Simple Pleasures: Tractor Collections

Old iron and tractor collections bring happiness and therapeutic benefits to collectors from different walks of life.

| March 2016

  • Hobbies can be extremely therapeutic. Shown here is accountant Robert Godfrey, competing at a ploughing match on one of his Ferguson tractors. Robert says he loves to be able to do something completely different from his work on weekends.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Robert in his office with some of his numerous ploughing trophies. He is the ploughing coordinator for the Friends of Ferguson Heritage, an international organization that celebrates the engineering genius of Harry Ferguson.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • “I’m always pleased to get out of my suit, away from the desk and behind the wheel of the tractor,” Robert says.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • In addition to the satisfaction of preserving artifacts from our rural and industrial past, Paul Jones also gains huge pleasure from just tinkering. He is shown here with his No. 2 corn-grinding mill built by Henry Bamford & Sons of Uttoxeter with a Colonial sifter, which sieves the flour into three grades.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • One of Paul Jones’ recent purchases was this seed drill built by John Williams & Son, possibly as early as 1890.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Another implement Paul recently added to his collection: a beet lifter built by Bedford Plough & Engineering Co. Ltd., Ampthill Road, Bedford, England. The company’s 1940 catalogue describes this implement as “a strongly constructed lifter embodying several features and advantages. It will effectually lift beets, parsnips, carrots, turnips, chicory, Brussels stalks etc., and also subsoil. The lifter raises the beet without damage, and is light draught for two horses.”
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Paul recently bought this hand-driven winnower from local collector Aneurin Hughes. The nameplate says “T. Jones, Llanrwst.” Paul is unsure as to whether that is the maker’s name or the dealer’s name. Researching the history of long-lost makers and dealers is all part of the fun of this hobby.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Two more recent additions to Paul’s collection include these implements: at left, a potato lifter/ridging plough made by Howards of Bedford; at right, a horse-drawn hoe, made by Mealors of Neston. These implements and one other were bought from Emrys Owens, a collector and good friend of Paul’s. At 82, Emrys is no longer able to take the implements to shows.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Two old pals, Sam Evans and Tryweryn Evans, enjoying their vintage machinery hobby last year. Sam (on the binder) has died since this photo was taken. He was 92 at the time of his death, but remained hugely active with a wide circle of like-minded friends up to the time of his death.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Pete Roberts, another person who finds ploughing to be extremely therapeutic, enjoys putting his Fordson Model N through its paces.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This hobby of ours needn’t be expensive. You can have a lot of fun with just one old tractor, as demonstrated here by young collector Gareth Roberts with his much-loved diesel Ferguson.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Sometimes hobbies can be real lifesavers. When John Davies was diagnosed with cancer, it was the start of a dark and difficult time for him. With the help of his son, John purchased this Massey Ferguson 35X in an auction and set about restoring it. Both man and tractor are now in fine working order.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • John is a popular name here, so to distinguish one from another, John Davies’ nickname locally is “John the Farmer.” Coincidentally, his David Brown Cropmaster’s registration letters are “JTF.” Some things are just meant to be!
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The registration of John’s Massey Ferguson 35X is “Un,” Welsh for “one,” quite appropriate since this was John’s first collectable tractor, and the start of a whole new hobby for him.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

I’ve written articles about other people’s tractor collections for some 15 years now, and it’s fair to say that I’ve met all sorts of characters during that time. Some people have been extremely laid back, whilst others are fiercely competitive. Some are fastidiously tidy and conscientious, whilst some people I’ve met have been the messiest souls imaginable, with chaotic sheds piled high with trash and treasures, and tools all over the floor.

I’ve met extremely wealthy collectors who house their tractors and artifacts in outbuildings far grander than the house I live in. At the other end of the scale are the people without two pennies to rub together, people who have scrimped and saved to buy themselves an old wreck of a tractor and who have restored it gradually, by themselves, recycling materials and making do and mending to keep costs down.

One thing I’ve noticed it is that the person who owns a £300 (about $450) Ferguson tractor usually seems to have just as much fun with it as the person who owns a real rarity that cost five figures. My young nephew, Gareth, bought an old Ferguson tractor with a mixture of savings and birthday and Christmas money, and he has since had many happy hours tinkering with the tractor and learning about how the machine is put together. Being able to use his own tractor to help his family out on the land has been a huge source of pride too.

I really love the fact that there is room for people of all ages and income levels in this hobby of ours, and all are equally important. To me, the person who is willing to restore a £30 ($45) seed drill made by a long-forgotten company is just as crucial to the preservation of our heritage as the person willing to shell out £35,000 ($53,000) at auction for a rare vintage tractor.



Hobbies and happiness

Last week I spoke to Paul Jones, who was featured in the September 2014 issue of Farm Collector, along with his collection of vintage farm implements. Paul has a passion for farm implements, in particular horse-drawn seed drills. Recently he bought a few more artifacts to add to his collection, including a seed drill built by the Welsh firm John Williams & Son of Rhuddlan. There are many long-since defunct but still very well-known British firms who produced horse-drawn implements and barn machines, but Paul is most interested in the firms that operated in this part of Wales, the treasures that are right under our feet, yet so often overlooked.

Paul gains huge satisfaction from the simple pleasure of taking a rusty old implement, and with just elbow grease and patience, resurrecting the sorry old relic, so that it is almost as good as new. Just knowing that, with a little bit of effort, one has preserved an artifact for perhaps another 50 years is a great feeling in itself. Even when restored, many of these old implements aren’t worth a great deal of money, but I like to think that the best of us in this hobby do it for love, and not for money.



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