Stewart Grain Shock Loader Lightened the Load

Stewart grain shock loader an important link in evolution of the combine

| October 2011

About 30 years ago, Galen Redetzke heard about a Stewart grain shock loader owned by a Ghent, Minn., farmer who wanted to donate the relic to Minnesota’s Machinery Museum in Hanley Falls. “Galen (since deceased) was running the museum then. He heard about that Stewart and got us young guys at the time to do the work and go get it,” Lowell Gustafson recalls with a laugh. “The farmer was a young guy and I’m pretty sure he never used it. It was something that he inherited when he got the farm, and it had been sitting there since before his time.” 

Lowell (now vice president of the museum’s board of directors) and others loaded the Stewart grian shock loader up on a trailer and transported it 20 miles back to the museum. “We hauled it back to Hanley Falls and it sat out there for about a year before we put new boards on the side that goes up the elevator, and the pickup there on the front,” Lowell says. “We found the plate that said it was a Stewart model and spray painted the entire thing red. I’m not really sure if it should be red or not, though. I don’t know why we chose that color. Very little information exists on the machine, and we’re no experts, so we can only say what we think from talking to other people, and our information isn’t etched in stone.”

Little restoration was required on the grian shock loader. “All the chains and everything were there and it was operable, except when you put it in gear,” Lowell says. “We had to do some work on that clutch, taking it apart and fixing it so when you put it in gear it got to working, but the rest of it was pretty easy.”

Uncommon in Minnesota

The Stewart grain shock loader was likely designed as a ground-driven, horse-drawn unit. “It had a couple of little wheels in front with a long pole to pull with the horses,” Lowell says. “We changed that and put on a good hitch so we could pull it with a tractor. It’s kind of an odd piece, a big clumsy thing; something that was discarded, and something that nobody wanted. It’s a contraption, but it’s a fun thing to look at.”

Little is known about the Stewart grain shock loader, including the year of manufacture. “I’d guess it’s from the early 1900s, or maybe earlier,” Lowell says. “I know there weren’t very many of them around this area. Most of them were used in North Dakota, I think, with wheat. I’ve seen three or four other grain shock loaders at different shows, but I’ve never seen another Stewart grain shock loader anywhere. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I’m just saying I’ve never seen them. They’re all the same style, but different brands. Some are even nicer than this one, even though they haven’t been repainted, but they’re operable too.”

Shocks shoot up

Volunteers run the Stewart during parades at the Minnesota Machinery Museum and Pioneer Power Threshing Show & Old Timer’s Reunion each year. “We put out half a dozen shocks and run them through the machine and into the hay rack,” Lowell says. “The chains run at high speed and the shocks shoot right up on the hay rack, really fast. You can load a load of shocks in no time at all: it’s that fast. It’s kind of interesting. But we’ve found there’s a lot of waste with that, as the oats fall off the shocks going into that pickup and up into the elevator.”