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