The Fordson Tractor Story
This tractor was manufactured by the Fordson company Ltd in Dagenham England in 1941, and was one of many rushed through the production line as quickly as possible “they were often sent out so quickly, that only the top and sides of the tractors were then, hand painted” as they were desperately required to assist Farmers to grow more of our own food, as our supplies and imports were dwindling due to the German U-boats of world war 2. Both American made tractors and food supplies from around the world were sunk on their way to our island.
The tractors were really basic agricultural vehicles, there were no hydraulics, so no power steering, no PTO power, and no electrics. They were purely replacements for horses, and just as the horses did, they simply pulled there implements behind them, often using the converted horse drawn implements that would already have been on the farm. They obviously had more pulling power, approximately 20 horse power. They could also work from dawn to dusk, not like the horse. The other big advantage was that the Farmer needed to use several acres of his precious land to feed and keep each horse. Prior to the outbreak of war in 1939, these tractors were painted bright orange, but Henry Ford said that for the duration of the war, his tractors were to be painted green, he wanted them to blend in with the growing crops and not be a stand out target for stray German bombers. After 1945 they were painted blue.
I said earlier that there were no electrics, so that meant starting the tractor with a starting handle. This was ok unless the engine backfired, and then if your thumb was on the wrong side of the handle, you then had a broken or dislocated thumb.
The starting procedure is a work of art in itself, and requires following a set procedure. It also seems that the tractors have to be in a good mood themselves before they decide to burst into life. The tractor has to be started on petrol, and when warm the tap is turned to the TVO tank. TVO, “tractor vaporising oil” this is a mixture of paraffin, petrol and a lubricating oil such as diesel, a much cheaper fuel than petrol to run on. It is also important to check that the tractor was left out of gear, as if it were to start first swing, you would be pinned against the back wall of the tractor shed.
I first became interested in tractors when I was about seven years old. I was in Pipe lane when I heard a tractor working in a field. It was John Smith from Hall farm Pipe Ridware, and his man, they were loading mangolds that had been hand pulled, topped with a knife and left in piles. The tractor with a cart was then driven between the piles and the mangolds were then thrown into the cart. This meant one of them getting on and off the tractor to move it forward every few minutes. Mr Smith had seen me watching from the hedge, and shouted for me to come into the field. A little nervous, as I wondered if I had done anything wrong, I went to him and he said, “if you steer this tractor between the piles and stop when I shout, I will give you some pocket money”. I was so small that I had to press down the clutch with both feet, while pulling down on the mudguard and steering wheel. I never told him, but I would have paid him to let me drive it that day.
That day helped to shape my future, which was often linked to agriculture, and I still have the farming bug even today. I also still enjoy going down to Hall farm, and although sadly John is no longer with us, his Son Richard and Grandson Colin always make me feel welcome.
I couldn’t wait to be able to afford a tractor like Mr Smiths, then one day in 1996 I saw an advert for this tractor that was on a farm near Machynlleth in Wales. It was just like Mr Smiths. So, with my Wife’s blessing, we went over to see it, but when he started it and let me drive it up the lane, that was it. I am still in touch with that farmer Mr Aled Rees where the tractor came from, and he has very kindly offered to send a photograph of this tractor pulling an old seed drill on his farm. When this appears, I am sure Antony will add it to this text. The other picture was taken by Councillor Antony Jones.
Mr Richard Smith has given me permission to blame his Father for my mis-spent youth and life.
Mr John Grimley.