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Atom Tractor – Switzerland

December 31, 2016 in Articles, Machinery

Barford Atom Single Wheeled

Barford Atom Single Wheeled at Tractor World, Newbury.

Researching the history of a machine can be fascinating and sometimes brings up how and where machines have been distributed throughout the world, often all it takes is a photograph or a nagging question and before we know it a whole shed load of information appears. This is very true of the Barford Atom Tractor as mentioned in the December 2016 issue of ‘The Cultivator’ magazine, members can download a copy here. A single-wheeled Atom was exhibited at Tractor World, Newbury in October, and Charlie photographed another at the Museum of English Rural life (MERL) also in October. Below is some more information about the single-wheeled Atom tractor.

Prototype

1945 Prototype by Mechanised Horticultural Implements of Hampshire.

According to the excellent reference book 70 Years of Garden Machinery, Mechanised Horticultural Implements of Hampshire demonstrated a prototype Atom tractor in 1945 with a planned name of Atom Major. The image on the right from the VHGMC archive is of the prototype which varies greatly from the final machine and had hardly any resemblance to what went into production. Click the image top-right from Newbury to see the machine.

We also have a 1947 photograph, below right, of the inventor, a Mr G.H.F. Knight along with the now production ready single wheeled Atom, this is the point where the tractors went into proper production when Barford Ltd became involved in the manufacturing and marketing. 

But there’s additional information which takes the Atom on a little known journey to Switzerland. I suppose this article could be called ‘Little Atom’s Big Swiss Adventure’ as they obviously had high hopes for their machine and must have gone to great lengths to set up numerous demonstrations.

April 1947. Mr G.H.P. Knight (left) inventor of the Atom Tractor, and the Earl of Portsmouth. They are both directors of Horticultural Implements LTD, which have entered into an agreement whereby Barford (Agricultural) LTD undertake the whole of the manufacture and selling of this miniature tractor. As of May 1947 less than 100 Atoms are in use.

April 1947. Mr G.H.P. Knight (left) inventor of the Atom Tractor, and the Earl of Portsmouth. They are both directors of Horticultural Implements LTD, which have entered into an agreement whereby Barford (Agricultural) LTD undertake the whole of the manufacture and selling of this miniature tractor. As of May 1947 less than 100 Atoms are in use.

In 1948 a newspaper article ran:  ‘Grantham’s Atom tractors, smallest in the world, and manufactured by Barford Ltd have gone to Switzerland this week, where, following demonstrations as from next Wednesday it is hoped to capture the Swiss market.’

The article continues with: ‘Three machines have been sent and a vine sprayer has been produced, this special machine being designed for operating on the very narrow terraces of the Swiss countryside to keep down disease among the vines by spraying them with insecticide’.

It would seem that transport issues and getting to Switzerland had to be resolved at the last minute as ‘In view of transport difficulties the company decided to convey the machines from Grantham to Geneva on their own lorry, but this vehicle supplied a few years ago by the Grantham Motor Company had already covered 30,000 miles. With time running short in which to make it suitable for the journey, it was sent to the Motor Company for whom the Ford Motor Company provided a new engine, which was installed within two days. New tyres were fitted, the lorry repainted and it left on Sunday.’ Mr Thatcher of sales staff left to make preparations in Switzerland, and today Mr Parsons, general manager goes by air to Geneva to take charge of the demonstrations which are to be given at many centres. Lord Portsmouth and Mr Knight (in the ‘Inventor of the Atom’ image above) join the party at Geneva. The Atom is already finding a good market in New Zealand, Kenya, South America, the Channel Islands and Eire.

The following year a UK newspaper article appeared describing the Atom as “The mechanical gardener of 1949”.  and that it had just been demonstrated for the first time at Belton Gardens, Grantham. Powered by a one-horsepower, four stroke engine, the tractor could be fitted with 16 different special implements for various purposes. (image below).

Barford Atom April 1949 - UK advert

Barford Atom April 1949 – UK advert

Click the images for larger versions.

Has anyone else got any more information? Let us know!


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