I read with great interest the article on the Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler (Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler Launched New Approach, Farm Collector, March 2011). My uncle had the first Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler in the area. I believe it was as early as 1947. He also had the first WD tractor in the area, and it was a 1949. I recall they used a WC for a year or more on the baler. The WD was much better as it had live PTO and an oil clutch that was ideal for all the starting and stopping.
On the back of these balers were two brackets. One was used to hold a pitchfork; the other held a tool to push the loose end of the twine into the bale. I don’t think many people used it, as we never had much trouble with the twine. The side of the bale where the twine started to wrap was always wrapped good and didn’t come loose. The other end was loose but didn’t usually cause trouble. That was the end you started on when you unrolled the bale. Then it would be going the right direction to unroll the hay.
I remember my dad talking about an experimental model being tested south of Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was probably the Ideal as it was made in Omaha. There used to be an Ideal displayed at Central Hawkeye Acres on Interstate 80 at Waukee, Iowa. It has since been removed; I don’t know where it was taken.
Before you went to the field, you always had to check the brake drum on the lower left end of the Roto-Baler. That controlled the tightness of the bale. If the baler sat for some time or was rained on, the lining would stick to the drum and you would shear the half-moon key on the shaft.
I remember the first time that happened when I was around. The baler wouldn’t make much more than a bundle of hay. The men couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t make a heavy bale. I was only a kid but I pointed out the brake drum wasn’t turning. They took it apart and sure enough, the band was stuck to the drum and the key was sheared.
I still have my dad’s Roto-Baler in the shed; haven’t used it in 20 years.
My neighbor lady has a Roto-Baler in her yard on a concrete platform. Her father was a block man for Allis-Chalmers. At an AC meeting, they called for names for the new Allis baler and he suggested the name Roto-Baler. She still has the letter from Allis commending him for naming the baler.
Paul Christoffersen, 26837 Rd. L 34, Underwood, IA 51576.