Tractor Talk

In this month's Tractor Talk a reader recalls the early days of gas tractors and why they were ineffective as threshers.

| January/February 1966

I saw your notice in the last Iron-Men Album that you are starting a new magazine devoted to gas engines only.

First, I want to wish you success with it. If it is as good as the Album, everyone will be more than pleased.

Second, tractor talk. I like steam engines better than gas tractors for threshing and sawing and can remember hearing people say when tractors first came out: "He can't thresh, he has a tractor." There was a lot of truth in those words, mainly because in nearly every case when the salesman sold tractors, they would sell the customer too small a tractor to pull his thresher. Most of them were terribly overloaded nearly all the time and no gasoline engine will stand logging, so the results were disappointing. There were break-downs, green stacks because some thresherman took out some concaves to make their machines pull easier and also running under speed caused green straw stacks. Lots of the threshermen did not know much about their tractors and that caused alot of headaches and shutdowns. The few men that insisted on getting a tractor one or two sizes bigger than the salesman said they needed had good luck nearly every time. They had the extra power so that wet or rough straw did not stall the tractor in the belt. Of course, there were always 3 or 4 in each threshing ring that took special delight in pluging up the thresher. If you had plenty of power in the other end of the belt you could just give it a little more speed and laugh at them.

In 1931, our barn burned and we lost everything, including a 32 x 50 thresher and #4 clover huller, both Aultman & Taylor. We still had the 20 H.P. Aultman & Taylor steamer left.

My father and I saw an ad in the American Thresherman for a 30-60 tractor and a 36 x 56 thresher, both Aultman & Taylor, owned by D. H. King's widow at Virginia, Illinois. Mr. King had been the president of the Illinois Brotherhood of Thresherman, so we were told. We bought the rig and threshed one season in Illinois. We got along fine and the tractor had plenty of power. After we learned how to operate it, it was as dependable as a steam engine and we threshed 1500 to 1900 bushels of wheat a day in Illinois. There were 17 combines sold in Virginia, Illinois that summer so at the end of the season, we shipped the rig back to Fredericktown and threshed 12 more jobs in Ohio that fall. Eight of them were jobs that another thresherman could not thresh with his little coffee grinder. The grain was wet and growing and in very bad condition. He had a little tractor and could not pull his machine as it just filled up with wet straw. His thresher had the flat slapping straw racks.

The Aultman & Taylor had rotary straw racks or straw walker as some called them, and would take most anything through but it took a man at the tailings elevator to push them down in the cylinder and a man at the blower to push the straw in to the fan housing. And in some cases we had to take a section out of the blower fan housing outlet and let the straw shoot straight out the rear end of the machine, not the blower pipe. On one job that the straw got dry, the fellows decided to stall the tractor. Four men were pitching bundles in the feeder and doing their best to stop the 30-60, but they did not make it. They gave it all it could handle. If the feeder stopped they never stopped pitching bundles, so we set the volume governor so it would not stop and we opened the tractor wide open. The thresher must have been running 250 to 300 R.P.M. over speed. The A.T. will stand over speed as they are almost perfectly balanced. We threshed 150 bushels of wheat in 29 minutes before they ran out of wheat. That evening at supper they got to talking and said they never saw straw go through a machine so fast. They admitted some tractors were as good as steam engines.