St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Farmalls, Tractors and Repairs

Dad was a Farmall tractor man all of his life.   He grew up on a farm near Barron, WI, one of 8 children, six of them boys and a father, Pearl Herbert (PH) Hanson who preferred machines over horses.  
Brother Ev tinkers with the carb

Pull start works!

It runs on its own for a while.  The hood and muffler are off for quick servicing.  I think it is about 1958 model.  The newest tractor on the farm!

Grandpa PH bought his first Rumely Oil Pull tractor probably about the time Dad was born, 1915.  After that right up to the time he died in the 1960s he always had one or more Rumelys, and various other tractors.  When he died in his early 80s, he had a Rumely, two John Deeres (including a B that he had just overhauled and spent his last day disking in the field) and I think an old F-12 Farmall on steel used for clearing brush in his cow pasture "so I don't have to worry about flat tires."

 Dad farmed with his father and tractors were always there.  Of course he learned how to use horses too, but probably more so on a neighbor's farm where he worked during the summer of 1936.  

  When Dad went into farming on his own in 1941 (he had rented his father's farm for a few years first), he couldn't afford a tractor, and so bought a team of horses.  He hired his neighbor, Bert's son, to bring Bert's John Deere over to plow the clay hills and sometimes borrowed his father's John Deere too, but mostly used the horses.  As WWII got underway, it became difficult and costly to buy a tractor, even used, and most of the money went to make payments on the farm.  In 1942 he married mom, and 2 years later Marv came along and then in 1946, me. 

   By war's end, manufacturers quit making tanks, ships, jeeps and guns and got back into cars and tractors.  In 1947 (or 8) Dad bought his first tractor.  It was a B Farmall from the local International dealer, Nickie (Clarence) Jensen of Cushing.  It wasn't quite what he wanted, but it was all that was available.  It was brand new.  

  He got rid of the horses and claimed "I can go out at night with the 1 bottom plow B tractor and lights and plow more in 3 hours than all day long with the team of horses.  I don't feel worried about overworking the tractor and the tractor doesn't eat hay and oats when it is not working!"

   The B was too small, so he traded it in on a 1951 Super C Farmall at Jensen's.  The mounted two-fourteen bottom plow was twice as fast in the field; the cultivator with spring teeth excellent; and the bigger rear wheels and tires gave much more traction.  It was his last brand new tractor.  

    A few years later as we boys got old enough to drive tractor, he bought an old Farmall F-14 from Uncle Chan.  We used it for the light work -- dragging the fields, raking and hauling hay.  It too had big rear wheels, but was underpowered for heavy work.  
Dad bought a used F-14 (slightly bigger than this F-12) from Uncle Chan for $100 and used it as a second tractor when we were kids.  We parked it on the hillside to coast it off to start -- no starter.  Hand brakes, and much more traction than power, it worked pretty good when the magneto behaved.  No battery needed.  He traded it in for a 10 year old Jubliee Ford in 1963 and got the $100 back on the deal.  I rather liked the old F-14.  No road gear, so it stayed home most of the time.  

   The F-14 got traded in on a Jubilee Ford with a front end loader.  Farming with a loader meant a great deal less work -- loading manure piles, cleaning the big youngstock barn on the north farm, and with more power than the C, it became the hay baler tractor too. 

   Along the way, Dad started accumulating tractors.  A Farmall 450 diesel for the heavy work.  The B Allis for light work so the loader could stay on the Ford.  The last tractor was the 350 Farmall.  Big rear tires for traction, power everything (steering, live power, live hydraulics, etc).  It replaced the 450 which had a bad habit of cracking its head every couple of years.  

   This summer I have been attempting to get the 350 back in use.  It got parked when Dad's parkinson disease got to the point where he no longer could drive a tractor -- probably about 2000.  It got used a little by the nephews, but somewhere along the way started using a quart of oil per hour and lost power -- when it went into a heavy pull, it sort of made an explosion and died.  

   After replacing points, battery, and clearing out a squirrel nest under the dash, the spark seemed OK.  With the help of Brother Everett, a real mechanic, we pulled off the manifold, carburetor, and cleaned it all.  The gas tank is very rusty inside, but the rust is not coming into the sediment bowl (probably will if I drive it around and rattle it loose).  The two plates, choke and throttle were sticking and needed loosening and oiling to function normally.  

   Yesterday, we stuck things together, pull started it and got it running.  It is not charging the battery; it ran for a while and then seemed to plug up in the carburetor.  
Marvin on the Farmall B in about 1950.  Brothers Ev and Marv each have a Farmall B in their garages.  Neither use them, but both are in pretty good shape.  They are a cultivating tractor with the driver seated to the side overlooking the row underneath.  A wide tractor that as brother Ev says "doesn't sneak through the woods."  Dad used this one for 3 years or so as his horse replacement until he traded it in on the Super C Farmall.  

   We borrowed nephew Bryce's compression tester.  The compression seems fine (110-120) on each of the four cylinders. The spark plugs are somewhat fouled and need replacing, but fired fine and smoothly.  One hydraulic connection at the power steering is dripping oil.  The gas lever needs a new roll pin to attach it to the shaft.  

   So we sort of have it running again, but once we run it a while and fix up the minor things, we are still left with trying to understand why it uses so much oil and lacks power.  Brother Ev says maybe the oil rings are a problem with the oil burning, but that wouldn't explain the lack of power. We are timidly hopeful that it won't need new rings and that we can explain and fix the big problem some other way, but unsure what is wrong.  

   The power steering works and is so pleasant to steer!  My hope is to get it running good and put the loader from the WD (in our MN Pine Island home) on this tractor and have a loader tractor.  

   Mechanic Chuck who rents our fields, has almost got the 1948 Cletrac crawler running again (it runs but the starter had broken and needed welding -- think it was from a 12 volt battery on a 6-volt machine when I was trying to start it last year).  With a loader and dozer, there is really no limit to how much I can rearrange nature here on the farm!