Rare Sight in the Midwest: The Yuba Ball Tread

Ohio collector transplants Yuba Ball Tread tractor

| January 2007

When was the last time you saw a tractor powered by full-track drivers and a wide, single-front steering wheel? Once in a blue moon? Never?

Visitors to an Ohio show were treated to a special exhibit last summer, when a rare Yuba Ball Tread Model M 25-40 was shown at a display of rare and unique tractors and farm equipment hosted by the Miami Valley Steam Threshers Association at Plain City, Ohio.

The 1920 Yuba tractor was parked right smack dab in the middle of the feature tent. No tractor could park in front of or behind it. It stood alone. It was in good company though. Also in the feature tent: a pair of Love orchard tractors, several Hubers, a Minneapolis Universal tractor equipped with a sickle-bar mowing machine and a 1913 International Harvester high-wheel truck.

Several rare and unique tractors were parked outside because they were too large to fit under the tent: a 30-60 Titan and a 30-60 Mogul, both manufactured by International Harvester; two Lanz diesel tractors (shotgun shells are used to start these old boys); a 22-44 Minneapolis Threshing Co. cross-motor; a Graham-Bradley; the oldest known Ohio-owned Huber (a 15-30 gas tractor); and an Agra-Util tractor. Nearby, a 40-by-80-foot tent was filled with horse-drawn wagons and equipment.

Go east, young man

The Yuba Ball Tread is owned by Tom Burer, Fairfield, Ohio. Tom bought the tractor at an auction put on by the Heidrick Museum in California in the fall of 2005. Purchased on Tom's behalf by his son, Bobby, the Yuba tractor was in a sad state of repair. Many parts were worn or missing, and the tracks were in poor condition. Some track roller balls were missing; others were worn. Many of the shoes were completely worn through and there were no known replacements readily available. But Tom got lucky. At the same auction, another Yuba parts tractor was sold with two good, complete sets of tracks. Bobby was able to buy the complete tracks with good pads and nearly new roller bearings.

Assisted by Bobby, Tom disassembled the machine, in part to determine which parts were missing, which were worn but could be repaired and which to replace. Many parts could be salvaged, but not all. Both engine hoods had to be built, and both driving pinion gears had to be machined to fit the big bull gears. He also found a replacement seat.