For Nebraska Family Tractor Hobby Links Three Generations

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It takes a little effort to restore, maintain and operate this fleet of Hart-Parrs, but at Shane Farms, it is all in a day‚Ã"ôs work. From left: Farm Foreman Dennis Gentele and the 12-24, Todd Shane and the 18-36, Perry and his dad Kirk with one of the 28-50s, and Charles with the other 28-50.

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When Charles Shane started collecting cross-motor tractors in the mid-1990s, he figured a bit of tinkering would be fun, especially since he was cutting back his involvement with the family-owned agri-business. The old machines have proven to be fun, but they have also provided a means for Charles to spend quality time with his sons and grandson. ‚Ã'úWe spend plenty of time together over business,‚Ã'ù the Atkinson, Neb., native explains. ‚Ã'úThe tractors give us a reason to get together that is just for fun.‚Ã'ù

The family members behind Shane Farms are necessarily abreast of high-tech modern practices, so it might seem ironic that Charles is fascinated by such early, and arguably crude (by today‚Ã'ôs standards), tractors. However, he‚Ã'ôs quick to point out that they were cutting edge in their time. ‚Ã'úHart-Parr invented the tractor,‚Ã'ù Charles says with a twinkle in his eye. ‚Ã'úEverything else back then was just a traction machine.‚Ã'ù It‚Ã'ôs true that Hart-Parr is generally credited with being the first to use the term ‚Ã'útractor,‚Ã'ù but that‚Ã'ôs not really why Charles is drawn to them.

It turns out that Charles‚Ã'ô father, Oliver Shane, had a lasting influence. ‚Ã'úI think great-grandpa preferred mules,‚Ã'ù explains Perry Shane, fifth generation Shane farmer and Charles‚Ã'ô grandson. ‚Ã'úBut he also had a couple of Olivers.‚Ã'ù Charles concurs, adding that when he was in high school, his dad had Oliver models 80 and 88 around the place ‚Ã'ì so when his attention turned to cross-motor tractors, Hart-Parr was a logical choice. ‚Ã'úHart-Parr merged with Oliver Chilled Plow and Nichols & Shepard in 1929,‚Ã'ù Charles explains. ‚Ã'úThe new company was called the Oliver Farm Equipment Co.‚Ã'ù

1928 ‚Ã'ì a good year for Hart-Parr

Charles found his first Hart-Parr tractor in Clinton, Neb., in 1993. The Model 18-36 hadn‚Ã'ôt run for 55 years and Charles credits his neighbor and friend, Jim Frerichs, for helping him get it loaded and back home. ‚Ã'úThe motor was loose and everything was there so we had to try to start it,‚Ã'ù Charles says. ‚Ã'úWe cleaned the crankcase, filled it with gas and it started on the third pull!‚Ã'ù Perhaps over-eager to see just how bad off the tractor was, Charles notes that they had the machine running, but didn‚Ã'ôt know how to turn it off ‚Ã'ì and they hadn‚Ã'ôt filled the cooling system with water. ‚Ã'úWe didn‚Ã'ôt quite know what to do,‚Ã'ù Charles says with a chuckle. ‚Ã'úSo my son pulled the spark plug wires with his bare hands to shut it down.‚Ã'ù That may not seem like much of a big deal, but those wires had lost most of their insulation and pulling them while the engine lumbered on was a shocking experience, to say the least.

No stranger to mechanical work and complex fabrication (such as self-propelled stack movers), Charles set out to make that 18-36 shine. ‚Ã'úI was so excited that the old tractor ran after years of sitting, that I decided to restore it,‚Ã'ù he says. ‚Ã'úAnd now it can be around for another 70 years.‚Ã'ù With help from sons Kirk and Todd and grandson Perry, Charles completely dismantled the tractor, sandblasted nearly every part, painted pieces with self-etching primer and topcoat, reassembled the parts and painted the works again. During the process, the 2-cylinder Hart-Parr engine got its valves ground and piston rings and bearings checked, but it was in remarkably good condition.

With the 1928 18-36 as the foundation of his collection, Charles focused on that last year of Hart-Parr‚Ã'ôs independence as a stand-alone tractor manufacturer. Although there was some model variation during 1928, Hart-Parr built only three principal models that year. As the company‚Ã'ôs intermediate-size machine, the 18-36 was classified as a 3- to 4-plow tractor. All Charles needed to round out the 1928 collection were Models 12-24 and 28-50. ‚Ã'úI found the 12-24 just a couple of years after we finished the first one,‚Ã'ù Charles says.

Charles found the 12-24 north of Devils Lake, N.D., at the Jacobson Museum. ‚Ã'úThe tractor was a real junker,‚Ã'ù he reports. ‚Ã'úThe fenders were shot, the frame was broken, but I hated to see it scrapped.‚Ã'ù The 12-24 received the same meticulous treatment as the 18-36, although it also needed frame repair and rod bearings re-poured. The 12-24‚Ã'ôs fenders were so far gone that the Shanes replaced them with reproduction pieces ‚Ã'ì a practice they‚Ã'ôve repeated on most future cross-motor projects. ‚Ã'úThe fenders tend to be very rough on these old machines,‚Ã'ù Charles says. ‚Ã'úIt just isn‚Ã'ôt worth the effort to try to fix them most of the time.‚Ã'ù

As the smallest of Hart-Parr‚Ã'ôs 1928 offerings, the 12-24 was marketed as a 2- to 3-plow model and an affordable labor saver said to be capable of replacing three hired men with horses. The machine‚Ã'ôs 2-cylinder Hart-Parr engine, though smaller than that used in the 18-36, offered record-breaking fuel efficiency. And the diminutive dynamo was just the right size for doubling ‚Ã'ì doubling to create a 4-cylinder engine for Hart-Parr‚Ã'ôs final and largest new introduction, the 28-50. Hart-Parr used the twin 2-cylinder approach to successfully build a 4-cylinder engine for the earlier Model 22-40 ‚Ã'ì and it turned out to be a winning approach with the 28-50.

The Shane family‚Ã'ôs 1928 Hart-Parr Model 28-50 was long-time friend Gilbert ‚Ã'úGib‚Ã'ù Fox‚Ã'ôs pride and joy. Gib, a well-known and -loved Gade engine collector in O‚Ã'ôNeill, Neb. (see Farm Collector, December 1998), and friend of the entire old-iron community, was on his way to redoing the 28-50, but his death in 2004 left only several pallet loads of parts. ‚Ã'úWe bought the tractor in pieces at the Fox family‚Ã'ôs sale,‚Ã'ù Charles says. ‚Ã'úAnd we made it our goal to finish the restoration in his honor.‚Ã'ù This machine also got a new set of reproduction fenders and a complete refinishing as it went back together. Today, the Shanes show this tractor as a memorial to their friend. The Shane Farms Hart-Parr collection now also includes a second restored Model 28-50.

Room for Rumelys

‚Ã'úI just loved those Hart-Parrs until I heard a Rumely run,‚Ã'ù Charles offers as an explanation to why he expanded his cross-motor passion to include a brand that has little connection to Oliver ‚Ã'¶ other than the fact that their remnants can both be traced forward to AGCO. ‚Ã'úWe took a trip to Wisconsin to visit my daughter, and the 30-50 Y ended up coming home.‚Ã'ù
When working a machine as rare as the Y, challenges seem daunting, but since the serial numbers on the engine, frame and nameplate of this tractor all matched, Charles felt it was well worth the effort. ‚Ã'úRumely converted 100 20-30 Rs into 30-50 Ys and later made 145 more of them,‚Ã'ù Charles explains. ‚Ã'úThis tractor is one of only 110 known to exist, and of those it is the only one with three matching numbers.‚Ã'ù

Bringing the well-worn Rumely‚Ã'ôs engine back to specification was no easy task. Years of work followed by years of sitting left the cylinders hopelessly damaged. Though they consisted of wet sleeves pressed into the block, no source existed for new ones. Undeterred, the Shanes carefully pulled the pair of sleeves without breaking them, and sent them off to the machine shop to be bored and fit for sleeves themselves. After sleeving the sleeves, they were temporarily shrunk so they could be reinstalled in the block with little fuss. ‚Ã'úWe packed them in dry ice,‚Ã'ù Charles explains. ‚Ã'úAnd they slipped right into the original bore no problem.‚Ã'ù

Once back in place, the cylinders were finished to the stock dimensions, new (custom made) rings were fitted to the pistons, shims were removed from the bearings and the works went back together. Since completing this machine the Shane men have also restored a 1926 Rumely Model M.

Perry‚Ã'ôs prizes

Perry Shane definitely shares the cross-motor passion with his grandfather, but he is also partial to slightly more recent tractors. At about the same time the 18-36 Hart-Parr arrived on the farm, he took on his first project: an Oliver.

Perry‚Ã'ôs 1936 Model 70 row crop was in decent shape and relatively complete when he tore into it. The original sheet metal, including the engine side panels, was all there, although a little bodywork was needed to make it look nice. Perry overhauled the tractor‚Ã'ôs Continental engine, replaced the clutch and installed new rubber all the way around. He says the combination of seeing that tractor come back to life, and spending quality time with his grandfather, gave him the desire to stay involved with old iron. In addition to working on all of the Rumelys and Hart-Parrs, Perry has since taken the lead on several additional Oliver restorations, including the 1942 Model 60 row crop Kirk purchased alongside the Model 70, a second Model 70 row crop, and a Super 88 row crop.

Making the connections

Charles admits the tractor projects have been perfect for him as he becomes ever more comfortable with being retired ‚Ã'ì but that‚Ã'ôs not all. ‚Ã'úThe best part for me has been spending so much time working with my grandson,‚Ã'ù Charles says. ‚Ã'úAnd when Perry and I get stuck, we know Todd or Kirk will help us out.‚Ã'ù Perry agrees the tractors have been good for all of them. ‚Ã'úWe spend a lot of time working together every day,‚Ã'ù Perry explains. ‚Ã'úBut when there‚Ã'ôs a tractor in the shop, it‚Ã'ôs always fun.‚Ã'ù

As he considers additions to the collection, Charles says he wouldn‚Ã'ôt turn down a big Avery or Minneapolis if the right one(s) came along. As for the challenges inherent in restoring big and unusual machines, he is confident that with his family‚Ã'ôs help, future projects would only lead to additional generation-connecting adventures.  FC

For more information: Charles Shane, 413 N. Hyde St., Atkinson, NE 68713.
Oscar ‚Ã'úHank‚Ã'ù Will III is an old-iron collector, freelance writer and photographer. He splits his time between his home in Gettysburg, Pa., and his farm in East Andover, N.H. He can be reached at: (717) 337-6068; e-mail: willo@gettysburg.edu.