Troublesome Tillage with a 1955 John Deere 70 Diesel Pony Start and a Graham Hoeme Chisel Plow

Trip down memory lane in a 1955 John Deere 70 Diesel Pony Start and a Graham Hoeme Chisel Plow was not always smooth sailing


| July 2012



Graham Hoeme Chisel Plow

Golden oldies, ready for work. Rodney Ahlgrim’s 1955 John Deere 70 diesel pony start and 10-foot Graham-Hoeme chisel plow.

If you love working with vintage equipment, patience, mechanical aptitude and a good sense of humor are great things to have. I feel very fortunate to be able to exercise our vintage farm equipment, some of which has been in the family for more than 50 years, on several acres that were homesteaded to my family in 1883. As can be expected due to its age, the equipment can command a lot of attention — especially when a few decades have passed since it was last used.

Not long ago, it came time to break out idle equipment. Our high-clearance 10-foot Graham-Hoeme chisel plow hadn’t seen the field for more than 20 years. One tire still held air but the other was completely rotted; both needed to be replaced. I was able to dig up truck tires for the 17-inch wheels but 1950-something rims don’t facilitate installation of tubeless valve stems, an idea that might have been in the most top-secret “computers” of the time.

I enjoy the opportunity to “time travel” through my surroundings. Rather than pay someone to mount and dismount the tires, I got my manual tire tools and proceeded to change tires the “old school” way. At this point I refer the reader back to the part of the story where the implement sat for 20 years, including time spent at the edge of a slough, where the tire bead rusted to the rim. Tearing that bead loose required the ambition of Moses crossing the desert to find the Promised Land.

After unsuccessful attempts to work the bar under the lip, assistance was dispatched in the form of a sledgehammer driving away at the concrete-like bond until, with a kind of duct tape-tearing sound, the seal was broken and the tire removed from the rim. Installation was good for my memory as I soon recollected how difficult 8-ply truck tires are to bargain with. With sweat pouring off my brow, I cleaned the lip, slimed the bead with a dishwashing detergent solution and installed the “new” tires on the rims, taking care not to pinch the new tube, then aired up the tires and checked for leaks.

Facing a few challenges

I then turned my attention to our 1955 John Deere 70 diesel with pony start. This proved challenging, as the carburetor on the gasoline pony engine was on its original assembly. Years of climate changes and traipsing through the dust of the Sand Hills had produced rust and sediment that altered fuel delivery from a finely tuned mist to what I am convinced was more of a controlled flood. Adding to the reality show challenge were exposed bare plug wires of the same vintage sprouting from a Wico magneto that has rarely seen a shed in 50 years. We’ll revisit those two points later in this article.

After fluid levels had been checked and the tractor verified field-ready, I went back around to the operator’s platform. While stepping up, I turned my head and noticed a certain amount of flatness on the bottom of one of the chisel tires: I had pinched a tube. I grumpily removed the tire, loaded it in the back of the Dodge pickup and drove to my brother’s, where I used his stationary tire changer to fix the tire. The appeal of “old school” took a short vacation.