A Short History of the Red-E Tractor

| October/November 1994

  • Oval tanked model 11 Red-E
    Late '30s oval tanked model 11 Red-E.
  • Model 11BR
    Model 11BR (reverse) light air-cooled Red-E circa 1955.

  • Model 15-A Red# 4 wheel tractor
    Model 15-A Red# 4 wheel tractor as sold by Red E.

  • Oval tanked model 11 Red-E
  • Model 11BR
  • Model 15-A Red# 4 wheel tractor

120 Ernest Road, Ontonagon, Michigan 49953

The following information on the RED-E tractor has been taken from various owners' manuals, from experience as a RED-E owner and collector and from conversations with other RED-E owners. This is only a short history and not all information is accurately dated.

The first tractor was made by a man from Salt Lake City, Utah, who was a student of Earl Welbourne. Mr. Welbourne was a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He took an interest in this first tractor, which was built in 1918 and put into production in the early 1920s in Milwaukee.

The RED-E tractor had its own engine, which was designed as a cast engine/transmission unit with a single cylinder air-cooled engine. The cylinder sleeve and head was bolted to this casting. To cool the engine, an air shroud was fitted over the cylinder and the top of the transmission casting. A flywheel at the front of the power unit had fins cast into it which drew air through the shroud cooling the cylinder head. The air shroud had a tool compartment/gas tank mounted in front of the engine behind the flywheel. Power to the two drive-wheels was transmitted from the engine by use of a clutch lever on the handle bar. The magneto was mounted on a plate at the rear of the engine and driven by the crankshaft. A set of caster trailing wheels was mounted behind the engine to which was attached the tool/draw bar and handles to control the tractor. This same basic configuration was used on all cast engine/transmission tractors until they were phased out in the 1950s.

These first tractors which were manufactured in Milwaukee had the usual cast engine/transmission configuration as described. The flywheel had 'M.B.M. Manufacturing Company, Milw., Wi.' embossed on it. The flywheel had a pulley attached to it for belt power and was fitted out for crank starting the unit. The drive wheels were multi-spoked cast wheels with diagonal lugs on them. The air shroud on these first models was of cast iron with a tool compartment moulded in. An oval gas tank was attached to the top of the tool compartment. This early RED-E tractor had the clutch lever on the left handle and the throttle on the right. The finned head and cylinder sleeve had smaller fins due to the cast iron air shroud. A Bosch magneto was used. The unit had wooden plow handles for control. All tractors came standard with a cultivator attachment on the tool/draw bar.

These tractors were painted green as RED-E meant 'ready' not the color red. The color match was possibly 'Oliver green' even though later tractors were painted red. This writer has an oval-tanked model from the mid-1930s, which is still green, and a model from the late 1940s which is red. 'Farmall Red' seems to match the red color.


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