Letters to the Editor

California collection provides backdrop for ag history lesson

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Left: This Best 60 features an “eight-hour” fuel tank built in Stockton, Calif., designed to maximize time spent in the field before refueling. It is part of a varied collection put together by Al Hauschildt, Sonora, Calif.

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For Al Hauschildt, seeing is more than believing. When a new generation sees vintage iron in action, he says, they come to understand a way of life irretrievably lost.

"The younger generation doesn't know what our heritage is," he says. "People come see this equipment, and they wonder what it is and what it does. But if you have it running, then they can understand it."

A show held annually at Al's 23-acre Horse Around Ranch in the Sierra Mountains near Sonora, Calif., is his way of reaching the younger generation. Held each August, the show features pieces displayed and operated by local collectors. "We'll have model engines, gas engines and tractors," Al says. "And we have all kinds of demonstrations. We've had blacksmiths, painters, a two-man chainsaw demonstration, a mining display and tractors pulling sleds and plows. We've had an Aermotor engine display, a truck show and one year recently we had a Stanley Steamer here." The three-day event draws attendance of about 600 (not including exhibitors).

Al's hosted the show off and on since the early 1990s. One constant? Young people. "I like to see children at shows," Al says, "especially when they're about 10 or 12 and older. If a kid has a girlfriend with him, forget it. But if you get two or three boys together, they're full of questions. I like to get them involved. If you introduce a child to something, you've planted a seed."

In Al's case, a seed planted in childhood began growing like a weed in the 1950s when he started collecting antique farm equipment. As the decades passed, Al's collection began to encompass rare and highly collectible pieces: tractors, gas engines and more - lots more. "Oh, I've got hog oilers, engines, signs, chainsaws, mining stuff and more," he says. "You go to an auction, and all of a sudden they say 'Sold!' and jeez, then I've got to pay for it! I don't think I've ever come home from an auction with an empty trailer."

His collection features local favorites like Best crawlers. He found his prototype Best 30 (built by C.L. Best Tractor Co., San Leandro, Calif.) at an auction put on by the Heidrick Agricultural History Center at Woodland, Calif. It's a fitting companion for his Best 60, which features an "eight-hour" fuel tank. "The original tank wouldn't hold enough fuel to run the tractor all day," Al explains. "The tractor used 11 gallons an hour. This way they could refuel and lubricate at noon. At night, the guys were too tired, and they'd miss some of the fittings. And in the morning, the grease was too cold."

Other pieces also have strong local ties. His 30 hp Foos gasoline engine was once used to pump water out of the Sacramento River. Found in a valley near Woodland, the engine is thought to be one of just four of that model to survive. Al's 6 hp tank-cooled Weber engine was found in pieces in a field. "A friend of mine used a metal detector to find all of it," he says. The engine, which Al believes was manufactured between 1904 and 1906, was originally used in the blacksmith shop on a California ranch, pumped water and powered a saw rig.

Still other pieces in his collection are there just because he likes them. "I have eight Rumelys," he says. "The 20-40 was actually a local tractor. But Rumely is kind of a rarity out here. This is Cat country."

Other "imports" include a Flour City 40-80 with extensions, and a stationary steam engine dating to the late 1800s. The tractor is nearly identical to the Flour City 40-70, Al says. "You have to get them side by side to tell the difference," he says. Manufactured by Kinnard & Sons Mfg. Co., Minneapolis, Al's Flour City is complete and runs well. It was built for a very short time between late 1919 and early 1920. At that point, Nebraska Tractor Tests rated it at just 72 hp, so the model was renamed a 35-70.

Before Al bought the chain-steer tractor, it was used to perform roadwork in Iowa. "I have a picture of the tractor in 1928 on rubber," Al says. "But they saved the cleats, and I've got them." The Flour City, he notes, "is not a backyard tractor. It only goes 1.5 miles an hour, but you have to concentrate when you drive that."

The steam engine was custom-built for McKenna Distilling Co., Fairfield, Ky., by Dodge Mfg., Mishawaka, Ind. Al's had a new boiler built for the unit, which originally provided power to stir an 18,000-gallon mash pot. The new boiler is rated at 250 psi.

Al's stable of tractors includes two other particularly noteworthy pieces: a Minneapolis-Moline UDLX and a Townsend Oil Tractor.

In a move that might win her "Wife of the Year" honors in the antique tractor fraternity, Al's wife, Marge, surprised him with the UDLX as a wedding anniversary gift. "When they had the UDLX 50th anniversary, I got myself a model because I knew I would never get a real one, even though I had always wanted one," Al recalls. "Then I saw one advertised in a magazine. In the next issue, there was a picture of it with the word 'sold' on it. 'Good,' I said. 'Now I don't have to worry about it.'"

Soon after, Al made plans to attend a tractor show in a neighboring state. A friend told him to "bring your trailer; you're going to need it empty." At the show, he saw a UDLX … and Marge, who stood next to it, dangling the keys.

The Townsend tractor is related to a noteworthy engine manufacturer: Fairbanks, Morse & Co. Roy Townsend was the impetus behind Fairbanks-Morse's entry into tractor manufacture. When Fairbanks-Morse abandoned that endeavor, Townsend went into business for himself, establishing a base of operations at Janesville, Wis.

Al says his Townsend is said to have been Roy Townsend's personal tractor, perhaps an experimental model. Although the Townsend resembles a steam traction engine, the 2-cylinder tractor ran on kerosene and gas. "It cools kind of like a Rumely (the boiler acts as a radiator, with a fan blowing through the tubes to cool the water) and it has one speed forward and one reverse," Al says, "and they both go like hell!"

For more information: Al Hauschildt, 19010 Yost Ranch Road, Sonora, CA 95370; (209) 928-3249. The 2007 show will be held Aug 25-26.