As Good as Gold
By James N. Boblenz
Like the "Forty-niners" panning for gold in
"them thar hills" of California, modern day prospectors turn over
many rocks looking for a certain "yellow gold" tractor … a Sheppard
Diesel. Few are found, but the rare nugget is worth all the effort.
And, like the Forty-niners, these prospectors cherish their bits of
gold as much as those rugged individuals did 150 years ago.
This year, the Sheppard Diesel Club celebrated its 10th
anniversary in August at the Maumee Valley Antique Steam and Gas
Association Show at New Haven, Ind. Technically, this was the
group's 11th meeting, but the first year - before the club was
formally organized - the event was simply called "The Sheppard
Diesel Reunion." In 1994, Lynn Klingaman, Columbia City, Ind.,
called several friends who also owned Sheppard Diesels and
suggested they get together to show their tractors. At that
gathering, the Sheppard Diesel Club was formed. Since then, each
year they meet at a different location to exhibit tractors and
Jim Reed, Gibsonville, Ohio, is the current president of the
group. Jim is an avid collector of Farmalls and International
Harvester equipment. However, his pride and joy is a Sheppard
Diesel SD-2 that he displays at Sheppard anniversary shows all over
R.H. Sheppard, Hanover, Pa., produced diesel engines for U.S.
Navy lifeboats during World War II. He knew he had a good product
and knew he could build a worthy farm tractor at a reasonable
price. He started manufacturing tractors in 1948, halting
production 10 years later in 1958.
His first tractor was a small, 1-cylinder air-cooled tractor
(quite like a garden tractor) advertised as being a "small
diesel-powered farm tractor for the big jobs on the small place. It
can do everything a team can do - and more!"
Next came the 2-cylinder SD-2, then the 3- and 4-cylinder
tractors, SD-3 and SD-4. The model numbering system he devised was
simple: SD stood for Sheppard Diesel. "One" stood for one cylinder
and one plow. The numbers two, three and four similarly stood for
2-cylinder 2-plow, 3-cylinder 3-plow and 4-cylinder 5-plow
Horsepower ratings cost in 1955 were:
Sheppard built an experimental 6-cylinder tractor, but never
brought it to the marketplace. It served its working life on a farm
To better fill farmers' needs, Sheppard added orchard/grove
tractors to the mix as well as tractors and cars used in mining
applications. The company manufactured a full line of farm
implements, including 2- and 4-row cultivators, mounted corn
planters, pull-behind corn planters, 2-, 3- and 4-bottom plows,
disc harrows, cultipackers, sickle bar mowers and loaders. Also in
the offering were diesel engines to power hay balers, combines and
other farm equipment.
Sheppard produced conversion kits for Farmall Model M tractors.
From company promotional materials: "The kit contains everything
needed for complete conversion to FULL diesel power in less than a
day. You can continue to use all your present Model M implements …
conversion does not alter the frame in any way."
Although no conversion kit was advertised for B.F. Avery
tractors, a B.F. Avery Model R converted to use a 2-cylinder
Sheppard Diesel engine was a premier show piece at the Maumee
Interestingly, every model tractor, most agricultural implements
and many of the power units and generators produced by Sheppard
were exhibited at the show. There were 16 tractors, two conversion
units, 10 miscellaneous pieces of equipment, one mining tractor and
trailer and 12 different power units/generators. Ignoring high gas
prices, exhibitors came from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey,
New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Oregon. Given the fact that
the Sheppard was an unusual tractor for its time, produced for just
10 years, it was quite a display of items from a wide geographic
Although Sheppard no longer produces farm equipment, production
of other mechanical devices continues at the Hanover plant. That's
an accomplishment, too.
- James N. Boblenz grew up on a farm near New Bloomington,
Ohio. He now lives in Marion, Ohio, and is interested in antique
farm equipment, particularly rare and lesser-known tractors and
related items. E-mail him at JBoblenz@aol.com