cylinder and there was about 3 feet of manifold between
it and the front cylinder. Heat was applied to this manifold, not
next to the carburetor, but next to the cylinder, making the fuel
condense in the way to the front cylinder, which made firing rather
erratic, also fouling the spark plug.

Each cylinder had a compression release and by operating it with
the front one slightly open better results were obtained. Fuel used
was half gasoline-half kerosene, and when oil man made delivery he
was instructed to put gasoline in black drum and kerosene in red. I
did not like to see this done and said so, and was told to mind my
own business, I was hired to operate the tractor and that was all.
Anyway he said if someone stole any of it they would get what was
coming to them. (It was stored in a neighbors yard) I believe if
the oil company knew their man was doing this they would have fired
him. After about three months of operation the ‘Old High
Bike’ was traded for a Cleveland (Caterpillar type of tractor)
See page 46 of book. This had Weidely 4 cylinder motor, and Teagle
magneto, and was the tractor I mentioned the timing difficulty on
in a previous article. The brake bands on this were about worn out
so the boss took them and had them relined. He brought them back on
a Sunday morning and installed them himself. By mistake he got them
reversed, or in on the wrong side. So when you wanted to make a
right hand turn you turned the steering wheel to the left, and vice
versa. Talk about being a mean tractor to drive, it took about half
a day to get used to that, and after driving it all day long it was
very dangerous to try to drive a car. I wouldn’t recommend any
one trying it, just take my word for that.

He never did change them and that summer, this tractor along
with the other was certainly one of frustration and one long to be
remembered. I was not happy with this job, however I had use for
the money and hung on till freezing weather set in. The following
spring he bought a couple of new trucks and wanted me to drive one
of them and haul gravel for him. Fortunately, by that time I had
other employment.

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