“Making do” on the farm with custom creations, like reversed loaders.
In times past, loaders were always mounted on the front of a tractor, because well, just because, that’s why. Then, years ago, some farmer must have looked at a Hough payloader, 2-wheel drive and with bucket ahead of the big tires, and started thinking: Maybe a guy could do the same thing with the old Allis sitting out in the trees.
Early on, the tractor of choice was the Allis-Chalmers WC. They were cheap (I paid $66 for mine), plentiful, had good governor response, and by simply rotating the differential a half turn, you had all four speeds going the other way! From there, you simply mounted a hydraulic pump (driven direct from the crankshaft) with a roller chain coupling and then you had live hydraulics.
The most major change to the tractor was building a subframe around it. That took stress away from the rather light frame on an Allis (as well as on the Farmall M). Control valves could be mounted close to the operator or run via cables underneath, keeping oil drips off the platform.
The clutch and brake pedals from an M or H (bought at the local salvage yard) worked well on an Allis, and mounting a cross-shaft underneath with greasable bushings accepted pedals. Aftermarket seating was also available (and was much nicer than factory stock). Steering was also done via a right-angle gearbox from a John Deere 226 or 227 corn picker (making sure to use the right one so the tractor went the way you turned it).
That gearbox was also tall enough to take the steering wheel to the right height. Power steering was a must, and was often accomplished with an inline Char-Lynn unit. That required a dedicated amount of oil, so a flow divider was used as well. Later, salvage hydrostatic steering units became available and were often used. A pair of hoses eliminated shafting and universal joints.
Converting a Farmall M involved a bit more work. First, you bought a 9-speed conversion unit from M&W, and you got a faster reverse as well. That unit went ahead of the transmission, but you had to remember to have the tractor in factory mode when using the PTO, as this was also sped up thanks to the M&W unit.
When rotating the differential on an M, the platform has to be raised a couple of inches to clear the spider carrier and the shifting forks have to be lengthened as well. Gerald Elsinger, who lives near here, opted for hydrostatic steering on his Farmall M. That left nothing in the steering post, so he drilled through in line with the crankshaft and used a couple of U-joints and shafting to mount the pump outside (protecting it from chance encounters with a heavy grille).
Moving into the modern (?) era, a John Deere 4020 with Powershift makes a really nice reversed loader tractor. You already have most everything in place: power brakes, hydrostatic steering, lots of oil and a really handy transmission, making for no clutching most of the time.
Converting it to run the other direction involved grinding a small amount out of the top of the transmission case, allowing the ring gear assembly to slide down into place a half-turn later. This was my brother Ted’s project. He built a tilt steering post, allowing easier ingress and egress. The tractor turned out well, plus he has Quick-tatch on the loader, allowing quick changes of his several attachments, one of which is a hydraulically driven post hole digger.
Once you get used to one of these conversions, you’ll find you have good visibility and the unit is very handy. As for rear tires, my preference is to have them mounted “backward.” The idea is, when you drive in where you shouldn’t, you still may be able to back out.
Another type of reversing involved old 2-ton trucks with the differential flipped, most of the sheet metal removed, live oil via the crankshaft drive and a Farmhand loader firmly attached to the truck’s chassis. When all is said and done, these presented a rather spindly appearance. They were mounted outside either a tractor or a truck. Cylinders doing the lifting were very long single-action units.
The control valve was a rotary affair with no detents. When you set it in, say, the “raise” position, it stayed there, so you had to pay attention. My cousin Dick Lacey harvests a lot of hay; he built several of these trucks. His engine of choice was either a 235 or 261 cubic inch displacement 6-cylinder Chevrolet unit. These ran cheap and provided good power. The last unit he built was from an old semi-tractor with a 270 hp Cummins for power; he said it ran cheap and had plenty of power.
As to road speeds, these were governed by how brave or how foolish the operator was. These units were made obsolete by the advent of big square bales and telehandlers.
Bill Lee remembers his dad having a Farmhand F-10. The idea was that you filled the oil tank with the loader on the ground, so when the loader was up, the pump would run out of oil before pushing out the rams. Dad had it up a couple of feet, filled the tank and raised the loader. The oil pushed the rams right out the end, the rams dropped straight down (sticking it in the ground a couple of feet) and the loader was left high and not so dry. So it goes. FC
Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, S.D. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.