Letters: John Deere B Tractor Restoration

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Photo: Fred E. Foster
The Charles W. Foster's John Deere B after it underwent tractor restoration.

My father, Charles W. Foster, purchased a 1945 John Deere B tractor in 1971 or
1972 from Johnson Farm Equipment
near Wheeling, W.Va. Late last year I completed a tractor restoration that took a little longer than I expected.

For almost 20 years my father, my brother Henry and I used the
tractor for farm work on our farm in the northern panhandle. During
those years, Dad switched the hydraulic unit on the tractor to that
off a late Model B so the rockshaft could be stopped in the middle
instead of going to the end of its travel, as was the design in
1945. Dad also modified the drawbar to add a 3-point hitch with
some donated parts from a junk Ford tractor and parts fabricated by
hand after looking at a kit for John Deere that the Co-op farm
stores sold. His final modification was to add the battery box and
square padded seat from a late model John Deere to replace the
factory metal “dish pan” iron seat. All these modifications made
this tractor perfect for many farm chores such as mowing hay,
plowing the garden, grading roads, and cleaning out ditches with a
rear-mounted 3-point hitch blade.

In 1990 my father passed away and the old John Deere started
falling into a state of disrepair. In 1992, after both crankshaft
seals wore out and covered the tractor and me with motor oil, I
disassembled the 2-cylinder with the thought that I would rebuild it over the
winter. The B sat in the shed in pieces until
September 2004. On a cool fall morning, my brother Henry, family
friend Randy Creighton and I cut the back out of the ramshackle
shed and used Randy’s Farmall to pull the B out and load it on my
trailer.

I took the B to Gladhill John Deere in Damascus, Md., where it
started getting the tender loving care it deserved. Gene, Wally and
the whole Gladhill crew joined me in a search for parts, and I
finally managed to get the old B running and moving on its own
power again by March 2005. When I loaded the tractor up from
Gladhill’s, it was the first time I had operated it under its own
power in more than 12 years. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and
didn’t know if I should laugh or cry!

From the John Deere dealer, I took the B to see Eric Pickett on
his farm in Woodbine, Md. Eric disassembled, degreased, sandblasted,
and primed the John Deere over the course of about three months and
then added the paint. I was concerned the B might turn out red and
white since that was the color of all the other tractors on Eric’s
farm at the time.

In October 2005, the restored John Deere B that once was my
father’s made its debut at its first show, the Farm Life Festival
in Mechanicsville, MD. I’m sure Dad would have been very proud to
see his old John Deere looking “show room” new in the row. I sure
was.

Fred E. Foster
Brandywine, MD

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