Chilton Antique Tractor Show and Well, It’s Been Busy…

… here over the last few weeks. I’m not sure what the heck happened after I retired. I was supposed to have all this free time to play with amateur radio, do gardening, dabble more in photography, go fishing, etc. Instead it seems I have less time than when I was working full time. Oh, well.

We did go up north last weekend to visit some friends, although we did run across this —

We came across the rolled over milk tanker about 10 miles from the house. Fortunately no one got seriously hurt. I think he was empty because there was no leakage when we came across the scene just after it happened. It was on a roundabout, and this happens on a regular basis with these big trucks. They hit the roundabout too fast and flip over trying to make the corner.

The annual Chilton steam engine and antique tractor show was this weekend and that’s something I try to get to every year even though it makes me feel so old sometimes to see equipment that I used to run when I was a kid or teenager now classified as “antique”. Although to be fair a lot of the equipment we had on the farm back then was probably already antique by the time we got our hands on it.

This year the big surprise was this —

Now if you’ve never seen anything like that before, it’s for a good reason. They never made many of these, and there are only three of them left in the world from what I learned talking to the guy who was operating it. When I first saw it, it was largely blocked from sight and all I could see was part of the front with the engines and I thought someone had lugged a Shay type locomotive to the show.

Yes, it’s fully operational. This isn’t just a static display, it actually runs.

What the hell is it? It’s a log hauler that was used up until the 1930s to pull huge sleds carrying logs through the woods during the winter. Only about 175 of them were ever built. It could pull up to 300 tons of logs on as many as 25 sleds at a time. I ran across this when I was looking up more info on it-

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must cost to keep that engine repaired and operational. It must be incredibly expensive. I’m very glad they do, though. If it weren’t for people who support the preservation of equipment like this all we’d have are photos. They show it at Wabeno, where its home is, but they also take it out to at least one of these shows a year.

As I said, sometimes it makes me feel very old when I go to these and run across equipment I used to use, like this Massey 44. I used one of these when I was a kid. For a long time it was our primary tractor that did everything from hauling out manure to chopping feed to plowing. And while it may look pretty and make me feel nostalgic, when it comes down to it it was a nasty, nasty tractor to actually use. The front end was too light. Those front wheels would be entirely off the ground as often as not when it was pulling a heavy load. It was difficult to steer. It had mechanical issues. The engine was decent, but ours tended to overheat and the transmission wasn’t very good. And it sucked gas like you wouldn’t believe.

What I like about these shows too is that it gives us a glimpse into what life was like for our not so distant ancestors. Just the simple job of washing clothing was a major operation not that long ago.

Yes, that’s a washing machine being powered by an ancient gasoline engine. And while that engine might be a bit elderly for this setup, washing machines running off gasoline engines was not uncommon in rural areas. You have to remember that a lot of rural areas didn’t get electric service until the 1930s or even later.

On the amateur radio front, I’ve been fiddling with antennas again. Well, sort of. I’m finally getting around to getting the Gap Titan vertical finished and hooked up.

It successfully survived the winds we had during the recent storms. After 60 – 70 MPH winds hit us during those storms I more than half expected to see it laying on the ground when I got up the next morning, but it made it through unscathed. We almost forgot to put guy lines on the thing. If we’d neglected that I’m sure it would have come down.

I got the counterpoise/ground plane installed finally and, well, it takes up a wee bit bigger area than I thought it would. Going to be fun mowing lawn through there. But that area is going to be part of an extension to the existing flower beds anyway so I only have to worry about it for the rest of this season.

And I still don’t have the dopey thing connected. I got started, got all the tools out and began to work on putting the connectors on the coax and… Sigh…

I had the wrong one. I needed a female and only had the male variety, so I either needed a female or an adaptor. Not a big deal, but mildly annoying nevertheless. In any case, I didn’t really like the style connector they sent with the antenna in the first place. Thankfully, Farm and Home, the big hardware store down in Chilton has a big electronics section (used to be a Radio Shack store) and they’ll probably have what I need.

As for the weather – this has been one of the wettest summers I can remember. The lawns should all be brown and dormant from a lack of rain this time of year. Instead they’re all lush and green, as you can see from the photo there. I’ve only had to water the gardens about three or four times all summer long so far. Most summers watering is something we need to do every two days or so.

The rivers and lakes are all abnormally high around here because of all the rainfall.

This is the river down by the old stone bridge the other day. Normally this time of year the river is so low and stagnant that it’s choked with algae and weeds, and so shallow it would hardly be halfway up your shins if you tried to walk through it. It’s a good four feet deep or more, though, and had more than enough current to keep the algae from accumulating.

That’s about it for now. Hopefully by the next time I get around to writing something I’ll have some amateur radio stuff to talk about. I should have that antenna finally set up. I should have the new Yaesu 818ND up and running with the laptop using FT8, JS8Call and PSK.

And hopefully I’ll have made some progress in moving all my equipment down into the basement. MrsGF found a matching set of old, heavy duty tables at St. Vinnie’s that might make good work benches. They’re about 4′ square with heavy duty 4″ square legs. They’re beat up but look solid, and I can get ’em for $5 each, so I’ll go take a look at those on Tuesday.

Still have to make a decision on where the electrical outlets are going to be placed down there, but I didn’t want to do that until I had an idea on where the work benches were going to be, how tall they were, etc. Probably at least 4, four outlet boxes fed with 20 amp circuits, plus at least one 240V outlet for amplifiers. And need to rewire for better lighting. Want to put in LED lights to replace the existing fluorescent tubes that are in there now.

John Deere’s Electric Tractor

Source: John Deere’s Electric Concept Tractor Sparks Interest – News |

Deere has been recently showing off it’s concept electric tractor, with the rather awkward and unfortunate name “Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery”, or SESAM. Deere is supposedly going to show it off at the Paris Agribusiness Show in Feb.

While it sounds interesting, whether or not it will actually work in practice is something else again. I haven’t been able to find out much about it. Deer claims that it will work for about 4 hours in “normal use”, whatever that is, or can drive about 55 kilometers on the road.

Both of those claims are essentially meaningless, though. What kind of work? What kind of load was it under, if any? Under what kind of conditions? What kind of weather, temperature, etc? Can I use it to plow snow when it’s -10 or do the batteries turn into mush at low temperatures? Or high temps? How well does it work at 100 or 110 degrees?

The statistics given out that I’ve found don’t sound utterly horrible. It recharges in about 3 hours, which is pretty good. I imagine that would require a specialized charging station, however. Almost no normal domestic power source could charge a big battery pack, that fast.

The battery’s life is estimated at 2,100 charge cycles, which also sounds pretty good until you remember that the average tractor isn’t kept for just a couple of years, but often for decades. That battery isn’t going to last for the life of the tractor, not even close. It would probably have to be replaced many times. So what is that going to cost?

The 3 hour run time may seem pretty good as well, but something like that would be almost useless for the average farm where a tractor may be expected to operate 10, 16 hours straight during  busy times.

And once you’re out in the field and the battery gets low, how do you recharge it? You’d have to take it back to the shop, which could be miles away, wait 3 hours to charge it…

Basically it means you would have to have multiple tractors to fill the same role that was performed by a single machine if you’re going to keep going during busy times.

It might be useful for utility tractors used around the farm itself and that never wander far from a charger, but for harvesting, plowing, tilling… At this stage of the game they’d be useless.

I’m not saying electric tractors are useless. But they are going to need to be better than this. The technology will almost certainly improve with time, but it’s going to take better battery technologies and charging systems that we have today.

Rise of the robot tractors | Dairy Herd Management

Ghost in the machine. A John Deere 7930 tractor rumbles across a canola field, buggy in tow, and eases alongside a rolling combine to collect grain. Speed, distance, and timing are synced in a farming machinery version of a harvest mating dance. Except this is no ordinary two-step. The box is empty. There is no wheelman in the tractor cab.

Source: Rise of the robot tractors | Dairy Herd Management


I’ve been waiting for someone to do something like this for a while now. I figured it was only a matter of time before someone out there came up with a system like this.

Now there are self-drive systems out there for high-end tractors, but they’re complex and expensive. Mr. Reimer here did it for around $8,000. Granted, it certainly isn’t as complex as what is needed to make a self-driving car, but it’s still useful and pretty darned neat. His system doesn’t have collision avoidance systems, radar, video or the other things necessary for automobiles, but the tractor is only used in large fields where there is little or no danger of it hitting something. For this application it works quite well indeed.

There are self-driving tractors out there, but the option is, as I mentioned, expensive, and it’s only available on new, high-end (and expensive) tractors. A system like this could be adapted for use on just about any tractor, no matter how old.