Harry Wessels’ collection of antique farm equipment is not limited to engines. It also includes a respectable display of antique hay equipment: hay carriers, pulleys, track and trip blocks. “I got interested in this stuff after seeing displays of barn carriers without the lift pulleys,” he explains. “I wanted to display a functional carrier, but that required track and trip blocks, which are very rare.”
Trip blocks are hard to find, he says, precisely because of their location at the peak of the barn. “That’s the hardest place on the barn to get to,” he says. “You could roll the carrier back to lubricate it or put rope in. But the only way to get the trip block is to be there when the barn collapses or is torn down.”
The hay carrier (sometimes called a trolley) was a fairly simple and very reliable device, Harry notes. “Reliability was key, given the device’s location,” he says. “The peak of the barn juts out, extending the track, so the lift pulley dropped down outside the barn. Under the peak, a large barn door allowed large loads of hay to pass through. A trip block bolted to the track under the peak locked the carrier in position and released the lift pulley to drop down to the hayrack. The loaded hayrack was parked next to the barn, where it could be unloaded and the hay moved into the mow.”
But displays of restored carriers alone, out of context, could not tell that story. “Nobody can look at those and make sense of what they did,” he says. So Harry devised a display at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum (AGSEM), Vista, Calif., featuring three tracks with six carriers, one on each end. “On each track, near the center, is a trip block that releases the lift pulley to drop down,” he says. “Conversely, when the pull rope raises the lift pulley back to the carrier, it is released to roll.”
The display was an immediate hit. “I actually got a couple of hugs out of it,” Harry recalls. “People were tickled to death that I could explain it all to them: Why the door was so big, why there was a peak…”
For his part, Harry was equally pleased to see people learn about the little heralded device, one that he has immense respect for. “I believe the barn hay carrier played an important role in the success of the Midwest farm,” he says. “It made filling large barns with hay and bedding a manageable task.” FC
Leslie McManus is editor of Farm Collector. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com .