Philip Madison has been a good friend of mine for quite some time. He has
patiently suffered my incessant chit chat on the subject of tractors for
longer than I care to remember, and on many occasions he has put himself out,
dropped what ever it was he was doing, to come and lend a hand cranking
handles, or loading a find onto a trailer.
Although he himself has never actually owned or restored a tractor, he was
always enthusiastic and always around helping with other peoples projects. I
was quite surprised therefore when I got a phone call from Philip, who was
babbling like someone demented about "county full track", and "got to get it
back today" At one stage, I wondered if he had been eating magic mushrooms, as
I couldn't understand a word he was gabbling about.
After a couple of minutes with the phone at arms length I heard Philip
saying " are you there, hello, hello" I introduced myself sarcastically, and
we both laughed. I asked him to start again and explain what it was that had
got him so heated up, but calmly!. Phil informed me he had just purchased a track
machine at the Uttoxeter bi-monthly sale. I asked him to be more specific and
he said "its got no badges on and its blue!" and went on to say it was a
Fordson. Arrangements were made and about two hours later Phil arrived outside
with his dad's Range Rover and trailer. He had a beaming smile on his face and
was quite chirpy.
I asked him what had possessed him to buy a track machine, and he went
quiet. "Well" I asked, "It was by accident" he exclaimed, he had done the
classic trick of not keeping his hands in his pockets whilst the bidding was
on, the hammer had fallen to him and he was to embarrassed to say anything. He
explained that he was there to buy anyway! I laughed until my sides hurt, but
it didn't matter a bit to Phil. He was miles away. 'Sold to the man in the
On our arrival at the auction ground, the last few attendees were getting
ready to leave. We pulled up near to the main building, where we sought out
the security staff. Phil, showed them the release slip and they gave us a
pass, waiving us on to the site. There were a few nice machines in the paddock
waiting for collection, All were fairly new. A nice pair of early Ford 4000's
stood together, and looked quite well in the palling light. There were a
couple of Massey Fergusons here and there too, one in yellow which was an old
council machine. Another in green which was larger. As we drove past I had a
bit of a look at it, it was a clean 165, with a roll cage and new rear tires.
As we reached the spot where Phil’s machine stood, my first impression was
that he hadn't done as badly as I thought he would. The body work was free of
any major dents, and it seemed fairly straight. We got out and I caught Phil
looking at me in anticipation, he was standing slightly back with his arms
crossed and rubbing his chin. "Looks okay" I said. The thought crossed my mind
to pull his leg and kid him up, but I couldn't find the heart. Phil was pacing
round like a young kid, buzzing with excitement. At last he said
"Well.....what do you think?" I went round a few of the obvious things,
like the paint and odd dent. Then I explained that judging by the lack of wear
on the hitch and tracks, it didn't appear to have been abused much. We talked
for a while and then decided it was time to mount up.
Phil had thrown a couple of old railway sleepers on the back of the trailer
to act as temporary ramps. Although they are sturdy things, I wasn't sure that
they would be safe enough to load on, but we decided to give it a try. Phil
jumped on and tried the starter. It wouldn't bite, we tried again and turned
the engine until the battery was about to die. Then she finally barked into
life, clearing her throat with a roar and cloud of black smoke. we let it run
for a while and whilst it was warming up, I checked the tank....not a lot in
It was agreed that we couldn't mess around for too long or she would dry up
on us. So with a grinding noise and a lurch, Phil dropped her into gear. He
looked decidedly pale as it inched forward to the ramps, and in all fairness
it was a bit steep. Phil was leaning so far forward that his head was almost
over the bonnet, his knuckles were clenched white on the steering rods, and he
didn't look at all comfortable. As the front of the machine got closer to the
trailer, the tracks met the ramps and the front began to lift. Once the weight
transferred to the back of the trailer it settled and the incline wasn't as
I went to the front and climbed up, keeping near side to Phil so he could
watch my signals. After a minute of gingerly scrabbling her way up, I jumped
down and Phil pulled on closer to the front. I waived him to stop as the
weight was straddling the wheels and he killed the motor.
Jumping down, the relief was clearly visible on Phil's face. There is nothing
more unnerving than taking a machine on an incline and expecting it to over
turn. Even if it can't!!.
I chocked the tracks using the sleepers front and back, and we roped the
front and rear by the hitch to stop her moving. Once roped up, we started the
journey back to Phil’s place, planning as we drove about what we would have to
On our arrival back to Phil’s we had a bit of trouble reversing the trailer
through the gates. This resulted in Phil, catching the post and nearly
uprooting it in the process. However we did manage to get in, even though the
gate was now drunkenly swinging shut on it's own. We un-roped and set the
sleepers in place at the rear. Phil climbed up and I passed him a five gallon
drum of diesel fuel, which was swallowed thirstily by the tractor. This time it
responded straight away, the engine fired up and not so much black smoke
filled the yard.
In hindsight what was to happen next should have been blatantly obvious, and
I feel I have to remind everyone at this point just how dangerous this hobby
of tinkering with tractors can be. Phil began to reverse the major off the
back of the trailer, he was taking his time, paying attention to positioning
and my signals when as the machine left the crest, suddenly without warning,
the inside sleeper gave way!
There was a terrific crunch and in the blink of an eye, Philip was thrown
sideways over the machine. As the tractor rolled over Philip hit the floor and
sprawled out. It all happened so fast, one second he was smiling, the next he
was gone. The machine was rocking dangerously on it's side and I knew it stood
every chance of toppling over and pinning his legs.
I ran over and grabbed him by the arms and pulled as hard as I could.
Luckily the tractor had stalled, puffing blue smoke into our faces. Philip was
wide eyed but reaction urged him to check the machine. We stood for ages, not
saying anything. ... just looking, fuel and oil seeping onto the dirt yard. We
had been so lucky to avoid a disaster. It was only too apparent that, had
Philip been pinned beneath the sharp edges of the tracks, they would have
caused him a permanent injury. As we looked around to assess the damage, we
realized that it was the broken sleeper that had saved Philip from being
crushed. It had fallen under the track propping it slightly and stopping the
We got our heads together, moved the Rover forward and unhitched the
trailer. Then with the rope and a chain we hooked up to the underside of the
tractor feeding the chain over the top to pull it back over.
Shifting into low box the Rover took the strain, after a bit of dragging the
tracks bit into the dirt and she flipped back onto both tracks. We looked on
in dismay, the fall had twisted the bottom runner, pushing the bracket inwards
into the front wheel. It would need to be rebuilt, but before that it would
have to be straightened in order that the wheel could turn and we could move
it around the yard and under the lean-to.
Philip sat down on the trailer, he had suddenly gone quite pale. The
realization of how close a disaster had come to us had sunk in. We took a
break and I made us both a hot drink in which I put an extra sugar in Phil’s.
Once he was feeling better I took the range Rover up to Gimbles garage to get
some small portable oxyacetylene bottles. We lit the torch and applied heat to
the lip, near to the crease. Then with a large stilson wrench and a bar for
leverage, we pulled the offending protrusion away from the wheel. Now at least
we could move the thing to a place we could start work on it.
Once we had levered the runner from the wheel, I asked Phil to drive the
machine around so that we could reverse it under the lean-to. I could tell he
wasn't too keen, but it was the only way for him to regain his confidence. We
measured the distance needed to drop the track off at the split link, and set
her into position. We applied heat again until we found that with great effort
we could split the tracks, then we carefully reversed the major backwards, and
together lowered the last sections to the floor. With the tracks now off, we
could start working on bringing her back into shape.
To be continued...........
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