Sunday, December 17, 2017

1949 Allis-Chalmers Model U

“You know me, Barney Oldfield.” And in 1933 what you probably knew about the Allis-Chalmers Model U tractor was that Oldfield had set a world speed record for tractors driving one. Of course it didn’t just happen because Barney thought it would be fun to ride a tractor going over 64 miles per hour. His comments afterward indicated that it was anything but fun. One of the greatest self promoters of the Twentieth Century, Oldfield was well aware of the value of name recognition. He had been doing product endorsements since his days on the bicycle racing circuits in the 1890’s. Harry Merritt Tractor Division General Manager at Allis-Chalmers also knew the value of celebrity and had hired big names from auto racing to promote the rubber tires that A-C introduced with the Model U in 1929.

The Model U had the misfortune of hitting the market about the same time the hedge fund managers of the day pulled the rug out from under Wall Street and that market hit the skids. In a classic example of trickle down economics small farms across the nation were soon biting the dust by the thousands. The prospects for selling new tractors were bleak indeed. Merritt knew it would take some special selling points to move some tractors in the existing market. It’s not clear exactly who came up with the idea of putting rubber tires on tractors but the engineers at Allis were soon delving into the possibilities. Harvey Firestone provided some of his company’s aircraft tires and they were quickly adapted and installed. The test they conducted suggested that there were significant advantages in horsepower output and fuel economy to using rubber instead of steel wheels.

At first Merritt staged demonstrations at county fairs and such that pitted a steel wheeled Model U against one on rubber in plowing demonstrations. The farmers who stayed to watch were impressed but this proved to be too academic to generate much excitement. Back at the factory he had his engineers modify the gearing of the U to develop the maximum speed possible. His next move was to hire a team famous race car drivers that included names like Oldfield and Ab Jenkins and send them out on a barnstorming tour of the nation’s dirt racetracks. These events were an instant sensation and hugely popular with race fans but unfortunately it didn’t translate into tractor sales. The first year of production ( 1929 ) netted only 1,974 units sold. The U would remain in production until 1952 but sales remained lackluster throughout, usually between 300 to 1,400 units sold per year. 1946 proved to be the best year with 2,458 sold. Ian and Sheila McIntyre brought this 1949 vintage U to the Foothills Antique Power Association 2017 show. They list its serial number as 22143. Manufactured near the end of the U’s production run it gives you an idea of the total number of these tractors produced.

The Model U was sent to the University of Nebraska and evaluated in Tractor Test number 170 from Oct. 21 to Nov. 7 1929. The tractor tested had a 4 cylinder L head Continental engine with 4 ¼” bore and 5” stroke running at 1200 rpm. It was equipped with a 1 ¼ “ Schebler carburetor and an Eisemann Mod. G-4 magneto. Brake rated load horsepower for 1 hour was listed at 30.27. Drawbar HP for 10 hours in intermediate gear was 19.28. Speed was recorded as: low 2 ⅓ mph. Intermediate 3 ⅓ , high 5 mph. The tractor tested had 42” drive wheels and weighed 4821 pounds.

While the speeds recorded at Nebraska fell short of those reached by Merritt’s barnstormers, they were more in line with what the average farmer would find useful. Records are made to be broken and it wasn’t long before Ab Jenkins topped Oldfields speed record. In 1935 on his home turf at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah he clocked 67.877 mph. A record that would stand for 81 years. In May of 2016 Jack Donohue blew Jenkin’s doors off ( ok, would have if Model Us had doors ) when he clocked 101 mph with his 8NCredible at the E.C.T.A. Ohio Mile event. See the May 1, 2016 Ironmule post for more about the 8NCredible. So why did it take so long to beat Jenkin’s record? Probably because there just aren’t many people who feel a need for speed on a tractor.

You can see a collection of entertaining photographs that cover Barney Oldfield’s exploits at . For more about Ab Jenkins visit and search for an article on the 2014 Bonneville Speed Week. Want to find out what Jack Donohue has been up to? Visit: .

Additional Resources: look for an article on the Allis-Chalmers Model U by Dave Mowitz 3/24/11 tractors

UNL Tractor Test #170 Report

Friday, December 1, 2017

1965 International Cub

In the years following the Second World War International Harvester set out to develop a tractor that would meet the needs of the small acreage farmer. In 1947 they introduced the smallest tractor in their line, the Farmall Cub, a single plow row crop machine that weighed as little as 1,477 pounds. Powered by an International Harvester four cylinder inline water cooled gasoline engine it was rated at 8 drawbar horsepower, 9 on the belt in test number 386 at the University of Nebraska.

It appears that the cub was just what the farmers in this market segment were looking for. Starting at serial number 501 in 1947 by 1964 the red farmall row crop tractor had reached serial number 223453. That would be 222952 tractors over the 17 year production run.

Cub production continued after 1964 with mainly cosmetic changes. By 1965 when this International Cub owned by Wayne Smith was built,  the yellow and white color scheme had become standard. Prior to 64 Farmall Red was standard for agricultural models with the yellow and white used on landscaping and road maintenance tractors. The International Harvester Cub was produced at the Louisville, Kentucky  plant until 1979 with production ending at serial number 253136. The number on the data plate of this tractor reads 225469 J.

There were a few performance improvements with the new version as well. Over the years the engine performance had gradually improved to a claimed 10 hp on the drawbar and 11 hp on the pto. In 1964 the 6 volt electrical system was replaced with a 12 volt system.   Electric start, front and rear lights, a belt pulley and a hydraulic system were available as options.There were 2 seat styles offered as well. The traditional metal pan seat plus the “Deluxe Seat” that featured a cushioned seat, back and arm rest.

The Cub was designed from the ground up as a row crop machine. The front axle was adjustable in 4” increments from 40 ⅝ “  to  56 ⅝”.  The rear wheels were adjustable likewise from 40” to 56”. The clearance available for crops was 20 ⅜”.  Implements like cultivators and planters mounted to the frame well forward of the operator who had an unobstructed view thanks to the offset position of the seat to the engine. The engine was moved 8” to the left while the seat shifted 6”  right. International Harvester dubbed this arrangement “Culti - Vision”

International Harvester manufactured a variety of implements for the cub. Sickle Bar, rotary, flail, belly mowers and rear mounted mowers were available. Plows, cultivators, planters, listers and fertilizer spreaders rounded out the agricultural offering. Grader blades, front end loaders, buzz saws , and post hole diggers added versatility.

In production for 32 years the Cub has to be one of the most popular tractors ever built. It met the needs of truck farmers and gardeners. It was well received by landscape contractors and grounds maintenance providers. The Lo-Boy version was designed specifically for mowing work.  Road maintenance departments of local governments found that the Cub was a versatile addition to their fleet.  Reliable and economical the Cub gave its owners years of service. No doubt there are thousands of them still hard at work today.

International Harvester advertising brochure titled : Farmall A,B,C Vegetable Truck Farming.  Downloaded from the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Antique Tractor Internet Services
The Steiner Tractor Parts catalog provides  a very handy list of serial numbers for the tractor brands they offer replacement parts for. You can often pick up one of their catalogs at your favorite tractor show, or you can request one at their website:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

War Birds Over Greenville

This may seem a bit off topic but it’s not really. I find all types of historic technology interesting, hopefully you will too. The War Birds of the Collings Foundation were scheduled to visit Greenville, SC. from October 27 to the 29th and I was ready to enjoy three days of watching vintage aircraft take to the autumn sky but it didn’t exactly work out that way. Right from the start the Gremlins crawled out of the woodwork or the clouds or wherever they hide when they’re not busy dismantling aircraft engines.

Four aircraft from their World War 2 collection, a B-17, B-24 and B-25 bombers plus a TF-51 Mustang were supposed to be on display and available for tours beginning at 2:00 pm on Friday afternoon.  I arrived at Greenville’s Downtown Airport about 11:00 am halfway expecting them to already be lined up on the apron but no war birds there. Good deal, I wasn’t too late to watch them land so I headed for an observation area at the end of the runway.  It was well past two before the B-17 made its appearance, then it wandered around the the sky several miles from the airport for about half an hour before landing. The thing that stood out most was was how slow it was flying. It reminded me of a dirigible making stately passes off in the distance.

Next to arrive was the two seat trainer version of the P-51D Mustang. Elegant is the best description for this aircraft. Powered by a V-12 Packard-Merlin engine producing 1,490 horsepower it cuts through the sky with the effortless grace of a world class figure skater.  It still seems sleek and fast, even by today’s standards.

North American Aviation Inc. produced 8,156  P-51D Mustangs but far fewer copies of the two place trainer version were built. This is one of the three known surviving examples in flying condition. It served with the 167th Fighter Squadron of the West Virginia Air National Guard. This squadron was the last to fly the Mustang in operational service. Stationed at Martinsburg, West virginia it was flown by the Guard until January 1957. It flies today wearing its original Air Guard markings.

The shadows were growing long when the next plane arrived. I spotted it several miles out as it lined up on its final approach. There is no mistaking the profile of the Consolidated Liberator. This is the only example of the B-24 J still flying today. Built in August 1944 it was delivered to the Army Air Corp and transferred to the  Royal Air Force under lend - lease. It served in the Pacific Theater until the war’s end when it was abandoned in Kanpur, India. In 1948 it was reconditioned by the Indian Air Force who flew it until 1968. Decommissioned again, it was acquired by a collector and shipped to England. Dr. Robert Collings purchased it in 1984 and had it shipped to Stow, Ma. where a five year restoration project began. It flew again in September 1989 as part of the Collings Foundation collection.

“Tondelayo” the North American B-25 Mitchell was delayed; as it turned out, for the duration of the show. Rumor has it that there were mechanical problems. It was late afternoon by this point but the other three aircraft managed at least one flight with passengers before dark.

An early polar plunger had been pushing down into the Plains States from Canada and slowly spreading eastward since the beginning of the week and by Saturday its effects were reaching the Carolinas. A drizzling rain was falling intermittently  so I stayed at home. Sunday was a little better, the rain had been replaced by cold temperatures and wind that was gusting up to 30 mph.  This pretty much grounded the bombers and the Mustang was experiencing electrical problems. A Civil Air Patrol volunteer worker that I talked to pointed out that the weather added a touch of authenticity because it resembled conditions in Europe that the aircraft would have encountered during the war. Maybe so but I don’t think anyone would have complained about a warm, sunny day.

The Collings Foundation is a nonprofit educational foundation whose mission is to promote living history through events like this Wings of Freedom Tour.  If you are fortunate enough to live near a city that they visit on one of their tours, I recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity to experience these unique aircraft. Walkthrough tours and flight experiences are available. You can learn more about future events, the aircraft and watch video clips of a ride on these planes by visiting

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

E & M Number 5 Turns 100

Edgemoor and Manetta Engine Number 5 turns 100 this month. It rolled out the door of the H.K. Porter and Co. shops in November 1917. At that point in its career it was known as type 0-4-0T , construction number 5980 and it was bound for it’s first job as a shunting engine at the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts. The arsenal was a major supplier of gun carriages for artillery among other war materials so no doubt the little engine was kept busy for the duration of World War 1.

How long it remained employed by the arsenal is a question mark but by 1942 it had passed into the hands of Birmingham Rail and Locomotive Co. who in turn sold it to the Edgemoor and Manetta Railway. E & M was a short line railroad chartered by the State of South Carolina in 1899 that ran 2 ½ miles from Manetta Mills in Lando, SC to an interchange with a Seaboard RR mainline at Edgemoor, SC. E & M was owned by the mill and the mill was the only customer,  

From 1942 until 1975 Engine No. 5 hauled raw materials to the mill and finished cotton products back to the Seaboard connection. Apparently sometime in the summer of 1975 an inspection revealed that the engine was no longer safe to operate and it was retired from service. It would be almost impossible to say for sure but it would definitely be among the last, if not the last steam engine used in regular freight hauling operations in the United States.  After Number 5 was retired, the mill switched to using truck transport and rail operations ceased.

In 1866 Henry Kirke Porter and John Y. Smith formed a partnership and opened a machine shop in Pittsburgh, Pa.  By 1867 they had built their first steam locomotive for Newcastle Railroad and Mining Co. From the beginning they specialized in light duty engines for industrial and short haul customers. They manufactured forty-three of the four wheeled saddle tank locomotives before a fire destroyed the factory and the partnership was dissolved.

Porter soon formed another partnership with Arthur W. Bell and organized under the name of Porter, Bell & Co. The firm manufactured 223 engines before Bell’s death in 1878. Porter reorganized again and pushed ahead under the name of H.K. Porter and Co. Porter was a pioneer in the practice of using off the shelf components and was able to quickly produce engines to meet his customer's specifications.  His company came to dominate the industrial locomotive niche market and made over 8,000 light duty engines before production ended in 1950.

The majority of engines were steam power 0-4-0T “Dinky” saddle tank switch engines, but Porter also made gasoline powered engines and compressed air and “fireless steam engines” for use in underground mines.

Long haul mainline locomotives usually have a tender in tow to furnish a supply of fuel and water but due to the limited range in which they operate switch engines usually carry an on board supply. A tender is unnecessary and would mainly get in the way. A number designs exist with different locations for the water tank, including side tanks and tanks located underneath the boiler. With the saddle tank design the water tank is draped across the boiler like a saddle on a horse.

In 1995 the Heath family who were the owners of the mill and the railroad donated the engine to the town of Richburg, SC and it was moved to Richburg Community Park at 116 North Main Street where it is presently on display. Happy Birthday “Dinky”, and many Happy Returns.

Historic Marker at Richburg Community Park

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oliver Model O.C.-46 Loader

A couple of years ago I drove past the Kissimmee Auction Company in Spartanburg, SC and spotted several old pull graders parked in front so I went inside the office and asked permission to have a look and take some pictures. This old Oliver OC-46 Loader was parked among the Adams and Cat pull graders serving as a kind of lawn ornament. It’s still sitting there today looking like it could really use a restoration. There’s no for sale sign on it but Kissimmee is in the business of selling heavy equipment so the right offer might motivate the seller.

The Oliver Corporation produced the OC-4 series crawler tractors from 1957 to 1965. The OC-4 was the agricultural model while the OC-46 variant was designed and built as a compact loader for construction and industrial applications. The OC-4 was offered in four track widths 31 inches for tight work areas, 46 “ and 60” and 68” for farm, swampland and snow work where maximum floatation was crucial. The shipping weight was around 5,000 pounds. The OC-46 came with  46” treads as standard and due to the extra weight of the loader equipment shipped from the factory at around 7850 pounds.

Both versions were offered with a 130 cubic inch 3 cylinder Hercules engine in either gasoline or diesel option. Cylinder bore measured 3 ½” with a stroke of 4 ½”.  A six volt electrical system was standard on the gasoline version while 12 volts were used on the diesel models. Fuel economy was touted in the sales brochure, “ runs all day on one tankful.”

Both versions were shipped to Nebraska in 1958 and were evaluated in test number 655 and 656. Maximum drawbar horsepower was recorded as 23.14 and 25.34 hp. On the belt. Gasoline and diesel results were about the same. The standard transmission provided four forward speeds from 1.5 to 5.2 miles per hour.

The OC-46 was designed by Oliver as a loader tractor with special attention to mounting the loader that was built by Ware Machine Works to Oliver’s specifications. Ware had a close relationships with Oliver for a number of years and is still in business today. The Oliver brochure claimed that the position of the loader resulted in perfect balance and stability and reduced counterweight requirements by hundreds of pounds. Oliver claimed a breakout capacity of 6000 pounds.

With an overall length of twelve feet and relatively light weight ( compared to a full size dozer ) the OC-46 filled an important market niche. Judging by the popularity of the Bobcat style mini loader / dozer you see at nearly every construction site today, the OC-46 might have been slightly ahead of it’s time.


Most of the information used in this post came from an Oliver sales brochure for the OC-4 crawler and OC-46 loader that dates to the early 60’s. You can view this brochure and other interesting documents at . has posted a downloadable file with the report for Nebraska Test  number 656 conducted in June 1958.