The Red Power Charge: Show Season 2006

The first-ever "Red Power Charge" showcased International Harvester tractors and equipment in upstate New York during show season 2006.

This nicely restored Trac-Lift-brand forklift was a real showstopper

This nicely restored Trac-Lift-brand forklift was a real showstopper. The machine served for more than 30 years as a yard machine at a local lumber company.

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The first-ever Red Power Charge went off with such a bang July 28-29, 2006, that even substantial precipitation on the first day couldn't dampen participants' spirits. The regional show, held at the Hemlock (N.Y.) Union Agricultural Society fairgrounds, was the brainchild of the International Harvester Collectors Club's new upstate New York Chapter 35. The club produced its first show less than two years after receiving its charter. "As one of the newest chapters, we wanted to hit the ground running," explains Chapter 35 Director Gene Preston, Greece, N.Y. "We had a lot of momentum from the beginning and didn't want to let it slip." It wasn't just about momentum, however.

Enthusiasm for International Harvester has grown to a healthy high in New York. Under President Anita DeGlopper's leadership, Chapter 35 had grown to almost 400 members by the time the show was proposed in early 2005. With numbers like that, the club not only had the budget but also the critical mass needed to sustain a project as ambitious as the Red Power Charge. "There was plenty of anxiety in the months leading up to the show, and even during it," says Chapter 35 volunteer Jim Bagley, Hornell, N.Y. "The rain really had us worried, but it all worked out."

It took plenty of commitment to keep the event going during an early first-day downpour. Adopting a "show must go on" attitude, club members and exhibitors donned raingear and paraded their prized pieces on schedule. It's a good thing they did, because the sun shortly arrived and brought on the crowds.

The Red Power Charge attracted exhibitors from several states and Canada, and visitors with an even broader geographical cross section. Machinery on display ranged from the mundane to the truly unique, but the breadth was truly breathtaking.

Making the grade

Among the more usual letter-series Farmall tractors at Hemlock were a number of very unusual industrial-type machines that used IH tractors or specialized power units for motivation. A nice Trojan Utility Speed Patrol road maintainer (grader-type) was displayed by Don Johnstone, Springwater, N.Y. This little grader, consisting of a 1946 Farmall M tractor grafted to the Trojan's front end and blade carriage, is typical of early self-propelled graders from many different manufacturers including Meili-Blumberg, Gallion and others. Later road graders featured more integral construction, and many were powered with IH engines and transmissions - like the Adams no. 201.

Chapter 35 member Andrew Sherwood brought his Adams no. 201 self-propelled leaning-wheel grader to the show from nearby Naples. The J.D. Adams Mfg. Co. (Indianapolis) built the machine in the 1950s and used an IH engine-over-transmission power unit to make it go. "When I saw a picture of it in the Heavy Equipment Trader, I knew it had an IH engine," Andrew explains, pointing out the power unit's telltale Raymond Loewy-styled hood and grille. "I didn't have a grader in my collection yet, so I decided to go for it."

Since the grader was located in Rhode Island, Andrew knew he'd have to figure out a way to get it home. His plan was to go after it himself ... except he didn't have a large enough trailer. "At the time, I was also looking for a lowboy to haul my toys around on," Andrew says. "As luck would have it, there was a nice one with hydraulic ramps for sale in the same state." Since he'd already put his International road tractor away for the winter to keep it out of the salt, Andrew planned to lease one, picking up the trailer and grader at the same time. As it turned out, however, both items were located within minutes of one another, so the trailer's previous owner loaded the grader and lined up a trucker to pull it.

When Andrew's Adams grader made it to upstate New York a few years ago, it didn't run for the simple reason that its previous owner (a paving contractor) had removed the starter and magneto for some long-forgotten reason. "All of the pieces were there in a box," Andrew says. "My friend Tom Van Norman (South Dansville, N.Y.) put it back together and shortly had it running." Tom, another IH fanatic, makes his living as a mobile equipment mechanic and counts several old Farmall tractors among the scores of machines he looks after for area farmers. "I knew right away that it had the C-152 4-cylinder engine," Tom explains about his first encounter with the Adams grader. "That's the same engine that was used in the Farmall H and I have worked on plenty of them."

The Adams no. 201 grader is especially interesting to IH enthusiasts because it features an unusual engine-over-transmission version of the IH U-4 power unit. The engine in this case was mounted above the modified 5-speed I-4 industrial tractor transmission with the clutch situated over the transmission's input shaft. Power from the engine is transmitted through a single-disc dry-type clutch to a cluster of sheaves that pass it via v-belts to a matching set of sheaves on the transmission's input shaft.

The Adams road grader is also interesting because the front wheel camber and all blade adjustments are mechanically controlled through a PTO-powered gearbox located in the cab. "You make all the adjustments with a series of levers in the cab," Andrew explains. "But they're not hydraulic levers." Instead, the levers engage or disengage the many small drive shafts extending from the cab to individual gear sets controlling blade angle, tilt, elevation and more. "It's a beautiful system, considering the technology," Andrew says. "But it's hard to keep track of all the levers and drive it at the same time."

Andrew uses the little grader to maintain lanes, which he readily admits is a lot more like fun than work. When loaded on the lowboy behind his IH road tractor, the outfit turns plenty of heads at area shows. But Andrew's Adams wasn't the only interesting piece at Hemlock still in regular use.

Uplifting International 140

One of the biggest attention-getters at the Red Power Charge was a unique little Trac-Lift forklift owned by Livonia business partners and friends Jim Wingate and David Hartnett. The machine, officially known as a Trac-Lift Model TL40, was manufactured at the Piper & Paine Machine Shop in Nunda, N.Y., using an industrialized 1964 IH 140 tractor as a base. "The Trac-Lift was delivered new to the C. Acker Smith Lumber Co. in Lakeville, N.Y.," Jim says. "They used it around the yard until just a few years ago." Well cared for, the machine was never left outside overnight. The 140's engine was also overhauled about 15 years ago.

Piper & Paine is listed on the serial number tag as the TL40's manufacturer. However, several local folks feel certain that the Trac-Lift Co. of Nunda produced the forklift. Still others say the Trac-Machinery Corp. built it. It turns out that Piper & Paine had a machine shop in Nunda where they built (among other things) forklifts under the Trac-Lift brand. Later, they produced a prototype road-paving machine around an IH tractor. In 1956, this so-called Trac-Paver provided the basis for the Trac-Machinery Corp., whose principals included Delos F. Paine and Harold R. Piper. In time, the machine shop and Trac-Lift operations were folded into Trac-Machinery Corp. In 1968, Trac-Machinery merged into Etnyre & Co., an Illinois-based maker of road-building equipment, and Trac-Machinery's pavers were produced at the Nunda location into the early 1980s.

Although the little forklift was fully functional when Jim and David obtained it, they wanted to repair some dings and make it look nice before putting it back to work at the Conesus Lake Sportsman's Club, where both are members. In the process, Jim made some minor mechanical repairs, while David fabricated a grille and grille housing from scratch to replace the badly mangled original and painted it. And since they also have detailed photos of the machine in its original owner's manual, they were able to faithfully reproduce its decals. "We mainly use the Trac-Lift to unload boxes of clay targets at the club," Jim explains. "Even though it's a fully capable machine, it had become a liability at the lumberyard because it isn't idiot-proof like modern forklifts." The TL40 is also fun to take to area shows, Jim adds, because it preserves a little local history. For one local family, though, the show at Hemlock was about preserving much more than history.

In fond memory

"We wanted to get the 124 dozer put back together in time for this show," explains Dr. Gerald 'Doc' Ryan while looking over tractor parts soon to be auctioned. "My late son, Mark, was pretty fond of it, so we dedicated our efforts to his memory." For the Ryan family, the 124 in question is a very special IH Cub Cadet, and not just because it helps them stay connected with Mark. Doc purchased the machine in 1968 from a dealership owned by his uncle, J.T. Ryan. At the same time, he bought a front-mounted blade and a Tractor Trax attachment, which converted the garden tractor into a pint-sized crawler.

The Tractor Trax Co. of Rutland, Vt., built the crawler conversion as a kit that included a pair of track frames that looked and functioned like the Trackson half-track conversions seen earlier on full-sized farm tractors. The tracks consisted of formed channel steel grousers bolted to chains that wrapped around the tractor's rear tires (and were powered by them). The front of the track frame bolted to the front-wheel spindles in place of the wheels, which were attached to the frame behind them and served as rollers. A smaller wheel was located between the tractor's front and rear wheels and another was located up front to serve as an idler and adjust the track's tension.

"I bought the tractor with the Tractor Trax attachment because we really wanted to use it as a small dozer," Doc recalls. "We used it pretty hard to push everything from snow to crushed stone." The tracklayer was even used on cross-country jaunts as an early ATV-type vehicle. Since the Cub Cadet lacks steering clutches, directional changes with the Tractor Trax attachment installed were accomplished by engaging the left- or right-hand brake (supplied as part of the kit), which transmitted more energy across the differential than engineers ever intended. "We went through a few differentials and rear axle shafts over the years," Doc's son, Chris, says with a smile that indicates his dad wasn't totally aware of the extent of the abuse. "We definitely put the design to the test."

In spite of the rain, Chris and his nephew, Mitchell (Mark's son), put the Tractor Trax-equipped Cub Cadet through its paces to the delight of a steady stream of onlookers. "It's geared a little fast for a crawler," Mitchell says with a grin. "But it's much more fun that way." Doc says that working on the project as a family has helped them through the grieving process by bringing fond memories back to life.

Wrapping it up

International Harvester had one of the broadest product line-ups of any farm equipment manufacturer, and many models were represented at last summer's Red Power Charge. A High Wheeler truck dating to the teens of the last century was on display along with several more-recent light- and heavy-duty trucks and Scouts. The display also included Hi-Crop tractors, industrial tractors, stationary engines, manure spreaders, silage choppers, silo blowers and much more.

If folks tired of looking at IH machinery, they could take in a nice display of Allis-Chalmers, Oliver, Ford and even John Deere tractors: Chapter 35 members invited exhibitors of all brands to the event. And to top it all off, Hemlock Union Agricultural Society members demonstrated some of their stationary equipment, which includes an IH-powered sawmill and a Deere & Co.-powered shingle mill.

Taking stock in the Chapter 35 newsletter, Gene Preston notes that the Red Power Charge of 2006 drew spectators by the thousands, nearly 70 Cub Cadets, more than 200 tractors, a full score of trucks and no fewer than 10 hit-and-miss engines, not to mention numerous implements and pieces of memorabilia. By any measure, the show was a great success. For first timers, it was a nothing short of phenomenal. FC 

For more information on IHCC Chapter 35, contact current officers, listed here: http://www.ihcc35ny.com/contact_us.html. 

Oscar 'Hank' Will III enjoys working on, photographing and writing about machinery. He is now the Editor-in-chief of GRIT magazine and Cappers magazine; email: hwill@grit.com