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Tractors what do they say about a Man

Blogs, what’s in a blog? In an effort to make Huskerspot more diverse I thought I would make a few attempts at a couple blogs that have more about living in Nebraska (the good life) verses Husker sports.

It is an interesting story how one ends up on the Spot 30 plus years after leaving the state where one grew up. How I ended up growing up in Nebraska is an enigma within an enigma (that’s another story).

One of the more prevalent memories growing up in Nebraska is playing a game similar to Slug Bug. It was finding and pointing out the different tractors that would be found along the road side parked outback at a local farm house. Names like Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, Gleaner and Farmall. We could spot the different make by their distinct colors.  My first official girlfriend to speak family only drove Case tractors, they only drove Dodge vehicles and this was in the early 80s so what does that say. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post some vintage pictures of vintage tractors and would love to hear anyone’s stories about their experiences growing up:


Brief history:

Four companies joined forces on April 1, 1929. The Oliver Chilled Plow Company dated from 1855. Hart-Parr Tractor Company began operations in 1897, and the American Seeding Machine Company, dated back to 1848. Nichols and Shepard Company, likewise began operations in 1848.

By 1929, each of these companies had essentially outgrown its usefulness to the industry. By uniting their various and somewhat diverse product lines into a single company, Oliver Farm Equipment instantly became a virtual full-line manufacturer.

White Motor Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio had a long history of truck manufacturing. On November 1, 1960, White Motor acquired Oliver, changed the name to Oliver Corporation, and made it a wholly owned, separately operating subsidiary of the White Motor Corporation.[25]

White also acquired Cockshutt Farm Equipment of Canada in February 1962, and it was made a subsidiary of Oliver Corporation. Cockshutt had also previously, in 1928, marketed tractors made by Hart-Parr, and again from 1934 through the late 1940s it marketed tractors made by Oliver, only changing the paint color to red, and changing the name tags to Cockshutt. Minneapolis-Molina became a wholly owned subsidiary of White Motor Corporation in 1963. The Cockshutt and Minneapolis-Moline lines were blended into that of Oliver until there was virtually no difference between them.

In 1960, the new four-digit tractor models appeared. Among them were the 1600, 1800 and 1900 models. In 1969 White Motor Corporation formed White Farm Equipment Company, almost immediately after a transitional period when virtually identical tractors and combines were marketed under different trade names. A few models were sold as Oliver, Minneapolis, or Cockshutt, the major difference being the paint color. As the transaction continued, the White name was more and more applied to the tractor line, with the Oliver 2255, also known as the White 2255, being the last purely "Oliver" tractor. With the introduction of the White 4-150 Field Boss in 1974, the White name would be used, henceforth to the exclusion of all others.

White Motor Corporation shut down the original Oliver Chilled Plow Works factory (factory no. 1) in 1985.

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Comment by Nish on September 17, 2017 at 6:19pm

What is a "Johnny Popper"?

     All of the John Deere two-cylinder Tractors from the original Model D in 1924, to the last series in 1958/1960 were called "Johnny Poppers" or "Poppin' Johnnies" because of their distinctive exhaust note. During the course of two revolutions (a four-stroke cycle) of the engine (720 degrees) the first cylinder fires at 0 degrees, the second at 180 degrees, then the engine coasts 540 degrees until it fires again beginning the next cycle.
    But why wouldn't it be better to have one cylinder fire each 360 degrees and even out the power strokes? Because that would necessitate having the crankshaft throws for BOTH pistons on the SAME side of the crankshaft at the same time. This means the weight of BOTH pistons would always be shifting back and forth together, much the same as the weight of a single large piston does, in a "one-lunger". Just think about how one of THOSE babies shakes when it fires!! The alternating pistons on a "Poppin' Johnny" allow it to run MUCH more smoothly!!

Comment by Nish on September 4, 2017 at 7:16pm

This weeks installment on "Tractors, What do they say about a man"
Is on White Tractors known for their Silver and Color.

As stated was we drove through Nebraska on the back roads sharing a few beers as a young lad we would often call out tractors by their colors as we seen them. White tractors were easy to identify

In 1960, the White Motor Company entered the agriculture market with the purchase of the Oliver Farm Equipment Company. In 1962, White acquired the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company of Canada. White increased its agricultural interests in 1963 with the acquisition of Minneapolis-Moline.

In 1969, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt were merged to form White Farm Equipment with headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois; White Motor Corporation's headquarters remained in Cleveland, Ohio. Six years later, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt were folded into the White brand. The green of Oliver, red of Cockshutt and yellow of Minneapolis-Moline tractors was replaced by the silver tractors of White's Field Boss line.

The Field Boss models in approximate order of introduction are as follows: 4-150 (The 4 indicates four wheel drive and the 150 is the power take-off horsepower) 2-105, 2-150 4-180, 2-50, 2-60, 2-70, 2-85, 2-135, 2-155, 2-180, 4-210, 4-180.

White produced tractors, combines, outdoor equipment such as lawn tractors, corn planters, tillage equipment such as plows, disks and field cultivators 4 wheel Drive.

In 1979 White Motors spun off its agriculture division to a Texas firm called TIC. The White line was branded WFE (White Farm Equipment). The agriculture market hit a severe recession in the early 1980s, and TIC sold WFE to Allied Products. Allied owned the New Idea farm equipment brand and formed a new division called White-New Idea. The White combine line was sold to Massey Ferguson in the late 1980s.

As it happened, Massey Ferguson later spun off the combine division into Massey Combines, then later re-absorbed the company after various lawsuits. After White and White-New Idea were sold to AGCO, AGCO also purchased Massey Ferguson, in effect, re-uniting the former White combine line with the former White tractor company.

Today White is an AGCO brand. AGCO was formed in 1990 by former Deutz-Allis executives. The executives took over Deutz-Allis and then purchased the White tractor line and Hesston Corporation brands in 1991. The remaining White-New Idea Company was purchased by AGCO in 1993 from Allied.

The White tractor line was produced by AGCO from 1991 through 2001 when the White line was merged with AGCO-Allis to create the AGCO brand. The White name continues on under AGCO with the White Planter division.

White Planters are competitive within the planter industry and can be used for conventional or conservation planting or both. White Planters brand products offer more than 70 models and sizes ranging from 4 to 31 rows.

The White Outdoor Equipment portion that built Lawn & Garden equipment was sold to MTD.

Comment by Nish on August 29, 2017 at 7:09pm

For a farmer in 1914, the claims made about a new tractor must have seemed too good to be true.

Was the Square Turn tractor indeed the closest thing a teamster could find to a well-broke team? Advertisements promoting the machine boasted it was, noting that “the levers are the lines” and “the Square Turn tractor is easier to drive and handle than a one-horse rig.”

The Square Turn was a progressive, unique tractor for its time. Conceived by two Nebraska men, A.T. Kenney and A.J. Colwell, it seemed perfectly designed for farm use. Kenney was a successful farmer and Colwell had 14 years’ experience as superintendent of construction on the C&NW Railroad. Colwell supplied mechanical genius and Kenney provided practical farming experience. The partners formed the Kenney-Colwell Co., Norfolk, Neb., and began taking customer orders in 1914.

“The two inventors worked untiringly in the shop and in the field until they had produced a one-man tractor that would turn short and square, that would get close to the fence corners, that would carry the plows below and in full view of the operator, and that would handle as easily as any team [of horses],” write Nancy Zaruba and Karen Rogat in their booklet, Norfolk’s Very Own Square Turn Tractor.

A new approach

The Square Turn’s transmission featured radical new technology covered by eight patents. “This invention was called ‘the giant grip drive,’ a new type of transmission never before used in any piece of machinery,” the booklet notes. “Its simplicity, flexibility of control and durability, as well as freedom from repair costs, made it the center of interest at eight great national tractor demonstrations.”

The giant grip drive was designed to provide an entirely new device for transmitting power. Kenney and Colwell claimed the new drive did away with the clutch, differential gears, transmission gears and the universal joint common in other tractors. Advertisements promoted the fact that the tractor’s unique design eliminated a number of common problems. It had fewer parts than other tractors, it carried the plow and other tools in full view of the operator, and it worked on hills and low land, where most tractors could not operate.

Kenney and Colwell powered the Square Turn with a 510-cubic-inch Climax 4-cylinder engine that could run on either kerosene or gas and was rated at 35 hp with 18 hp on the drawbar. The machine’s belt pulley could provide power to a threshing machine, sawmill and other farm machinery.

Inventors step aside

Experiencing the financial challenges common to any start-up, Kenney-Colwell was forced out of the tractor business in just two years. The partners sold their patents to the Albaugh-Dover Co., Chicago, in 1916. The Square Turn Tractor Co. was organized in December 1917 with headquarters in Chicago; the manufacturing operation remained in Norfolk.

Over the next four years, approximately $2 million in common stock was sold to 3,500 investors. Plans called for construction of approximately 2,000 tractors per year. Equipped with a 3-bottom gangplow attachment (an Oliver 3-bottom plow was the standard offering), the Square Turn sold for $1,385. Albaugh-Dover also streamlined the 7,800-pound tractor and added a Waukesha engine.

The tractor’s primary selling point remained its unique ability to make a square turn. The grip drive made it possible for one wheel to move forward while the other wheel moved in the opposite direction, effectively turning the tractor in its own length. A unique foot throttle was used to control speed.

“No other farm tractor is so easy and natural to drive as the Square Turn,” advertisements boasted. “Pull left lever to turn left, right lever to turn right and pull both halfway back to stop and all the way to back up. Anyone can learn to drive the Square Turn in ten minutes.”

U.S. involvement in World War I, however, presented challenges the company could not overcome. Federal restrictions on steel and other critical materials hamstrung domestic manufacturing operations during the war. The company was able to produce nothing more than demonstration models, and customers demanded refunds of cash deposits they’d paid.

Competitive pressures and the Agricultural Depression of 1920-21 sounded a death knell for the company. Although Square Turn sold as many as 50 tractors in 1921, the enterprise was never profitable. By the end of that year, Square Turn Tractor Co. had ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. The Norfolk plant was sold in 1925.

Plenty of power

The Square Turn also had an uncommonly powerful engine for the era. It was much larger than those used in other tractors and cost a great deal more to produce. But customers determined it well worth the cost. “This liberal surplus of power can be drawn on when field conditions are heavy or when there is an overload to pull,” promotional materials noted. “There is never a feeling of the engine laboring or that you are in danger of stalling.”

Because 70 percent of the machine’s weight sat above the drive wheels, the tractor had excellent traction. A farmer could plow right up to a fence, making tight turns previously possible only when farming with horses. The Square Turn was also advertised as having “a real power lift, operated direct from the engine, raising or lowering the plows at a touch of the foot even when the engine is idling.”

The Square Turn’s top speed was 3 miles per hour. When the tractor was moving forward, its drive wheels were directly ahead of the operator. A caster wheel in the rear followed the furrow and assisted in steering. Attention was called to the simplicity of the tractor’s design, which delivered accessibility through removable cylinder heads and hand holes in the lower half of the crankcase, as well as complete enclosure of all parts, offering protection against dust.

The tractor’s spark plugs were water-cooled, with complete water-jacketing around the valves. The oil system consisted of drilled passages in the main castings. The ball bearing mounting of the idler gear and kerosene-burning devices were all noted to “stand out prominently as advanced and exclusive features.”

Home at last

The Square Turn is the only tractor of any significance manufactured in Nebraska. Because of that, Norfolk’s Elkhorn Valley Museum & Research Center made a rare exception to museum policy: When a 1918 Square Turn was offered at a Dowagiac, Mich., auction in 1991, the museum stepped up to the plate and bought the relic for $19,500.

“It’s the only item the museum has ever purchased,” says museum director Ruthie Galitz. “Since it was manufactured here in Norfolk, it seemed to make sense that one of the last models should be housed here.” The tractor’s original owner is believed to have been a Battle Creek, Mich., farmer who built up the pulley wheel with oak to make his threshing machine run faster.

One of three known surviving Square Turns, the tractor made a triumphant return to its home state in an appearance at the Pierce, Neb., threshing bee and LaVitsef Time parade. (It was previously featured at the Nebraska State Fair during the state’s 1985 centennial.)

One rare bird

Few other Square Turn tractors are known to exist. One is part of the collection amassed by the late Carl Mehm­ke. Carl found the 15-30 with 2-bottom plow in Lewistown, Mont., near his museum in Great Falls. “It hadn’t been used for quite a few years when my dad and I found it,” he said in an interview late last year, before his death in March 2009. “It was pretty rusty and it took us a while to free up the motor and restore it.”

Echoing the staff at the Norfolk museum, Carl said the Square Turn draws its share of visitor interest. “It’s probably the oddest tractor I’ve ever come across,” he said. “Next to our 1-cylinder Hart-Parr, the Square Turn is one of the most unusual tractors in our collection.”

In the Norfolk museum, the gigantic tractor occupies a fair-sized room. A video there shows the tractor’s unique features, and points out its groundbreaking achievement, as noted in an ad for the Square Turn: “It’s an outfit that is astonishingly simple and easy to operate – one that will actually finish the job better than you can do it with horses.” FC

The Square Turn Tractor

Comment by Nish on August 28, 2017 at 9:03pm

My Goal for posting the pictures of Vintage Tractors is I truly believe this is a part of Nebraska History. Something to be proud of. Something to embrace. I encourage any stories of one growing up in Nebraska and their experiences.

Comment by wacky4huskers on August 28, 2017 at 9:58am

I grew up in Norfolk, NE, the home of the Square Turn tractor.  The Elkhorn Valley Museum has a Sqyare Turn tractor on display, so named because they could turn an almost square turn.

Comment by Nish on August 27, 2017 at 1:33pm

GENOA — For some, last weekend's Heritage Tractor Show in Genoa was an opportunity to see antique farm equipment in action.

For cousins Don Cromwell, 84, and Eugene Cromwell, 92, the show’s a reminder of how far farming technology has come.

The two grew up on family farms near each other a few miles north of Genoa.

“We reminisce about how much work it was,” said Eugene. “Now with GPS they don’t have to have markings. The tractors drive themselves.”

When Don was born in 1933, his family didn’t have a tractor and was still using horses for planting, tilling and harvesting. Even after the family got their first tractor, they still used horses to mow and rake the hay.

“The horses were smarter than we were,” said Eugene.

Eugene’s family had an International 10-20 tractor.

“That’s what I learned to drive,” he said. “I was 8 years old.”

Heritage Tractor Show in Genoa

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