A fantastic vintage hay-making day

Posted by Chris Graham on 28th February 2024

Jonathan Boaz reports from a vintage hay-making day at which there was a mouth-watering selection of old tractors and machinery on display.

vintage hay-making day

A Massey-Harris Blackstone Tedder pulled by Jonathan on his 1929 Morris Commercial ‘Doodlebug’.

We have a museum open day most years, when we like to get some of the old tractors and machines out, and work them at what they were built to do. Our focus is on hay-making through the ages and we always like to show a selection of vintage and classic tractors and machines at work. 

Unfortunately, as most of you will be aware, the weather played havoc with farming activities last summer, and we had to give priority to harvesting our commercial crops before we could fit in our vintage event, which saw it delayed until mid-September. It was a bit late in the year for making hay, but we had to make the best of what turned out to be an overcast day. Luckily, though, it stayed dry and we were able to get some hay made and baled, as well as having a plot of stubble ground for some tractors and cultivators to have a play on. 

vintage hay-making day

Needs must! The Ford 5000 with PZ drum mower came to the rescue!

We did try our Fordson F with the Athens disc plough, but my friend, Richard Keel, quickly concluded that the machine couldn’t cope with the heavy going. I suspect the outfit proved too much of a handful for his liking, so he turned his attention to a trailed disc plough, although that didn’t fare much better, either. 

The machines that seemed to perform best were some Ransomes trailed scuffles, a Muir-Hill 121 with a subsoiler and a TW-15, which was well on top of the job. Something a little novel was a Roadless Tricycle Major fitted with a three-cylinder Perkins engine and pulling an old two-furrow Ransomes mounted plough. I’d lined up my brother-in-law, Geoff Jones, to pilot this outfit as he has a reputation for being an accomplished ploughman, and it was quite a spectacle to watch. He did a good job, too!

vintage hay-making day

Ploughman Jeff Jones on a three-cylinder ‘Perkins’ Major Row Crop, with a Ransomes plough.

On the hay-making front, we had several different mowers on display: two old Bamford trailed mowers, one dating from the 1880s that we’d recently renovated, and a late contractor’s-spec machine with pneumatic tyres. Also, a Farmall M with a Featherstone mid-mounted mower and an MF 35 with a rear-mounted MF mower. 

But our choice of the day had to be a Ford 5000 and PZ drum mower, as the grass crop was heavy and tangled, and it was long overdue to be cut. We considered ourselves lucky to have such a machine at our disposal on this occasion. We then called on the services of all manner of old turners and tedders to make the hay.

The Bamford six-wheel rake behind a 1950 E27N Major.

These included a 100-year-old Massey-Harris (Blackstone) tedder, which did a good job being towed by a 1929 Morris Commercial doodlebug. There was also a Nicholson 10Z back-kick tedder working behind a 1957 Nuffield Universal 3, a Fahr back-kick behind a 1952 DKN new major TVO, a Bamford trailed six-wheel rake behind a 1950 E27N TVO and a Massey-Harris Dickie turner, which did a great job hitched to a 1949 Massey Harris 744. 

Once made, the hay was rowed-up ready for baling, and on hand for this were three balers: my IH 440, Mike Bastin’s old 1949 wire tie John Deere pick-up baler and Bill Cowley’s stationary baler. When rowed-up, Mike put his John Deere outfit to work and made short work of his plot. We then set to work loading the old dray to haul to the stationary baler. 

A line-up to quicken the heart of any enthusiast; something for everyone and spoilt for choice!

To load the dray we made good use of our 100-year-old Bamford hay loader, which was hitched behind the dray and the set-up was towed by a Perkins P3-powered Fordson. It was no problem getting someone to drive the tractor, but there weren’t many takers when it came to manning the pitchfork on the trailer! 

Once loaded, the hay then had to be pitched into Bill’s baler, which we powered on this occasion with a little 1936 John Deere B. After the hay had been baled, we planned to load it onto a trailer with an old Wolsley elevator but, as the bales were so heavy, we had problems with the drive belt slipping. 

Meanwhile, loading Mike’s wire-tied bales went more smoothly. We used our mechanical pitching tractor – a Ferguson TE-20 fitted with a pitching arm – which required a considerable amount of driver skill and nerves of steel. The device grabs the bale, launches it over the driver’s head and onto the trailer towed behind, hopefully missing the person doing the trailer stacking. It’s great to watch in action, but not such fun if you’re the operator. If you want a look, search YouTube for ‘Ferguson bale slinger’.

Loading the dray with a 100-year-old Bamfords loader and Perkins P3-powered Fordson N.

Once all was safely gathered in, it was time to adjourn to the museum where my friend, Caroline, had been keeping visitors fed and watered. Everyone enjoyed a sit down and plenty of banter among many friends, some of whom had travelled a considerable distance to share the day with us. 

Many thanks to all who helped make the day the success it was, and thanks to everyone who donated to the RABI charity we supported this year.

This feature comes from the latest issue of Ford & Fordson Tractors, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE



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