Thanks to a friend the previous night, Mary and I spent much of yesterday on a farm a little North of Levin.
The Horowhenua Vintage Machinery Club were having their Harvest Weekend. It was a bit like an old-time Agricultural and Pastoral show without the fun fair. Don’t get me wrong, for those of us who love this stuff, it was enormous fun. It was a joy and a delight and I have struggled to keep the number of images down. I skipped over a genuine “Surrey with a fringe on top” and went to the heavy equipment. The man leaning over this 1926 Caterpillar tractor is starting it. He inserts a steel rod into a hole in the flywheel and gives a mighty heave. There is a bump, a cloud of smoke and she is rumbling away, ready to resume service. I hate to think of the consequences if that rod didn’t come free.
The next group on the paddock was dedicated to a special anniversary for the Fordson tractors and it seems that you could have them in any colour as long as it was blue with orange trim. But if you look closely on the ridge above the man in the hat, there is a team of Clydesdales hauling a plough.
Oh great glory, what a magnificent sight. Six mighty animals pulled that plough to create a furrow that was straight and true. There was a bit of trouble with the remains of the old oat crop getting tangled in the blades so there was a pause while the paddock was mowed.
Meanwhile, one of the old Fordsons dating from 1919 was doing alternate ploughing runs. Its driver had obviously been doing this for many long years, and his furrows too were impressively straight.
My next moment of enchantment was seeing a pair of steam-powered traction engines trundling around the paddock at the top of the slope.
I was privileged to be allowed to climb up into the driver’s seat of the Garrett, and with an expert beside me operating throttle and brake, I steered it on a circuit of the paddock. The steering is very low geared, and the chains that connect the steering wheel to the rigid front axle are a bit slack, so it was took a lot of turns of the handle to get where I was supposed to be. My admiration to the men who took eight hours to drive them on the public roads from Feilding to Levin.
There was a top-dressing aircraft working nearby and its pilot decided to do a fly by. The stream of smoke is clearly a display gimmick since it is emitting from the turbine’s exhaust stack. In any event, this Grumman Ag-Cat is set up for spraying and it couldn’t drop a concentrated stream like that.
In the main ring, each of the tractors was being introduced and welcomed by the master of ceremonies before it did a circuit for the admiring crowd. This lady is driving a 1935 McCormick-Deering W12 and is towing another period piece in the form of a potato planting machine.
All around the perimeter were groups of displays of various equipment including some very old oil engines and devices for powering threshers or shearing equipment. A modern-day inspector of Occupational Safety and Health would have conniptions at all the ways you could lose a limb while working on these machines. Look at that flywheel spin.
At the other end of the main paddock there was a great collection of red tractors, mostly the McCormick-Deering Farmalls. There were refreshments available, tea, coffee, and good old-fashioned farm scones. There were hobby displays and signs saying beware, men at play. It was the most delightful day, with lovely friendly people who loved their association with the land, and with the machinery that worked it.
Tired but very happy.