At a recent weekend HCCA event near Wichita, Kansas, we had a chance to learn about some very large gas engine tractors. These large tractors are known as "Prairie Tractors" and enjoyed a rather short period of popularity (1910 to 1920). The particular model is a 1920 30-60 Aultman-Taylor. It has a 4-cylinder engine that lays flat at the feet of the driver. This machine weighed in at 25,000 lbs. Apparently these tractors could pull a 12 bottom plow where a team of horses were capable of pulling a 2 or 3 bottom plow (I may have the exact number wrong...I'm certainly no expert in this area). There was a problem with these giant tractors though. When you had a breakdown, the parts had to be sent in by train or wagon (causing a big delay in getting the crops in), and were heavy, which meant handling it from the terminal to the field was a problem. You may even have to build an A-frame or bring in a crane to work on it "in-place" in the field. There was also a problem in that there was no dealer network established. According to the current owner. The company that put these tractors out of business was basically an automotive company that got in to selling small tractors. They couldn't pull the multi-bottom plows this tractor could, but if a part broke you could run in to town, pick up a part (literally for most parts) from a dealer and be back to the business of farming in short order. The name of the company that put these Prairie Tractors out of business, Ford Motor Company. The tractor was the Fordson!
The tractor owner got quite a kick out of calling his tractor, "the Model T Crusher". I didn't really see the humor in it!
Wow. What a beast! I have never been close to one of those.
The boiler tube-looking front part leads me to wonder if this wasn't once steam powered,
or perhaps this is some sort of transitional design using the old steam chassis with a gasoline-
type engine fitted to it ??? Was that front piece a VERY large-holed radiator ???
Love this old tech stuff !
There were quite a few small tractors on the market by the time the Fordson came along. What really put the huge tractors out of business was that the prairie sod had been broken and there was little use for them once most of the homestead land had been taken up and was being farmed by farmers with 125 to 150 acres of farmland. A homestead granted you 160 acres but seldom could all of it be farmed. The use for the big tractors was breaking sod on the bonanza farms where furrows were two or three miles long and fields were a mile wide, they pulled 8 bottoms in sod, which took a lot of power. Once that sod was plowed there was not much use for a huge tractor. WWI changed the farming world, the last major homestead boom was in northern South Dakota, eastern Montana and to some extent in Washington when the Milwaukee was built west in 1909. By 1914 or 15, virtually all land suitable for homesteading had been taken up in those areas. A small farmer only needed as many horses as he could feed and drive and had little use for a tractor until tractors got small enough that he could afford one and farm prices would support it. That happened during WWI. By the end of the war, there was a market for small tractors that had not existed before the war. Ford brought out the Fordson but there were a lot of other manufacturers, too.
There is a fan behind the radiator that blows the air forward to cool it. Aultman Taylor was a huge company that built a full line of machinery. Their threshing machines were considered the best of the best.
Vern, in good soil a team can pull two shallow bottoms, probably 10 inch bottoms at the most. In heavy soil a team can only pull one bottom 6 inches deep and 8 inch draw. Half a day would wear them out pulling that much. In sod, it would take 6 horses to pull two bottoms and they could probably only plow 4 inches deep and pull 8 inch bottoms. A Fordson will pull two bottoms in light or medium soil, 6 inches deep and probably 10 inch draw. People would not use sulky plows behind a team because the extra weight of a driver made the team work that much harder. In sod, a Fordson could probably only pull one bottom in heavy soil, a breaking plow would only turn one furrow and it would be pretty shallow.
It looks like a 1890s-20s steam tractor that has been converted at some point. (we call them traction engines in the UK).
This was during the cross over period, varies across the Atlantic where farmers were wanting a solution to ploughing directly in a field rather than 'static' engines which used a pulley system to run various machinery such as ploughs, threshing machines etc. The problem was they were there Achilles heal was they were too heavy to move consistently in the fields. I think a US company that made these was Rumely? as one was at a show here recently.
Then we had the solution which was petrol then diesel powered tractors as we know them today, more innovative thinking by Mr Ford and others.
Thanks for sharing your information Verne!
Holy cow that is awesome. Burger, you may be on to something re a huge radiator. This thing probably never ran more than 2 mph, hardly any air flowing through it as a result, so it really needed some huge cooling surface, basically just the opposite of a huge heating surface for power, this one needed it to keep things cool. Good thinking!
Thanks for all of the info! Here is a story that was on the tractor at a local show a while back...
You can see a similar huge steam tractor down the street from my grandfather's "Auto Inn" repair shop in Eagle Bend, Minnesota. The photo was taken in 1919. The tractor looks like it is towing a small house.
A zoom on the tractor and house:
Royce that tractor looks like an Avery gas tractor.
I found a video of a small Avery with that styling:
Royce's photo i8s a big one with a cab.
The members at Rough and Tumble in Kinzers, PA have a large operating collection of steam traction engines (among other things) that they open to the public at various times during the year. There are typically about three times as many operating as what's showing in the attached photo.
Avery made both gas and steam tractors and one of my favorites is the Avery Underslung Steamer!! I have seen Aultman Taylor's plowing and unlike the steamers they hold their power rather than either stopping or slowing to let the boiler catch up!! Always the 3'rd weekend in augest Buckly Mi has a very large Steam/and Tractor show with model TT's doing the pitt crew work for many of the large engines and tractor's! I would guess they work 10 to 15 TT truck's! Bud.
Great stuff. The "small house" being towed in Royce's photo is a cook shack, for feeding
the harvest crew. Another bygone technology of the era.
I agree, that is a gas or oil tractor in the pic, not a steam tractor.
One advantage the gas/oil tractors had over the steamers was the lack of worry about them starting a field fire, and you didn't lose a field hand to feeding the boiler with wood!
It is a 1917-1920 AULTMAN TAYLOR gas tractor. MOST of these tractors were dual fuel, starting on gasoline and running on what was known as "tractor fuel" or distillate, which is a heavier fuel than Kerosene but lighter than Diesel, which was pretty much unknown as a fuel at the time. It was half the cost of gasoline and developed as much or more power than gasoline.
Here is a carburetor from a similar tractor, a 1910 Hart Paar.
One of the first businesses in South Dakota, a little stretch of south western North Dakota and eastern Montana along the Milwaukee railroad was mining coal to power the steam engines that were brought in to plow the sod. There was, and is, a lot of good coal there. The Milwaukee had a huge coal mine about two miles north of Westmore that operated up until they electrified west of Harlowton. Part of the reason the Milwaukee built west from Aberdeen is that they had no coal of their own and had to buy coal from Pennsylvania and ship it west for their steam engines. With the discovery of Antracite coal at Roundup, Montana, they decided to build through there to access that coal. The mine at Westmore gave them coal enough for the steamers to run west. There are still a lot of small mines around that were opened to provide coal for the steam tractors, most of which burned straw for threshing if there was no coal available. If you have ever driven across South Dakota you know there wasn't much wood to burn.
Very correct, don't know why I mentioned wood, as coal was the common fuel (other than the field straw, which didn't last very long!).
Verne thanks for the comparative picture of the Aultmann Taylor and your '13 touring. I do believe the 30-60 was the largest and I stood in awe looking at the specimen in The Henry Ford. And I'm inclined to believe your version of the downfall of these monster tractors rather than "all the prairie sod had been broken". Mainly because I'm restoring my second Fordson. Verne, I have a side view mirror like the one on your touring that's been boxed up in Garyl's house since Chickasha. Would you please do me a favor and get it to a post office? Thanks in advance.
Read some history, George.
George is just a hopeless romantic.
It was a photo op I couldn't pass up. Three Case steamers, my sedan and Bobo.
Two Jay-Eye-See's and a Bobo. Now that is cool!
This was at the Goessel, Kansas, tractor show a few years back. It looks about like the one in your photo.
Wow,With that bull gear that low you would not want to cut in very deep?? Ever see a Flour City Vern?? Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
This weekend the Threshers Show will be held in Albany MN. I've enjoyed the show for years. Even more now because I'm able to have one of my Model T's on the grounds. One of the best parts of the show is when the Steamers, Averys, Aultman Taylor's, and Oil Pulls as well as several other traction engines fire up and start out onto the parade grounds. The sounds, smells and feelings of those behemoths rumbling by are not soon forgotten. The blacksmith shop, sawmills, threshing machines and various other demonstrations are fantastic. All of the hit and miss engines, the food, music and people watching provides a lot of entertainment. And, it's always worth it to take some time and watch Andy Loso working with the threshing team. It only takes a few minutes to realize that Andy is more appreciated for his, ahem, expertise, then his work ethic!
Verne.......was that at Jerry Toews place?
I did some work for Jerry a few years ago.
Even met him at the big Baraboo Show in Wisconsin a few years ago.
Prince of a guy.......
Wow Verne, that looks just like it! Is that a big two cylinder opposed engine? Bet it makes a heck of a noise.
Royce - I think it is a four cyl.
Craig - Yes, that's Jerry's place. He has seven of these huge tractors. He brought this one out for our enjoyment.
Here is how you start it.
Since there appears to be no way to reply to a forum message with my aol mail program using the half a mile long link address from the forum, I can't reply to some messages I got about these posts. My email address is email@example.com. I will try to reply to them but I have carburetors stacked up three deep to be done and don't have a lot of time to argue about something from the forum.
My favorite place to go see these giants is Rollag MN. Here is a link to their show:
Just this past Labor Day my son and I attended and ended up doing a bit of "poaching". Somehow this ended up on our trailer.
We ended up running for the boarder and made it to Bozeman for gas. As we were gassing up, a car with Minnesota plates pulled into the parking lot, and I laughed and told my son we had been busted. Well we headed south and were able to shake them, and have been home for about a week and so far I haven't heard from the MN tractor police!!! Hope this post doesn't blow my cover,
While the Aultman Taylor radiator does resemble a boiler, it is a purpose built heat exchanger. It is not made of heavy enough material to handle the pressures of a boiler.
There is an Aultman Taylor quite similar, if not identical, to the first photo at Denton Farm Park in Denton, NC. It is truly a behemoth. There are several steam powered traction engines there as well. My wife and I usually operate one each year at the Old Thresher's Reunion. They are dwarfed by the Aultman Taylor.
This is an Aultman Taylor 22-45 which I built for a friend who keeps it in my shed.......
There were a lot of old tractors that used tubular radiators (more properly called coolers in the day).