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Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler is a Perfect 10

A rare Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler shines in a Minnesota collection.

| August 2017

  • Gary Agrimson with his rare Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Gary added the D14 engine (at left) onto his Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler because it helped the tractor run slower.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A close-up shows a fine restoration on Gary Agrimson’s Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The logo on Gary’s rare Roto-Baler.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Belting on the Roto-Baler.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A rear view of the Roto-Baler.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • One of the issues with the Roto-Baler was that the throat (or receiving area) for the hay was too small, causing it to clog.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • This photo gives a sense of how well protected all the parts of the Roto-Baler were, a fact that caused problems for farmers trying to repair or unplug them in the field.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Gleaner T2’s 30-bushel grain bin.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Gary was offered this Gleaner T2 combine when the pair of previous owners didn’t want to buy it from each other.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • When this combine was first brought to light, the owners couldn’t identify it, but with the basic information – Ford engine and 7-foot header, as shown here – Allis enthusiasts narrowed it down to a 1954 Gleaner T2 combine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Some of the moving parts on the 1954 Gleaner T2 combine are shown here.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Because of the 1954 Gleaner T2 combine’s compact footprint, it can be taken on any road regardless of height or width limitations.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Alternate view of Gary’s 1954 Gleaner T2 combine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

When Gary Agrimson bought a rare 1959 D12 Allis-Chalmers tractor more than 30 years ago, it summoned memories of growing up on a dairy farm in southeastern Minnesota, where his father used Allis-Chalmers tractors. “That D12 was in pretty bad shape, and I needed more information on it,” he says, “but there were only a few in this area. I’ve always liked older machinery and old times.”

At a farm toy show in Hutchinson, Minnesota, in 1990, he met Ed and Larry Karg, who had a similar tractor. That connection helped Gary in restoring his D12. “Ed said he was thinking about starting an Allis-Chalmers club, and as one thing leads to another with collectors, I became one of the first officers of the Upper Midwest Allis-Chalmers Club.” Each year the club stages its Orange Spectacular show in Hutchinson. 

Because he had a Roto-Baler and other basic farm implements, and he was an officer, he was given the responsibility of presenting field demonstrations for the club. “That meant harvesting the ripe grain for the show, always the fourth weekend of July,” Gary says. “That’s how I really got started purchasing, restoring and maintaining Allis old iron, and getting to understand them. That’s how I got collecting the combines and Roto-Balers.”

Baler popular but perilous

Roto-Balers were popular because round bales shed water better than square ones. “Like having a thatched roof,” Gary says. “The water runs right off them.” But that wasn’t why his father, Paul, bought a Roto-Baler. “I was there,” Gary recalls. “I know exactly what happened. Behind the wagon, we pulled a hay loader, which lifted the hay up and stacked it on the wagon. At home, we backed the wagon into the barn, took a hay hook, picked up the loose hay and put it in the hay mound. That is an extremely slow process. Then Dad heard about the Roto-Baler. They said it could roll up 10 acres of hay in a day with no problem, 1,000 bales on a good day. So in 1954, when I was 6, he bought one.”

But the Roto-Baler soon proved to be a dangerous machine. When the machine’s tying system failed, the operator would get off the tractor to get the twine back in place when the conveyor shut off, as it did on each bale. If the operator didn’t shut off the PTO, the conveyor would start again while the farmer was working, and it would take off arms and legs, or worse, sometimes resulting in fatalities. “It can still be dangerous today,” Gary says.

Because of the danger, Paul never let Gary operate the Roto-Baler. “By the time I got big enough to carry a bale,” he says, “Dad had sold that one and bought a square baler. I was the bale loader behind the square baler.”


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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