Tractors and Trains Down Under

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Photo by Don Mackereth ❮ ❯
This 1901 traction engine was built by Burrell & Sons in England. It is now owned by Kaikohe Pioneer Village.

With a full head of steam and fuel tanks full of petrol, paraffin oil or diesel, everything was ready for the two-day Glenbrook Vintage Rail and Franklin Vintage Machinery biennial show held Feb. 25-26, down under in New Zealand. This was the eighth time in the past 16 years that the two main sponsors have come together to present the show in Glenbrook, 59 miles south of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.

Show visitors were privileged to travel from Glenbrook to the small provincial town of Waiuku, a distance of 7 miles, in vintage British Pullman carriages drawn by one of two vintage steam locomotive engines. One engine, number 179 (rated in the WW Class), was built in 1915 in the Hillside Workshops in New Zealand. The other, a JA Class engine, was built in New Zealand in 1947.

After the railroad experience, spectators were towed around the 40-acre show site by one of two traction engines. The older engine, called Betty, was built in 1901 by Burrell & Sons of England and is now owned by the Kaikohe Pioneer Village. On show day, Betty was hauled some 200 miles to the event. The other, an Aveling & Porter 3-speed compound engine called The Mistress, was built in 1912. The privately owned Aveling & Porter was hauled from New Plymouth, a 500-mile round trip over some of New Zealand’s most notorious winding mountain roads.

The display of road-building machinery of the past offered a 1925 Aveling & Porter road roller powered by a Blackstone diesel engine of 18 hp running at 100 rpm. The other machine of great interest was a 1927 Ruston excavator powered by a Dorman petrol engine of 32 hp at 1,000 rpm.

Broad range represented

It would have been great to say that every tractor manufacturer was represented from A to Z, but unfortunately this year there were no Zetors present! There were, however, other manufacturers from around the world, accounting for a large range of brands in the 65 wheel tractors on display.

Allis-Chalmers, a B.F. Avery General and an Australia-built Chamberlain 90 dating to the early 1950s were represented, as was the David Brown line, from the earliest (the 1947 vintage), to the early 1970s, when the line was absorbed by Case. Fordson tractors were well represented with a good showing of Fordson Majors from the 1950s and two Fordson Dextas of the early 1960s, both models manufactured in England.

International tractors – Farmalls and McCormicks all of the same livery, imported into New Zealand from around the world – stood proud in the line. There was a good showing of John Deeres; a 1930s vintage Model BR was the oldest. Leylands and their older counterparts, the Nuffields, both of British origin, were seen, as well as a Lanz Bulldog from Germany. The display also included Massey-Harris tractors from the U.S. along with Fergusons, the oldest being a Ford Ferguson of 1930s with its later counterpart, the TEA built in England.

Putting old iron to work

Tracked machines were not to be left out, with more than 25 crawler tractors on display. OC 3 Oliver crawlers were lined up alongside Caterpillar D2 and D4 tractors, a Cat 22 of the late 1930s and a Cat RD6 of the same vintage, a very rare model in New Zealand. A 1952 John Deere MC was among others of the Deere family and Internationals of various models and sizes were also in the line.

A live demonstration of tractors drawn from the static display was assembled to reenact farming operations of the past. This included stationary hay balers, one an Evona hay baler driven by a Hart-Parr 18-36 New Zealand Special tractor, both of 1927 vintage, while the other haymaking combination was a Farmall MB driving a McCormick baler of the 1930s.

Plowing, discing, rolling and harrowing of a 3-acre paddock was where wheel tractors, crawler tractors and the ground-working implements gave a great demonstration captivating the attention of city dwellers, most of whom had never seen these operations undertaken before. A 1917 International Titan 10-20 tractor, the oldest tractor on display, drove a 6-inch Tangye double-acting water pump of similar vintage for the full two days of the show.

Closing with a tribute

Stationary engine enthusiasts were present in force, with as many as six clubs from near and far afield setting up displays. The stationary engine fraternity was divided through natural selection into two groups: the larger engines predating 1935, and the smaller high-speed engines of the 1940s to the 1960s. Of the larger stationary engines, there were two of note: one was a 1910 6-1/2 hp Blackstone oil engine driving a water pump; the other was a Dudbridge OT hot tube ignition oil engine of the early 1900s, also driving a water pump.

To conclude the show, a grand parade was assembled and that was when special recognition was made of the late Norman Wymer, who passed away late last year and on whose family farm the two-day vintage machinery show was held. Mrs. Wymer, his widow, drove a Ford 4610 tractor with mounted plow that Norman had competed with in the world plowing championships in the Czech Republic in 2005, having won the New Zealand plowing championship in 2004. A fitting tribute to a man of the field. FC

Don Mackereth is a semi-retired senior lecturer in heavy automotive engineering at Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. He is an enthusiastic restorer/collector of farm tractors and owns a small farm in Northland, New Zealand. He is a member of the Franklin Vintage Machinery Club in Pukekohe, New Zealand. Email him at

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