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Submitted Article
More Memories of a Field Service Engineer
by Brian Dye

Introduction: The author 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 he became a dealer manager and finally left the dealer net in 1975 to run his own electronic design and manufacturing company. [Editor]


We live right in the middle of Norfolk. The dealership that I worked for sold Fordson Tractors from the 1920's and some of the mechanics that I worked with were experts in the whole range of tractors back to then. We still had all the service tools for scraping bearings and the special cranking tool for starting overhauled (and tight) engines. In those days there were no such things as self starters.

During the 1939-45 war, the area was surrounded by airfields and a contract to service the Fordson Tractors on these was gained from the government. Eventually this was expanded to cover the whole of the British Isles and our service vans used to leave the works and not come back for days as they were travelling around the airfields.

The company also carried out government machine shop work. During the war it made practice bombs then graduated during the 1960's to making parts for missiles. In this country we had a car called the Ford Cortina and the company machined front brake assemblies for these cars on sub-contract to Fords.

Some people over there may remember the airfields at Shipdham, Wendling and North Pickenham nr Swaffham. These were all bases for the USAF during that war.

Shipdham is now, and has been for some years, farm land divided by the great runways. The land is very heavy and wet.

I was sent out one day during the 1960's with my van and apprentice to fit a clutch in a Power Major on Shipdham air field.

It was early March, cold and wet with just a lazy wind blowing. (A lazy wind is one that does not bother to go around you, just straight through). The rain was (as we say here) just misting. This type of rain is very fine and seems wetter than other types.

When we arrived at the tractor it was parked on the side of the runway with one steel wheel on one side and a normal pneumatic on the other. The Power Major had no differential lock so this configuration was used to get maximum traction in the wet and heavy land when plowing. The steel wheel was on the land and the rubber one down the furrow. But when the tractor was standing on the concrete runway it had a decided lean to the left.

The mechanics at the dealership had devised a contraption to aid splitting tractors to get at the clutch. This consisted of a cradle that fitted around the sump, running on two wheels that were adjustable in height and made stable by straps on either side bolted to the tractor frame.

This device had many advantages over the normal Ford splitting trolley as it was easy to produce, easy to carry and enabled you to move the engine out of the way if you needed to get to the gear box.

The problem was that you needed level ground and a level tractor if it was to be an easy job.

We surveyed the tractor with its lean, the weather, cold and wet and decided that we had drawn the short straw that day. If things had been going our way the tractor would have been in a nice dry, warm workshop but with a steel wheel on one side, it would have been impossible to tow it down the highway without upsetting the highway authorities.

So we were stuck. The clutch had to be changed where the tractor stood.

We decided that we would have to try for the record for fitting a Power Major clutch if we were not to get back to the works wet and frozen. Luckily it was not a "live" clutch with its double set of splines to line up.

We soon had the bonnet off, all the lines and electrics off and the bolts out. With a jack under the gearbox and our trolley under the sump we pushed the two apart. The engine dropped about two inches when it came off the side channels as even the adjustments of the trolley would not completely correct the lean. We quickly dismantled the clutch from the flywheel and replaced it with a new one. The thrust bearing was also changed and now came the difficult part. We pushed the engine back to the gearbox and as the side channels touched, I lifted the low side up with a crowbar under the trolley wheel.

Imagine our surprise when the tractor engine continued back to the gearbox and thumped home on the dowels!! No wriggle needed, no turning the engine to line up the splines. We looked at each other and wondered which one of us had forgotten in our rush, to fit the clutch disc but, with a check around and finding only the wrapping paper and the old disc, and finding that turning the engine also turned the gearbox, we decided that the disc had been fitted.

We quickly replaced all the bolts wires and pipes. started the tractor and tried the clutch. All OK. We then looked at the clock. We had not broken the record for fitting time but we had done it in and hour and ten minutes. This was still pretty good. It was time for a quick warm in the van and a cup of tea before refitting the bonnet.

We had just got our thermos' out and the tea poured when an angry knock was heard on my window. I wound it down to be greeted with an angry farmer who proceeded to call us all the names he could think of. We had been there an hour and we were still in the van drinking tea. We had only taken the bonnet off his tractor! What the heck did we think he was paying for!!

It took some time to calm him down and get him to understand that the worn out clutch in the van was his and not one we had fitted earlier. He was only convinced when he drove the tractor down the furrow. Plowing again. Happy Days.

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