Since the new machinery shelter was erected between the two containers, we have been able to house the “new” McCormick binder under cover. I have taken the opportunity to further renovate and restore this machine with lots of help from Grant and other volunteers.
There are lots of other bits and pieces that have come home and been cleaned, repaired where necessary and painted. It is quite a therapeutic process for me and a decrepit machine is gradually being returned to something of its former glory!
The new position for the combine shelter was cleared by Gordon Smith a few days previously. Two days before lockdown was designated moving day. Simon was with us all day, and thoroughly enjoyed himself, as did we all! The site for the Thompson Workshop has now been cleared ready for the Ground Works to be started.
We are holding an Historic Vehicle Day on September 13th in place of the Threshing Day, we are encouraging people to bring their vehicles !
Here are a few of our August highlights …
Tony and DK are working on the Maldon Elevator in preparation for the Historic Vehicle Day on 13 September, when it will be on display alongside our other exhibits. The machine has been packed away and sheeted down for almost a year since the Steam Threshing Day in 2019.
James Howe called in to the Manor House in late August with Ruby his three year old Shire and waggon. He has owned Ruby since she was a foal and is training her to work on the road and get used to traffic.
Gordon Smith has been busy, first he dismantled the old compost bin and spread the compost over a low area under the trees. Then he graded and levelled the site using some additional hardcore. The container will be re- sited close to the northern boundary, a second container will be purchased and sited six metres to the south, parallel to the original one. The “container top”which arrived from Hamburg last week, will be erected to span the area between the two and provide some 36 metres of additional covered storage. The extra storage provided by the new Container and the covered area, should enable us to store the Thompson Millwright artefacts on site, and also provide shelter for other large artefacts at present stored outside. Funding for this project has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund Emergency Funding.
It is a large cover ( 250 kgs !) that we plan to stretch between two containers where it will provide 36 sq metres of additional covered storage for us. We will acquire a second container shortly and reposition the existing one.
We intend to try and run some of our machinery every Tuesday and Friday during opening hours, throughout the summer.
Friday was such a lovely day we moved the Fordson tractor down to the gate, and I parked one of my Austin Sevens alongside to add extra interest. We were delighted to welcome a steady stream of interested visitors for most of the day.
Tony was kept busy trying to keep four of the Stationary Engines all running! He gets bored if they all run faultlessly…….! He did manage it briefly.
Today was the first day post lockdown that we were open at the MORL. We were delighted to receive a steady flow of visitors from late morning until early afternoon.
One of our volunteers, Austin from Louth brought in this cast iron machinery plaque that he found amongst his late father’s oddments. He had connections with South Elkington and probably found this in an old farm building. Austin remembered reading our research on the panel relating to seed drills etc and the name struck a chord. He has restored the plaque and mounted it on a polished wooden block and presented it to the Museum today. A wonderful relic of local agricultural history!
Brian has just returned a collection of heavy horse harness that he has cleaned and beautifully restored during lockdown. It was in a dreadfully neglected state when he took it home, and it now has joined other harness in the Blacksmith’s shop and harness room where it looks well cared for once again
Last week was largely devoted to cutting the long grass in the orchard with the somewhat idiosyncratic Allen Scythe, so restoration projects took a back seat!
This week we started to check over the combine so it is ready to go if we get the opportunity. The triangular shaped double chain in picture one was rather floppy and had run out of adjustment, so Tony and I removed it and shortened by a link and rejoined it. It is now just the right tension! There are several others to adjust and shorten too…..!
Pictures two and three are of the top of the “new” grain tank showing repair patches that I’ve made and shaped to strengthen damaged areas. They have been temporarily “pop” riveted in position so that Grant can weld them in properly to make a strong repair. Once the welding is completed, the painting can be completed and it will be ready for fitting.
I have turned my attention, during this lock down period, to the McCormick “power” binder, so called because it is powered solely by the towing tractor’s “power take off” (pto). Horse drawn binders, such as our Massey Harris machine, derive their power to turn the mechanism from the large “Bull” wheel .
We acquired this machine about 18 months ago from a local collection, and it has had very little attention since! The original canvases had previously been stored in a building with a leaking roof, and were found to be completely beyond repair on arrival.
About three years ago we acquired a large collection of “new old stock” canvases, knives, needles, rollers, and other spares. A few of these canvases fitted our Massey Harris binder, but quite a lot of them didn’t. I realized that I could adapt some of these to fit the McCormick binder so that it could be used again in the future.
I decided to tackle the “conveyor” canvas first, which fits behind the knife and conveys the cut cereal crop toward the elevators and on to the binding mechanism. This machine takes an 8 foot cut compared to the Massey Harris which is a 6 foot cut machine. The conveyor canvas is thus very long and so I decided to join together two of the new identical short canvases to get the length. The width also needed to be reduced by about 2 inches.
I sought the advice of Graham Kirk who founded his company, Farm & Rural Past, in Norfolk nearly 30 years ago to make binder canvases and supply spare parts. He was extremely helpful and supplied me with rivets and other materials for the conversion work.
I have been able to do this work at home over the past few weeks and have now finished the conveyor canvas and the lower elevator canvas, apart from a little fine tuning.
Tony Hogg has come out of lock down now so at the beginning of June we uncovered the binder, cleaned it down, greased the bearings and lubricated the chains. It now turns quite freely, and we were able to try the “new” conveyor canvas for size. I’m pleased to say that it fits and moves as it should, needing just one minor adjustment.
I now have the upper conveyor canvas to make by adapting another spare in our stock!
One of our most important artefacts is our Standard Fordson N which was manufactured at Dagenham in Essex in the summer of 1943. Our tractor spent all its working life in the Friskney area before we acquired it three years ago. It is in full working order and has since been involved in our harvest on several occasions towing the Massey Harris binder. This is typical of just one of the tasks that thousands of Fordsons would have performed throughout the country in WW2.
It is often said that this is the tractor that helped win the Second World War. Agriculture suffered a deep depression throughout the 1930s when it was cheaper to import food than grow it. Consequently, much of the arable land was not farmed, became derelict and had to be urgently brought back into production at the outbreak of war.
This was the Fordson tractor’s Finest Hour when it proved its capability in the “Ploughing for Victory” campaign. Land was thus brought back into production with the Fordson cultivating and drilling cereal crops and ultimately towing the binders to bring in the crops at harvest time.
The Fordson N was first introduced in 1929 and was developed from the model F originally designed and manufactured by Henry Ford in America in 1917. The Ministry of Munitions imported 3000 of these to help with food production in UK in WW1.
Initially the Fordson N was manufactured in Cork, Ireland, but production was later transferred to the new factory at Dagenham in 1932.
The Fordson was very popular with farmers being rugged, reliable, simple to operate and very good value for money at around £150. Throughout the War a total of 137,483 were produced by May 8 1945.
Besides their extensive use in agriculture, Fordsons were widely used by the RAF on airfields to tow fuel bowsers and bomb trolleys for refueling and arming aircraft. There was even a version produced by Roadless which was fitted with tracks and a winch for aircraft recovery following flying accidents.
The ubiquitous Fordson was also used in the construction industry being converted into dump trucks by Muir Hill and loading shovels, and would have performed an important role in the construction of airfields and other war time building work.
Our Fordson is silent at this time, but will roar back into action once restrictions are lifted.
This country owes the Fordson tractor and all those who operated them, both men and the thousands of Land Girls, a great debt.
I thought I would improve the Combine seat pad , working at home, which had obviously been exposed to the elements over the last 60 years!
I thought “just replace the rotten plywood base and make a new cover….”
When I started to take it apart, all the internal springs were rusty and everything fell to bits!
I have sourced some new springs on the internet and made some new metal clips (cut from an old combine guard) to hold them all together within the original square frames and started to recreate the seat to resemble the original!
I have plenty of hessian and felt padding left over from upholstering my vintage car seats a few years ago! ( my motto is never throw anything away, it may come in handy). We’ll see how it all turns out!
1st May: Combine seat update …
We have just finished it !
The last three stages when it has changed from looking like a Christmas cake to a seat.
Catherine helped with some of the sewing machine work
Tried it this morning and had a Cinderella moment !
Next job- adapting some “new old stock” binder canvases we bought on eBay about 3 years ago to fit the “new ” McCormick binder …..!