The Great Planting


| December 2001



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General Purpose tractor

The latest wrinkle in vintage tractor demonstrations seems to be the quest for a Guinness world record of some kind. The quest for a world record number of vintage tractors and machines working in one field got started in 1999 in the Eastern Free State, a part of South Africa. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Anglo-Boer War, as well as the end of the millennium, a celebration called 'The Great 100 Working' was organized by The Veteran Farmer/Die Veteraan Boer magazine.

Dedicated 'to keeping alive memories of bygone farming days,' the magazine features stories about animals, buildings, vehicles, trains, tractors and farm machinery from the South African past. Stories are mostly in English, but some are written in Afrikaans; 'The Great 100 Working' in Afrikaans reads 'Die Groot 100 Werkende.'

Sandstone Estates, a working farm of more than 3,500 hectares (almost 9,000 acres) between Eastern Free State and Lesotha, agreed to host the event, billed as 'South Africa's premier working vintage tractor, steam, stationary engine, and old earth-moving equipment event.' The centerpiece of the show was to be an attempt to set world records for the largest number of vintage tractors and implements working in one field at the same time and for the largest age difference in the working tractors. The facts were to be verified and reported to the Guinness Book of Records for possible publication.

The 'Great 100 Working' was held April 9-11, 1999, and the attempt at the world record number of vintage tractors was scheduled for the 10th. One observed wrote, 'Much work was put in during the morning to coax into life some of the more reticent old-timers (and their tractors?!), and to find (enough) drivers to take part in the record attempt. Right up to the last minute, some of the more temperamental entrants kept the organizers in suspense. Would they start, and continue to run?'

Rain temporarily delayed the 2 p.m. start of the record attempt, but finally the rain stopped and every tractor moved off across the field. Another observer wrote, 'One of the two (antique) planes at the event had just finished a final (loop the loop) when a flare screamed up into the air from the bottom field. This was the Big One: the attempt on the Guiness Book of Records. At the sight of the flare, the huge mass of machines surged forward - the plumes from their exhausts soon being covered by the clouds of dust their wheels and ploughs created. What a sight!'

The entrants were a total of 106 tractors, and a plow behind a team of 12 Nguni oxen. The tractors ranged in age from a 1909 Rumely Oil Pull to a brand-new 1999 Bell, a tractor made in South Africa. Many marques were rep resented, including Waterloo Boy, Lanz, Hart-Parr, Case, Farmall, Marshall and Field Marshall, Massey-Harris, Ferguson and Massey-Ferguson, Fordson, Allis Chalmers, Hanomag, John Deere, Ransomes, Minneapolis-Moline, Steyr, Fowler and Nuffield. There also was an Empire and a couple of Gibsons. About half the tractors had been imported into South Africa from the United States.