Hay Press Back In Business

Vintage hay presses, including a rare Kansas City Lightning, get back to work with help from Minnesota collector

| June 2012

  • The Bale Chamber on the Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
    The bale chamber on the Kansas City Lightning combined hay press measures 14 inches wide and 18 inches high. Note the bale wires extending out of a tube on the machine’s side. Designed for use on a modern cardboard box baler, the wires were modified for use on the vintage machine.
  • Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
    During baling, a man worked from this platform, pitching hay or straw into the press. A crew of five operated the machine.
  • Grooves Guide Wire Around Each Bale
    Grooves cut into wood inserts guide wire around each bale as it is formed.
  • Dwight Yaeger and his Hay Press
    Dwight with his first hay press, a 1920 International Harvester Co. model.
    Photo courtesy Dwight Yaeger
  • 1920 Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
    The 1920 Kansas City Lightning combined hay press was gear-driven, unlike most hay presses of the era, which were belt-driven.
  • Lightning New Model Tractor Baler
    A 1924 ad for Kansas City Hay Press Co.
    Image courtesy Dwight Yaeger
  • Hay Press Chute
    Bales slide down this chute (when in position) to the ground, if they are not picked up first.
  • Kansas City Hay Press
    This 1916 ad shows the evolving Kansas City press.
    Image courtesy Dwight Yaeger
  • Lightning Hay Presses
    A 1924 ad for Kansas City Hay Press Co. products.
    Image courtesy Dwight Yaeger

  • The Bale Chamber on the Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
  • Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
  • Grooves Guide Wire Around Each Bale
  • Dwight Yaeger and his Hay Press
  • 1920 Kansas City Lightning Hay Press
  • Lightning New Model Tractor Baler
  • Hay Press Chute
  • Kansas City Hay Press
  • Lightning Hay Presses

Dwight Yaeger grew up in a household where family members collected dishes and household antiques. But Dwight veered toward old iron. “I enjoyed mechanical work and nobody else on the farm was doing that,” he says. “That’s how I got started.”

A 1949 John Deere 830 Rice Special tractor was his first project. “I was farming at the time, and Doug Hager (a friend and then-employee) urged me to start.” After restoring more than 30 John Deere tractors for his own collection, Dwight began looking for a new challenge in antique farm equipment.

Now 64 and owner of a Mankato, Minn., school bus service, Dwight has dozens of pieces of restored farm machinery, including rare ones like a 1920 Kansas City Lightning combined hay press (sometimes misidentified as a “lighting” hay press).

Pressing ahead

Dwight’s first unusual restoration project was a 1920 International Harvester Co. hay press. “At the time, nobody else was doing much with old iron, so it was an easy thing to pick up,” he says.



When he happened on to a vintage operator’s manual, the find proved useful in many ways. In studying the manual, Dwight discovered the unit was typically sold with a 6 hp International engine. The International hay press is belt-driven from the engine, a customary design in that era.

Since he’d found his press minus an engine, he began the search for a replacement. Tracking one down, he got more than he bargained for. The seller mentioned an old hay press in the shed in need of restoration. “I figured I already had one hay press,” Dwight recalls, “so I might as well have another.” Thus began his Kansas City Lightning combined hay press restoration project.