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]
County Commercial Cars of Fleet in Hampshire converted Ford tractors to either crawler or late in the 1960's to four wheel drive. They started converting the E27N Major to crawlers, then, when the E1AD series came out, moved their system onto the new tractor.
The first one I worked on belonged to a local farmer who owned a fairly large farm in a local village about half way between my home and the works. Mr. Roy was a well-liked person in the village but had a tendency to moan about the mechanics, blaming them for the problems with his machines.
The early County had a problem with the drive system of clutches. Instead of the multiplate clutches on the bull pinion shafts of the later machine, the early ones retained the brake shoe design that had passed down from the E27N conversion. This did not cope with the extra torque of the diesel Major and the steering clutches failed regularly. The County, of course had no differential, to steer you pulled a lever and this disconnected the drive to the particular track by retracting the shoes from the drum and allowing the track drive to slip. If the tractor did not turn sharply enough like this, then a brake could be applied to the outside of the drum so stopping the track completely.
Mr. Roy farmed on heavy land. He used the County himself. It was his tractor. His normal plough was a Ransomes Duotrac. a large two furrow plough that would plough down to about 14". Mr. Roy always wanted to plough at this depth but the County was not really up to it. In really wet weather, with this plough the County got track slip, so to keep going Mr. Roy came up with the idea of fitting cleats to the tracks. These he made out of angle iron and bolted three cleats to each track about 4" above the normal grouser plates.
4-Wheel Drive Version
The County now could not slip but to drive her on a hard packed headland was an experience. If the cleats synchronised on each track it was like driving an ocean liner in a high sea. First the bonnet would rise and at any speed over a crawl, you were thrown back against the seat and if you were not expecting it, hit your head on the rear window of the cab. The tractor then passed on over the cleat, suddenly changing from a rising motion at the front to a fall. The driver was then thrown forward in the seat and if unlucky, caught a nasty whack from the steering levers. If the cleats were un-synchronised on each track then the tractor progressed across the field with what can only be described as a "rolling gate".
Of course the addition of the cleats found the next weak point in the drive line, the steering clutches. These seemed to fail on a regular basis every Saturday morning in the winter ploughing season. Normally the call would come in to the works and all the mechanics would suddenly find other urgent jobs. We all knew that the tractor would be covered in thick cold mud and the shed in which it was kept was fully air-conditioned. This meant that it was only a roof, no sides, in November this was not the place to be enjoyed on a Saturday.
One particular day the call to fix the crawler came in the middle of the week. My “boy” Richard, and I drew the short straw. The tractor was at Ivy Todd Farm. Off we went in our van with the County special tools and all the spares.
On arrival at the farm the County was pointed out to us, a speck in the distance across a ploughed field. "The steering clutch went on the final round around the headland. She's still got the plough on and the bonnet is in the hedge. I can not move her".
There was no way that we were going to replace a steering clutch where she was so hitching a ride on another tractor we rode down the neighbouring field, crossed a deep ditch, through a thorn hedge and arrived at the County in the hope of getting her back to the service van and onto some hard ground.
I climbed aboard and started the engine. When a steering clutch fails it normally slips. This one stalled the engine with a crunching noise. It certainly did not feel like clutch slip. I tried again. This time with a little more power and very carefully. The right track moved but the left stood still as if frozen. This was something more than a faulty clutch.
I decided to look into the top of the rear axle. This was reasonably easy as the tractor was not fitted with a hydraulic lift. The problem was moving all the plough points and other spares that collected in the cab over the season. This done we removed the top.
The left hand bull gear had broken up and was jammed into the bull pinion shaft. I think this was the only time I ever saw a bull gear fracture across the spokes and jam in this way. There was also little chance of freeing it with fair means. It was back to base, load up with the oxy-acetylene cutting gear and back again to the farm, this time with the lorry.
The memory is too painful of the struggle to get the cutting gear down to the tractor, across the ditch and through the hedge. We had to get underneath to drain the rear axle oil and a crawler is pretty low to the ground. The pump mounting plate had to come off to allow us access to the bottom part of the bull gear. The soil was cold and waterlogged and a hole had to be dug and laid in with oil dripping in your face and water soaking into your clothing from the rear. In this confined place we had to work with first the cutting gear then hammers, chisels and levers to free the broken gear. Eventually we got the broken gear out but the bull pinion was extensively damaged. We had unhitched the plough to get at the rear end, so I started the engine and carefully tried to move. This time things happened but with just the stump of the bull gear in to hold the bearing, there was no possibility of drive to the left hand side. I drove out of that field, across the ploughed work by turning in circles to the left and gradually working my way to the lorry.
We winched her onto the lorry and headed for the works for a dry out and a warm. When it came to unloading the County we found it was easier to get onto the lorry than get off. We had the winch to pull her up the skids but no motive power to pull her down. I decided that the best way was to gently ease her down the skids under her own power with another tractor holding her straight.
I had forgotten the cleats!!!
Half way down the skids they went out of sync. Suddenly I was on a "cake walk" swinging from side to side. She came off the skids and dropped about a foot onto concrete. My head came into sharp contact with the top of the cab. I was really glad to get her back running and out of my hair for another few weeks.
Another County story that has gone down in history concerns a publicity stunt that County’s carried out some years ago.
To publicize the ability of the tractor to work on waterlogged ground they fitted a Super 4 (with four equal sized wheels) with floatation tanks and tyres and drove it across the English Channel. County called the tractor a "Sea Horse". The stunt was reported in all the trade press.
One of the local Ford agents sold a similar tractor on large flotation tyres to a gravel company making sure that everyone knew of the feat.
One hot summers day, soon after the tractor was new, the work force decided it would be a good idea to try out the County's ability to travel across one of the artificial lakes made by the extraction of the gravel.
Everyone climbed aboard, on the wings, on the bonnet all set for a trip around the lake. The County set off down the slope that led to the water traveling at a good speed. The driver intended to make a big splash.
The one thing that the salesman had failed to tell the staff when he was extolling the abilities of the "Sea Horse" was that the one that crossed the channel had extra flotation tanks as well as wide tyres.
The nearly new County went into the water like a submarine, leaving all her passengers on the surface. It took a police frogman team to find her, fit a rope and winch her up from the deep. Luckily no major damage occurred and a change of all oils, removing the injectors and fuel pump for cleaning and draining the diesel tank, was all that was needed. When all was replaced she ran like a bird again
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