1989 - Volume #13, Issue #2, Page #02[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Wood-Burning Tractor Runs On Smoke"A lot of people don't believe it. They think you must put something else in the gas tank besides wood," says Reis Miltenburg, Lucknow, Ontario, who converted a 1946 Fordson Major tractor to run on wood gas using equipment he first saw during World War II in Holland.
Miltenburg amazes crowds at parades and antique tractor shows in his area when he drives up in his wood tractor which runs on wood chips he shovels into the side-mounted burner.
Miltenburg's hobby is restoring old tractors. He got the idea while telling friends about the wood-powered tractors he operated in Holland during the war before he emigrated to Canada in 1949. At that time wood-burning kits were supplied at no charge to farmers by the government. Farmers were required by law to use wood as fuel. All threshing and other fieldwork was done with wood fuel. It was nearly a full-time job for two people cutting wood for fuel. When he told Canadian friends about the wood-powered tractors, they didn't believe him and challenged him to build one. He couldn't find any plans so he had to rely on his memory and solve many of the problems of operating such a system on his own.
After about 1 year of cutting, welding and double welding, the unit was ready to test. He tried several methods of getting gas to the carburetor - sucking it with vacuum versus blowing it - before settling on a combination of methods. The engine starts on a small tank of gasoline. Suction draws wood gas to the carburetor and a fan blowˇing into the combustion chamber also helps push the wood gas along and helps keep the fire burning. Once the engine is warmed up, however, only the engine vacuum is required to draw in the wood gas and create enough air flow to keep the fire burning. It regulates its own mixture according to the load applied by means of a one way anti-backfire valve.
Miltenburg's son Ben, who helped with the project, says he thinks the idea would work great if we ever experience another gas crunch. "With a little modem technology, such as automatic timers and sensors to permit easier transition from gasoline to wood, you could make the units more operable. State-of-the-art filtering would eliminate the twice daily task of cleaning dirty filters. Other improvements could also be made but gas would have to get pretty expensive to make them worthwhile," he told FARM SHOW. The unit burns about 25 to 30 lbs. of wood per hour and the Miltenburgs have run it for upwards of 7 to 8 hrs. at a stretch. Wood chips are dumped into the iron fuel chamber. The wood gas in the chamber passes through a charcoal filter to two separate radiators which cool the hot air mixture in order to boost power as it enters the carburetor. After it exits the cooling radiators, it passes through another home-built filter made up of large pine cones which are changed every 10 to 12 hours to avoid a build-up of creosote. The gas then passes to the modified carburetor and into the engine.
Contact: FARM SHOW FOLLOWUP, Ben & Reis Miltenburg, Rt. 7, Lucknow, Ontario, Canada N0G 2H0 (ph 519 529-7516).
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