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TAS Country : April 21st 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011 Tasmanian Country 19 The Tractor Tragic TAKING OFF: One of the first Australian advertisements for Deutz tractors from a 1938 Farm Mechanicsf magazine class from Germany at these diesel tractors from Germany when four of the Deutz diesels were allocated to Mr E.J. ''Ned'' Petersen, a contractor from Westbury who grew canning peas under contract. Of these new tractors, two were F3M-317 three-cylinder 50 horsepower air start models with the other two being the diminutive F1M-414 single cylinder 11 horsepower machines that were dwarfed in comparison to the biggest Deutz tractors in the model range. Before the tractors arrived, Mr Petersen gave a broadcast on National Radio which my father heard at school and remembers well. In it he told listeners how he was about to take delivery of ''two of the biggest wheel tractors in the world'' for his farming operations and it was with great interest many a farmer and schoolboy in the area come to see these tractors --- the big three- cylinder 50 horsepower models being towed down the main street of Westbury to Boon's garage (now the John Temple Gallery) where the compressed air tanks were charged up to 35 atmospheres pressure for an initial start up. The Petersen operation was extensive. If there was a job to be done or a machine needed for a specific job, ''Ned'' seemed to have the equipment to fill the bill. Work undertaken could be anything from farming to rock crushing/road building to chaff cutting or threshing. In these days there was still steam engines in the fleet for the heaviest jobs (at least one of the Marshall steam engines from the fleet dating from 1902 has found its way back to England and fully restored) not to mention a wide and varied range of tractors. As such, the Petersen operation was a major employer in Westbury and men looking for work were rarely turned away. While tractors were new they were generally entrusted to a particular operator and the two big three-cylinder F3M-317 Deutz tractors were entrusted to Ike Bingley and Hector Scott who put the tractors to work ploughing up the heavy black soil on the property, Leith, a few miles outside of Westbury. My father rode his bicycle out to Leith to see these big 50 horsepower Deutz tractors at work and could only marvel at their size, power and how they could pull a four-furrow plough in the deep black soil when most other tractors struggled to pull three furrows in those soil conditions. So engrossed in watching these tractors at work, my father completely lost track of time and realised how late he was getting home for tea. He got a severe reprimand for being late and another for telling his father that he saw these big German diesel tractors pulling four furrows in that heavy Leith soil --- nothing his father had ever driven would perform that well, certainly not his McCormick Deering W-30. As time wore on my father become fascinated with these big diesel tractors and spent many hours watching them at work but it was a good while until he worked out just how these tractors actually started. The air tank and lines were obvious enough but Mr Scott was very secretive about how the system was triggered off. It was a while before the penny dropped and the full workings of the air start system were revealed. The compressed air start system worked very well but eventually, other drivers did their time behind the steering wheels of the tractors and unfortunately, some were not as mechanically minded and as a result they did not treat the tractors as well as the original drivers. Over time the starting system suffered air leaks from valves that needed grinding in and re-seating, inevitably one driver resorted to rolling hill starts in gear without heating the glow plugs or releasing the compression; the result of doing that one too many times was a broken crankshaft but thankfully Stokoe Motors in Melbourne had replacements still on hand. Similar problems had been suffered by the little single cylinder F1M-414 models in the Petersen fleet. Over revving down hill with a loaded four wheeled trailer far too big for the tractor had seen one of the little F1M- 414 single cylinder models throw a connecting rod out the side of the engine. A replacement was fabricated by Jim Shaw at his workshop at Whitemore while the other tractor had suffered from stripped gears in the transmission through tow starting. We have to remember that even in the late 1940s diesel was not a common fuel in tractors and drivers were not aware how much careful maintenance a compression ignition engine required. Had injectors been cleaned, filter pads washed out and an ignition paper used in the cylinder head for pre-heating, the single cylinder tractors would have started on the crank handle every time. A third F3M-317 three-cylinder 50 horsepower model joined the Petersen fleet, purchased from a farm at Campania. It was more than likely another tractor provided to a primary producer with contracts under the same conditions as the Deutz tractors at Westbury but it differed to the others in a number of areas; namely being on smaller rear wheels and having a bench type seat with the air tank mounted across the platform under the seat while the Westbury tractors had their air tanks alongside the operator. This tractor was probably the best liked Deutz in the fleet, possibly because of it being on rubber tyres but it was still a three forward speed model. Eventually, though, all five tractors would eventually be laid up in varying states of disrepair in the Petersen yard up in Shadforth St, Westbury; it was a case of the most run-down tractor being a source of spare parts to keep another running with the final tractor abandoned in the yard having last worked around 1960. The Petersen yard was a source of fascination to young boys and enthusiasts with a huge array of tractors and machinery sitting in various states of disrepair, some of it exceedingly rare, such as the remains of the Emmerson-Brantingham that sat minus its engine, McDonald KV single cylinder diesel powered road roller along with more common Fordsons, Field Marshalls and McCormick Deerings. At one stage there was a German Bussing truck there as well as a 1920s International truck on solid wheels with rubber bands on them --- and, of course, the wrecks of the Deutz tractors. Much of the machinery, sadly, finally went for scrap. Three of the Petersen Deutz tractors were saved for preservation though. The surviving F1M-414 11hp single cylinder that had stripped the transmission gears still resides in Westbury at Pearn's Steam World museum while two private collectors purchased the remaining F3M-317 three cylinder tractors (one being sold to a mainland collector in recent years and moving to Victoria). Over the years prior to the sale my father had kept in contact with Mr Petersen and thought about the possibility of trying to restore one of the three-cylinder F3M-317 Deutz tractors. Sadly, even with three examples in varying states of disrepair, there was never going to be enough parts there to complete a tractor to original condition. Had there been this wonderful tool called the internet existing back in the 1970's it may have been possible to track parts down in Germany or get hold of enough information to reproduce missing parts but back then trying to restore one of those tractors was a daunting task.
April 14th 2011
April 28th 2011