Co Lim­er­ick en­thu­si­ast knows as much as any­one about these early in­ter­nal Wor­thy owner of trio of the sur­viv­ing Over­times

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COVER STORY - Justin Roberts

When ex­ter­nal com­bus­tion, us­ing steam, gave way to in­ter­nal com­bus­tion, us­ing the new liq­uid fos­sil fu­els, at the start of the last cen­tury, many at­tempts were made to har­ness the new tech­nol­ogy, and ap­ply it to trac­tors. This cross­over pe­riod led to many de­signs that owed more to the legacy of the trac­tion en­gine mind­set rather than the recog­ni­tion of the new op­por­tu­ni­ties that small, light, com­pact power units of­fered.

The up­shot of this some­what con­fused pe­riod was the cre­ation of ma­chines that are barely recog­nis­able as trac­tors today, with an en­gi­neer­ing tus­sle go­ing on be­tween three main camps.

They were: the motor plough, which at­tempted to bolt an en­gine and cul­ti­va­tor to­gether. the Wal­lis ‘com­bi­na­tion frame’, which was the fore­run­ner of trac­tors as we know them today. and last, but not least, the ex­ter­nal frame type, where the var­i­ous com­po­nents were a r r a n g e d s e p a r at e l y o n a chas­sis.

It was, of course, the Wal­lis Cub that won the evo­lu­tion­ary race, but that does not mean to say that the oth­ers did not pos­sess mer­its of their own.

Of the frame types, one of the bet­ter-known trac­tors that found its way over to Euro­pean shores was the Over­time, an Amer­i­can trac­tor built by the Water­loo Boy Gaso­line En­gine Com­pany of Iowa, who started ship­ping them over in kit form to the UK dur­ing the First World War.

Be­fore he went on to develop the modern agri­cul­tural trac­tor, a gen­tle­man by the name of Harry Fer­gu­son was ap­pointed the Over­time trac­tors agent for all of Ire­land, and he sold a good num­ber over here, five of which are still known to be in work­ing or­der.

Three of these are in the more than ca­pa­ble hands of Billy Done­gan, who is based at Feenagh, Co Lim­er­ick. How Billy came to have such an in­ter­est in these ma­chines is more a case of happy cir­cum­stance rather than a par­tic­u­lar pre-oc­cu­pa­tion with trac­tors from that era.

He was build­ing a suc­cess­ful car deal­er­ship with agen­cies for Dai­hatsu and Seat in the vil­lage where he still lives. Like all garages of the time, he would rarely turn away any sort of work, so he also found him­self deal­ing in trac­tors, and other items of farm ma­chin­ery, which is when he came across the re­mains of his first Over­time, which also be­came his first ever restora­tion project.

The scale of the restora­tion task should not be un­der­esti­have mated, be­cause there were no off-the-shelf spare parts for this trac­tor, and very lit­tle in the way of man­u­als or any other sources of in­for­ma­tion. An am­bi­tious start, and very lit­tle progress was made, in fact none at all for many years, be­cause he was busy with the motor busi­ness. Yet, he was happy that this piece of Ir­ish farm­ing his­tory had been res­cued from an ig­no­min­ious end of rust and net­tles, and that its time to shine would come again. In fact, it took over 30 years for that mo­ment to ar­rive, af­ter a great deal of hard work and re­search in the pe­riod lead­ing up to its com­ple­tion in 2000.

The prob­lems were nu­mer­ous, but Billy, who had served his ap­pren­tice­ship with a Lim­er­ick-based Mor­ris agency, is a re­source­ful chap, and a nat­u­ral me­chanic, two qual­i­ties that were very much needed for the task.

As spry and fit as ever, he walks around the ma­chine, point­ing out the ma­jor jobs that needed at­ten­tion. The big­gest was the com­plete re­place­ment of the chas­sis rails, which were made of 6” by 2” chan­nel.

This was a stan­dard di­men­sion in Amer­ica. But, over here, the clos­est he could ob­tain to that size was 6” by 3”. Un­de­terred, he set about cut­ting an inch strip off each side of the chan­nel wall to en­sure di­men­sions were cor­rect and all the parts would fit. These were then pressed into shape and as­sem­bled to form the ‘milk bot­tle’ shape of the frame, which was re­built with only a 1:32 scale model as a guide. Billy qui­etly con­fides that his first Over­time is ac­tu­ally a cou­ple of inches shorter than it should be, but I think we can for­give him that slight trans­gres­sion, given the cir­cum­stances.

The front axle is of a beam type, with steer­ing by chains, just as we find on trac­tion en­gines, while the rear axle is at least blessed with a dif­fer­en­tial, al­though it has only one speed for­ward and one speed in re­verse.

The stan­dard 2mph top for field work can be in­creased to 2½ mph for road haulage, by lit­er­ally chang­ing the gears. The drive cogs can be re­placed with slightly larger wheels, which ne­ces­si­tates that the rear axle is drawn back, to ac­com­mo­date their larger di­am­e­ter, an op­er­a­tion of some hours, not quite as slick as the av­er­age gear change of today, so Billy keeps it in race trim for shows and events, where the ex­tra ve­loc­ity is use­ful in pa­rades. Res­ur­rect­ing the drive wheels was a task that would daunted a less ca­pa­ble man, be­cause the pair re­quired a com­plete re­build, with the cor­rect num­ber and type of spokes par­tic­u­lar to the year of pro­duc­tion. Such mun­dane items as wheel spokes may hardly seem a cause of con­ster­na­tion, but Billy has an urge for de­tail that re­quires they be con­sid­ered as thor­oughly as any other com­po­nent, and he will list the types and the years in which they were fit­ted.

The ‘T’, the ‘L’ and oval, each have their place in the his­tory of the trac­tor, and Billy knows ex­actly where they fit in.

Such ex­per­tise has not passed un­no­ticed, and the name of Billy Done­gan is known as far afield as Amer­ica, where he has been cred­ited as know­ing as much about the make as any other man alive, an ac­col­speed

“Billy qui­etly con­fides that his first Over­time is ac­tu­ally a cou­ple of inches shorter than it should be, but I think we can for­give him that slight trans­gres­sion, given the cir­cum­stances

Billy Done­gan, Feenagh, Co Lim­er­ick, who has three of the five Over­time trac­tors in work­ing or­der in Ire­land.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.