Old Iron Opens the Door to New Friends

People are at the heart of the old iron hobby, as Josephine Roberts explains.

| December 2016

  • After a great deal of time, elbow grease and hard cash, Dennis Hitchcock’s Fergie looked like new again.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The reason Dennis emailed me was to tell me about this Ferguson tractor he’d found. A survivor of Hurricane Irene, the tractor would need a lot of work to put it right, but Dennis was up for a challenge!
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Dennis stripped the Ferguson right down to its bare bones. Every part needed cleaning after being under all of that floodwater.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Dennis with his Fergie, I think he’s really quite smitten with this tractor. “For its age, I think this tractor was extremely well designed,” he says. “It is very user friendly, easy to get on and off, easy to lift the hood and access everything, easy to work the hydraulics, easy to adjust the wheel widths, it has great ergonomics, it just fits really well, and I especially like the way that one spanner works on most of the tractor.”
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • While they were visiting the U.K., Dennis and Debbie accompanied my family on a day at the Llandudno Transport Festival, one of the earliest shows of the season here. There is always a good lineup of tractors here, like this David Brown Super Cropmaster – without doubt the tractor I would most like to have taken home with me!
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Dennis’ impressive array of tractors (left to right): a 1944 Allis-Chalmers C, a 1950 John Deere MT, a 1964 International Cub Cadet 100 garden tractor and a 1952 Farmall Super M.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The 1942 Oliver 60 is a rarity here, as indeed are any row-crop tractors.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Just because you can fit huge wheels onto a little grey Ferguson, it doesn’t mean you should! This might look like a 4-wheel drive conversion, but it isn’t: It just has very large wheels!
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • After an afternoon of vehicle spotting at the show, a gentle stroll along the promenade in Llandudno took us past one tractor that was actually out working for a living – an amphibious Talus T91. This tractor was attached to the Llandudno Lifeboat and was ready to launch from the beach at a moment’s notice. This superb, tank-like machine makes easy work of the steep shingle beach at the Victorian seaside town and is built by Clayton Engineering, Knighton, Wales. It’s reassuring to know that we do still make some amazing machines in this country
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This 1964 County Super 6 was quite a piece of kit in its day. County was a British firm that began by converting twin-axle Ford trucks to run on three axles. Then, from 1948 on, they began to convert Fordson Major tractors to run on tracks. Later they converted tractors into 4-wheel drive machines with four equal size wheels. This example was based on a Fordson Major and also features County 6-cylinder engine conversion. It belongs to Chris Tranter, and it was a one-off in the lineup at the Llandudno festival.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This 1964 Fordson Major started life as a standard tractor, but was converted, probably from new, into a 4-wheel drive machine by the Roadless Traction Co. Roadless specialised in converting tractors to 4-wheel drive in a time when few were commercially available. Roadless conversions, once popular as forestry tractors, are highly sought after today. This example has the added curiosity of an attached saw bench. This rare and workmanlike machine belongs to Sam Edge; it has been owned by the same family for almost 40 years.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • It was nice to see a Mercedes-Benz Unimog in the lineup too. These vehicles might look like trucks, but technically they are tractors and with most examples fitted with PTO and hydraulic arms, they can turn their wheels to various types of farm work, and they are great for hauling big trailers.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A lot of eyes were drawn to this “suped up” Massey Ferguson 35.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

This hobby of “old iron” (a phrase I’ve stolen from your good selves, I don’t mind admitting) has led me down some interesting paths over the years. A hobby is about so much more than just having a personal interest in something. A hobby becomes the foundation on which we build our friendships and our social life, the importance of which can’t really be underestimated.

It was all because of tractors that I first received an email from Dennis and Debbie Hitchcock. The fact that they lived in the Catskill Mountains in the U.S. caught my eye first. It sounded like a wild sort of place, like my sort of place. Dennis, a tractor enthusiast and semi-retired carpenter, had an impressive range of American tractors: a 1952 Farmall Super M, a 1950 John Deere MT, a 1944 Allis-Chalmers C and a 1964 International Cub Cadet 100 garden tractor.

He’d also just found an old wrecked Ferguson – a 1951 TO-20 – and was about to do it up. Since this was a British machine, he was keen to tell someone British about it. And I was interested to hear about one of our own tractors so far from home. Another noteworthy fact was that this tractor had been in a hurricane and flood, and was in a very sorry state. Dennis had found the Ferguson by chance. A friend asked him if he still liked old tractors, because he had an old wreck of a Fergie sitting around.

Antique tractor pitched by torrent

The tractor had been badly damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011, when 22 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period, causing catastrophic flooding.



The Ferguson was located in the worst-hit village in the Catskills. Not only was it immersed in 10 feet of water, it was also damaged by the sheer force of the torrent, as the floodwater had rolled it over several times. Almost every bridge in that area of the Catskills was taken out, many homes were destroyed and several lives were lost.

The owner’s home floated away downstream and was totally destroyed, along with some 40 other homes in the area. The level of devastation was horrifying, and of course the damage to one little old tractor was very insignificant, considering what the region and its inhabitants had been through. So the little old Fergie was understandably low on the owner’s list of priorities. It had quite simply been forgotten, left where the flood had seen fit to deposit it, and hadn’t been looked at since.



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