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John serves as president of the Platte County Steam & Gas Engine Association and is a member of the International Harvester Collector's Association, Missouri Chapter 1. John shared his restored hay press with other red-power lovers at the IHCA's national convention held in Topeka, Kan., last March, where he and the hay press drew a crowd.
The unusual baling equipment attracted spectators, perhaps because of its bright red and green paint scheme -or maybe because it completely filled a huge flatbed trailer parked among tractors and other equipment brought by convention-goers. As folks crowded around to take a closer look, John eagerly demonstrated how the big hay press works and shared photos and stories about its restoration. With a few turns of the flywheel, and a sputtering cough from the Titan engine, the gears slowly turned the massive chain that powers the press. Like a long-sleeping giant, the engine and the hay press whirred to life again.
'I've never seen one like it,' John says over the noisy engine. 'Few people have. Most were junked during wartime, so there's very few still around.' Like most resourceful farm collectors, John scrounged up an illustration of a similar hay press printed in the 1915 IH Almanac, which helped him decipher the original color scheme. The company introduced the device at a time when most people baled hay with oat-driven horsepower, John says, and gasoline tractors were still in their infancy.
As restorations go, John's took no time at all. The project began Jan. 15, 2003, and the first hay bales were pressed in mid-March. With farm work to fill his time, John sought restoration help from Jim, Paul, John and Tom Turnbull, brothers who operate a machine shop south of St. Joseph by day and tinker with restorations in off hours. Luckily for John, the restoration didn't cost much. New paint and some shop time were the biggest investments needed to get the machine operational again. In fact, the specialty wire used to bind the hay bales was one of the most expensive details, John says.
A 4-hp Titan engine, Serial No. RC 2942, also built by IH in 1914, powers the hay press. Time took its toll on the entire hay press, John says, but especially the engine. The fittings were so corroded that he didn't know they were actually finely crafted brass until he polished the engine. The Turnbull brothers easily fixed the motor, he adds, but honed the one-cylinder engine's sleeve and made minor repairs to the worn piston. In another stroke of luck, the magneto still functioned, a detail that saved John about $900.