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Half-Scale Townsend Tractor
"My half-scale 1919 Townsend tractor looks and sounds just like the real thing and gets a lot of attention at shows and parades. I built it entirely from scratch," says  Lloyd Williamson, Luther, Okla., noting that the original Townsend was an unusual tractor because it was built to look like a steam-powered tractor but actually had a gas engine.
  The 7-ft. long tractor weighs 1,230 lbs. It's powered by a 1936 Fairbanks Morse 3 hp, water-cooled gas engine and rides on 20-in. high front cast iron wheels and 30-in. high rear steel wheels. Williamson screwed strips of retread rubber onto the rear wheels to smooth out the ride. He used a length of 12-in. dia. medium wall steel pipe to fashion the boiler. The front axle pivots on a steering box off an old pickup.
  "I tried to make it look as authentic as possible so that it would run like the real thing," says Williamson. "I built it entirely from parts I bought at swap meets and junk yards. I took photos of the real tractor in Kansas, then came home and built it. The Fairbanks Morse engine was given to me by a friend. It took almost two years to get the engine running because the magneto was frozen and I had a hard time finding parts for it. I found the cast iron wheels at an antique tractor show. I had to make wooden bearings to fit them onto the axles.
  "The original tractor was manufactured by Roy Townsend of Janesville, Kansas, who worked for Fairbanks Morse as an engineer and had a lot to do with the development of the Fairmor tractor. In 1914 Fairbanks Morse quit making tractors in the U.S., although they continued to make them in Canada. Townsend quit the company and set up his own factory in 1915. He built the Townsend tractor from 1915 to 1931, offering various models up to 60 hp. He designed a 2-cyl. gas engine for the tractor in which the two pistons traveled together - one fired one revolution and then the other fired. The alternate firing gave the tractor an even firing sound, unlike the ŠJohnny Popper' sound made by Deere tractors.
   "Townsend wanted the gas engine tractor to look like a steam tractor in order to boost sales. By 1915 steam engines had plowed up most of the prairie and were becoming obsolete. Farmers were already very familiar with the look of steam tractors but wanted smaller, less expensive, gas or kerosene powered tractors which were just becoming available. The Townsend tractor's boiler tube frame had the radiator inside it and a smokestack on front. Air coming off the engine moved through the radiator and out the exhaust stack. However, my model has a water hopper instead of the radiator.
  "I used the transaxle running gear from a 1936 Shaw walk-behind tractor and turned it backward. The transaxle running gear was equipped with a Model A transmission and spider gears out of a Model T car. In low gear there's a 136:1 reduction from the input shaft to the axle and in high gear a 36:1 reduction ratio. It'll go 1/2 mph in low gear and 5 to 6 mph in high gear depending on the speed of the engine.
  "Townsend's first model, the Bower City, was used until 1918 when he introduced the 12-25, a 2-cyl. model with an engine that had a 7-in. bore and an 8-in. stroke. In 1919 he introduced the 15-30 model which used the same engine as the 1225 with a few minor improvements. By 1924 the company offered five different models. In 1931 a Wisconsin company took it over and offered the tractor as late as 1932."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lloyd Williamson, 19201 E. Hefner Rd., Luther, Okla. 73054 (ph 405 454-3449).

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1999 - Volume #23, Issue #4