Oldies still have their pulling power

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Chris Berry reports on the greatest show on earth for vintage tractor lovers this weekend which will bring thousands to Newby Hall.

Do you remember tractor vaporising oil and Fordson Majors coughing themselves to sleep after a hard day in the field?

Richard Sturdy, 67, is reminiscing about a time 63 years ago when his love affair with tractors began.

“My father farmed near Wetherby and I would ask if I could come out with him at the end of the day to see all the tractors come in to the shed.

“I would hold his hand as the fleet of Fordson Majors, all the 1948 model, would come back. They ran on TVO fuel and there was a standard procedure for stopping them.

“The drivers would turn off the fuel tap so that that carburettor emptied itself of fuel ready for starting on petrol the following morning. That’s how they operated, with petrol going in first followed by kerosene when the engine was warm.

“If I close my eyes I can still feel my father’s hand and hear the sound of them coughing until they stopped.”

Richard left the farm when he was 30 to pursue a career in the oil and fuel industry and he is now chairman of the Yorkshire Vintage Association.

“When I reached 50 I started purchasing vintage tractors. My main interest is 1915 to 1948. I don’t usually go for anything after that date but about six years ago a friend rang to tell me he had a Fergie on the back of his wagon that he was taking to York Machinery Sale. He’d picked it up from a farmer in Barwick in Elmet. In the log book the first named owners were ER & TW Sturdy of Newsholme Farm, Spofforth. I bought it and have had it completely restored.”

His association now organises the largest outdoor gathering of vintage tractors in the – over 1,500 exhibits including stationary engines from the Crossley family. The oldest at the show today will be an Ivel, the brainchild of Dan Albone of Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. His first Ivel was launched in February 1902 and is now regarded as the first practical and successful tractor in the world.

“Every year we feature the best gathering of pre-1930 tractors in the world,” says Richard.

“This includes many American tractors. Manufacturers Hart-Parr of Charles City, Iowa were reputedly the first company to come up with the word tractor, up until then the term had always been motorised traction engines.”

There will be an awesome Hart-Parr “Bootstrap” which is to be put through its mightily impressive paces.

The manufacturers used to demonstrate its power by the use of a rig where the tractor would haul itself up into the air under its own power.

A German enthusiast, Jorg Mueller, is bringing his reconstruction rig so that everyone can view this for themselves. Historic local manufacturers are represented with a special exhibit of the Fowler Gyrotiller made in Leeds from the 1930s to 1950s and noted for their deep cultivation of difficult land.

Stuart Gill, the administrator at Newby Hall says,“It fits nicely with what we have here – a huge farm and links with the agricultural industry.

“One of the unique elements of this show is the number of working exhibits. Here you will see threshing machines, balers, anvils and wood saws all in working mode.”

National Tractor Weekend Newby Hall, Ripon today and tomorrow. Admission £9 adult £8 senior £7.50 child includes admission to gardens. www.newbyhallandgardens.co.uk