160909 Carter Cannon Gering, Nebraska 69341
Farming 320 acres of irrigated row crop in Western Nebraska was a full time job for my dad in the mid 1940s. Carrying five gallon cans of tractor fuel to a John Deere 'A' that was belted up to an irrigation pump became a little tiresome and Dad needed the 'A' for other duties.
Dad (Jesse gone now for 21 years) decided to move the IHC 10-20, which was a bear to drive in the field, to the pump where it could run on natural gas available from the nearby house. A gas line extension was run out to the pump and a pressure regulator installed by the gas company utility crew. Then the search for a carburetor setup to handle the natural gas revealed that the conversion was going to be more costly than Dad could afford right then. Lacking detailed knowledge, but full of confidence, he decided to tap into the manifold of the old tractor, turn on the gas, and see if it would run.
The 10-20 had been fitted with an elbow and a piece of stove pipe for a vertical exhaust pipe. Dad was standing next to the engine and exhaust pipe working the magneto impulse lever and turning on the natural gas while I cranked her over. Several lifts on the hand crank and nothing, then on the next turn KA-BOOM!! The stove pipe split wide open, Dad was knocked down, I was startled, and the engine did NOT start.
After we regained our senses and Dad regained most of his hearing, we held an engineering study and design review. The gas line had been tapped into the EXHAUST manifold. After the system loaded up she BLEW.
We relocated the gas inlet into the upper part of the carburetor, and after that modification the engine started nicely on gasoline and switched to natural gas easily. However, on natural gas the engine missed occasionally, so Dad mounted a drip oilier to the carb intake and solved that problem.
The old tractor pumped that well for more than 25 years on pennies per day in fuel cost with little or no maintenance. I'm convinced that the old timers were pretty good homestead engineers when the need arose.