The Little Self-Propelled Baler from New Holland

A unique New Holland baler is restored to better-than-new and working away at local farm shows.

| January 2008

The day was bright and hot and there was a flurry of activity at the Miami Valley Steam Threshers Association's 58th annual show last summer at Pastime Park, Plain City, Ohio. A Russell steam engine was belted to a veneer lathe, an Eclipse steam engine was working a shingle mill, a pair of Rumely Oil Pull tractors were belted in tandem to a single Baker fan. Nearby, horse-powered wheat harvesting equipment took wheat from the field to the kitchen: threshing grain, pressing straw into bales, winnowing chaff from grain and grinding grain into flour.

In the midst of all that motion, a New Holland self-propelled hay baler was ready to go to work. At 3 p.m. the threshing crew would separate wheat from stalks using a big Rumely Oil Pull belted to a Red River Special separator. Then it would be time for Bob Bowersmith and his 1957 New Holland Model SP-166 self-propelled hay baler to take center stage.

A native of Plain City, Bob now lives in Radcliff, Ky. Retired from more than 24 years in the U.S. Army, he never lost touch with his roots in rural America, especially his hometown. Seven years ago, he and Jim Cassel discovered the unusual New Holland baler at an Indiana farm auction. Unfortunately, bidding did not reach the seller's reserve price. But the pair did not give up, contacting the owner on subsequent occasions and trying to work a deal. Finally, they succeeded. Having completing restoration of the self-propelled baler, the two now exhibit and demonstrate the New Holland at farm shows, including the Plain City show, where it is used in the wheat harvest.

Although New Holland had a solid track record of producing quality hay balers for many years, the company built just 305 of the self-propelled balers. Always striving to modernize, mechanize and make life easier for farmers, New Holland successfully introduced many improvements in their hay-handling machines. The SP-166 was the company's first attempt to produce a machine to reduce the number of pieces of equipment a farmer needed to make hay.

New Holland was not the only manufacturer to develop self-propelled balers. Minneapolis-Moline brought out its Uni-Tractor in 1950. This machine was a unique power system upon which could be mounted a series of attachments, including a Uni-Windrower, a Uni-Forager (forage harvester), a Uni-Harvestor (combine), a Uni-Huskor (to harvest ear corn), a Uni-Picker/sheller (to harvest shelled corn) and the Uni-Baler (hay baler).

The New Holland self-propelled hay baler is made of components from several different manufacturers. It uses the traditional New Holland baler system, including the pick-up and feeding unit, the plunger and bale chamber, and string-tying system including twine chambers, needles and knotters.