Memories of a Field Service Engineer|
by Brian Dye
I worked for one of the largest Ford tractor dealerships in England as a
trouble-shooter on tractor engines, hydraulics and combine harvesters from
1963 to 1972. In 1972 I became a dealer manager and finally left the dealer
net in 1975 to run my own electronic design and manufacturing company called
BHE after the old 16th century Inn where we are now based. We specialize in
agricultural electronics working in the past for Claas, Grimme, Standens and
Reekie on combines, potato and sugar beet harvesters.
I have always kept up my contacts in the trade and since 1974 have trained
farm staff in the repair and setting up of a wide variety of machines. In the
1980’s, through to 1998 I traveled the country in our slack period of
July, August and early September visiting around 600 combine harvesters a year
demonstrating output improvements and grain loss control.
In the late 1960’s and through to the middle 1970’s tractor HP in England was
low. The Ford 5000 at 65 hp was a large powerful tractor so something like the
Doe was massive indeed. The tractor started from an idea that, on the heavy
Essex and London clays, two tractors could be joined together to pull the
plough or sub soiler then for the spring work they could be separated and used
as individual units.
This idea did not work and as the tractor became more sophisticated with
electrical and hydraulic controls to work the gear and throttle changes, the
idea became impractical. The tractor finally ceased production in the late
1970’s when manufacturer prices went up and firms started to bring out their
own high hp tractors.
Two Does in particular spring to mind. In the late 1960’s my job was to sort
out problems on peculiar machines so I always got the Does. I loved it!!
A farmer about ten miles from the works had a gearbox failure on the front
tractor of a Super Major based Doe. I went out to the tractor and decided to
run it back to base as the farmer had no workshop. I drove it in and was then
allotted a workshop bay that was only 12inches longer than the tractor. it was
quite a challenge, with all looking on I reversed the tractor until it was up
against the wall at the back, then just straightened the steering wheel and we
The front tractor would turn at over 90 degrees to the back tractor in either
I serviced the gearbox and reassembled the tractor. Then I was sent on another
job, a Ford 3000 was plowing on some water meadows about three miles from
the depot. It blew an engine in the field and was immobilized. Because the
land was so wet it was impossible to get my Ford Escort van to the tractor so
we loaded all the tools and some chain onto a nearly new Ford 5000 we had for
sale at the works and my apprentice and I used this to get down to the 3000.
After removing the plough we decided to tow the 3000 to dryer ground. The
farmer direct us around the field headland to get to the front of the tractor
as we had towed it backwards passed the gate and there was no room to get the
5000 past without running on the ploughed work. He forgot however to inform us
that the bottom headland contained a filled in ditch where two fields had been
The 5000 found the ditch!! In no time flat it was down over the axles, the
front wheels were under the soggy soil and you could walk from the footplate
to the ground without stepping down. The only way out seemed a heavy recovery
vehicle. Then I thought of the Doe waiting at the works for me to drive it
back to the farm. We walked back to base and rang the farmer who agreed to let
us use the machine for an attempt at recovering our 5000.
We took it back to the field, only to find the 5000 down at the front and the
whole axle now hidden. After about an hours digging to find the drawbar we
chained the two tractors together and were ready for the pull. With the Doe in
a high gear and at half throttle we tried. The Doe went down like a lift with
all four wheel scrapping. Soon she was belly down and we were looking at a
really major recovery job when suddenly she hit hard gravel under all four
wheels. It was just like sitting on a rocket as she came out of the hole
dragging the 5000 with her, Was I relieved. Both tractors had to be washed
down but sales were happy we had not left the 5000 in the field and my manager
was happy as heavy recovery was not needed.
The second Doe I looked after and had good memories of was one of only two
ever built. Does kept the sister machine for experimental purposes and
eventually returned it to two tractors. The second machine was sold to our
It was a Doe 130 Selecto-Speed. This was the best pulling tractor I have ever
driven. The gearbox was wonderful (when it worked). The driver still lives and
works a few miles from me and when ever we meet the conversation soon turns to
“do you remember when the Doe........?”
We had to have the tractor in for repair a few times as the farmer really
worked it hard with large implements.
The two gearbox selector levers were linked by a massive cable which was
controlled by a lever about 3 feet long mounted to the drivers right. The
tractor was also fitted with a Fitzmier cab which was mainly a wrap around
windscreen and a canvas roof and sides. The windscreen pivoted upwards to
allow you to get to the seat.
Orbital steering was also fitted. This made driving this tractor in the field
and on the road very interesting. It was a little like flying a helicopter.
First you had to watch both exhaust pipes on the tractors. If one tractor was
smoking more than the other, the gear lever had to be jiggled as the tractors
were in different gears due to the length and droop of the gear linkage
Then there was the old orbital steering fault. You had to keep constantly
turning the wheel in one direction or the other to keep the tractor in a
straight line. It was quite a beast.
She ended up in Africa I think. I brought her into the workshop for hydraulic
failure. When we stripped out the back tractor, the final drives had started
to break up. It was decided to strip her out completely and find out cost of
By the end of three days all that was left of the two tractors was a heap of
parts on ten works mobile stands. The largest part of the tractor left was the
turntable unit. Two rear ends, two hydraulic lifts, two Selecto-Speed
gearboxes and two engines were all dismantled. This included injection pumps
and electrical components. An estimate was prepared. Three months later my
manager said “ Mr. Broadhead has decided to have a new tractor, we have sold
the Doe for export. It must be running and on the boat in four days. Just slip
it back together”!!!
We managed it!! Just!! but in the meantime parts that were OK such as bolts
etc. had been “borrowed” as the consensus of opinion was “that will never run
again !” but she did and I wish I owned her now.
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