horticultural

by alan

The Cultivator Magazine – April 2021

April 17, 2021 in Club News

Landing on VHGMC subscribers doorsteps shortly will be the April issue of ‘The Cultivator’.

This issue contains articles about the Gravely 430 tractor from Marcus Stephens, the British Anzani Iron Horse from Bryan Garnham; Gutbrod tractors from Steven Little, and part four about the Villiers Engineering company from Ian Barnes. Plus the events diary, classified adverts, and more. 

Members who have paid their yearly subscriptions can log in and download a digital version from the Members Download tab at the top of the page. 







by alan

12 Christmas Questions 2020

December 18, 2020 in Articles, Club News

It is once again December and here are twelve horticultural questions we have gathered together to pass a few minutes.  The answers are at the bottom of the page. 

Last year’s questions can be found here: 2019 Christmas Questions.


Questions:

Q1: Jonsered make a range of machines, but nationality was the founder?

1. Jonsered are famous for chainsaws, but also make a huge range of mowers, tillers, cultivators and powered equipment. Jonsered is based in the Swedish town of Jonsered. It was founded in 1832, but what nationality was the gentleman that founded the company?

A: Scottish
B: American
C: Australian

—————-

 

Q2: What does the Husqvarna logo represent?

2. We are all familiar with Husqvarna. Their current logo is a development of their original logo but what does it represent?

A: Cross section of their first engine crankcase
B: Gun sight viewed from the end of the barrel
C: Their family emblem from Huskvarna, Sweden. 


—————–


Q3: What was the distinguishing feature of the Wheel Horse B145 tractor?

3. In 1975 in the UK Wheel Horse launched the model B145 tractor which was aimed at warehouse and factory use for moving goods about. But what was the distinguishing feature of this machine that meant it required more than one battery?

A: It had electric power steering 
B: It was powered by electric
C: It had an electric fork-lift as standard


——————


Q4: AYP in Orangeburg produced products carrying which brand name?

4. American Yard Products, better known as AYP (and associated with Electrolux), is based in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They produce a huge range of badge-engineered machines. But which of the following names did they make branded products for which were sold in the UK? 

A: Victa
B: Black & Decker 
C: Flymo

——————–


Q5: Allen sold the Gutbrod HB46B mower with what feature?

5.  In the mid 1980’s, Allen Power Equipment were advertising the Gutbod HB46B lawn mower. This was a really basic pedestrian pushed mower with a pressed steel shell, 47cm width of cut, 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine with recoil start and a maximum 4″ cut height. It cost £199.50 ex vat in the 1980’s. But what outstanding feature was it advertised as having? 

A: It had telescopic handles to suit all users across Europe
B: It had the largest grass collecting box in Europe
C: It had a flexible yet reinforced nylon cutting blade to withstand damage, an industry first in Europe. 

———————-


Q6: The Gilson YT11E had an unusual feature, but what?

6. Also in the 1980’s, Ensign Distribution Ltd of Sedgefield were advertising the Gilson YT11E garden tractor, available with an 11hp Briggs and Stratton engine and either a five speed manual transmission (£1675+vat) or hydrostatic drive (£2083+vat). They were able to take mower decks, dozer blade, snow blower and a rear tiller. But what unusual feature did the tractors have that needed to be done in order to start the engine? 

A: A pin code needed to be typed in on a keypad
B: A button on the steering wheel needed to be held in for five seconds
C: The gear/hydro shift selector had to be in a specific position labelled ‘Stop and Start’

———————


Q7: Was it the Merry Tiller?

7. In the 1975 budget VAT was added to domestic use horticultural machines at the rate of 25%. The rate for commercial machines was 8%. At the time the definition of a commercial machine was (and I quote) “entirely subjective according to the manufacturers own estimation of his product” although there were guidelines. Regardless of it’s capabilities, which of these cultivators was classed as domestic in 1975? 

A: Howard Gem cultivators
B: Merry Tiller cultivators
C: Honda F80K cultivator

——————–


Q8: Do you remember the Guiness Book of World Records?

8. How many of us can remember getting the Guinness Book of World Records at Christmas? In 1989 a diesel  Iseki SG15 ride-on mower was in the Guinness Book of World Records because it had been driven between Harlow and Southend Pier, it’s a 40 mile distance between the two, but why did this feat enable it to be a record breaker? 

A: It was driven backwards the entire 40 mile distance in 5 hours and 51 minutes breaking the previous record by 34 minutes for a ride-on-mower in reverse covering that distance
B: It was driven back and forth between the two places until it had racked up 3034 miles
C: It achieved 34 mpg over an uninterupted 40 mile distance making it the most economical ride-on-mower on sale in the UK.

——————–

Q9: Who was based in Sheffield and originally started in 1730?

9. Garden centres sell a range of hand tools from companies such as Wilkinson Sword, Draper and Fiskars, with some other names just used for branding tools and marketing purposes. But which name, that can be found on hand tools, was originally started in 1730 and based in Sheffield? Was it: 

A: Ceka (CK) Tools 
B: Spearwell 
C: Burgon & Ball

————————-


Q10: Which company is associated with the Waterolla?

10. The 1970’s ‘Waterolla’ garden roller that could be filled with water or sand and now a much copied design was originally a product of which company? 

A: Poly-Gard Products
B: Kirk-Dyson
C: Gardena




————————–

Q11: What AL-KO product from the three would be easiest to get into an Austin Metro car?

11. An easy question: In the 1980’s which of these bright yellow painted machines sold by AL-KO Britain LTD would be easiest to fold up and without scratching the paintwork get into the back of a desirable Austin Metro car of the time? 

A: AL-KO Alkotrac 
B: AL-KO Corvet City 
C: AL-KO Farmer scythe



————


Q12: Who made the M3, M30, Super and Monarch models?

12. A range of machines, produced from the 1960’s and later, with the advertised model numbers and names of M3, M30, Super and Monarch, were by which manufacturer

A: Mountfield – retailed under the Mountfield name
B: Morrison – retailed under the Flymo name
C: Murray – retailed under the Hayter name

————


Answers:


1: A: Scottish. Jonsered was founded in 1832 by Scotsman William Gibson. The company moved into making chainsaws in the mid 20th century. Jonsered was sold to Electrolux in 1978.

2: B: The Husqvarna logo is based on the image of a gun sight. The company was originally founded as the Jonkoping Rifle Factory in the 1600’s producing about 1500 musket pipes per year. Later, the company name changed to the Husqvarna Rifle Factory.

3: B: The Wheel Horse B145 was a battery powered tractor sold in the UK as a warehouse tug. It was based on an equivalent battery-powered garden tractor model by Elec-Trak, a company which Wheel Horse had purchased from General Electric. 

4: C: Flymo. American Yard Products (AYP) of Orangeburg, South Carolina, produced silver painted ride-on-mowers badge engineered as Flymo from the 1980’s. AYP had company associations with Electrolux and as such produced machines under many of the Electrolux brand names including Flymo, Poulan, Bernard and Sovereign to name a few. 

5: B: The Gutbrod HB46B had the largest grassbox in Europe at the time. How well-balanced and easy to push the machine was as the grassbox filled up, particularly with wet UK grass, was perhaps open to scrutiny.  

6: A: Pin code on a keypad. The Gilson YT11E  tractor in the 1980’s featured the ECAM 2000 Computer Monitoring and Testing setup. This required the user to type in a pin number on a keypad to start the tractor rather than using a key. ECAM 2000 also told the user when to change the oil, check the tractor or battery, alerted the driver when they were in reverse gear and whenever an implement such as mower or tiller was engaged.

7: B: Merry Tiller cultivators were classed as domestic machines and subject to 25% VAT from 1975. Surprisingly, most cultivators were classed as domestic although this did change over time. Initially in 1975 only the Howard Gems, Wolseley Twin-Six cultivator, Iseki K1000 30 and Honda F80K were deemed to be commercial machines and had 8% VAT. 

8: B: The Iseki SG15 with hydrostatic drive was driven back and forth for a total of 3034 miles between Harlow and Southend Pier in 1989. This made it the longest lawnmower drive at that date and why it entered the record books. 

9: C: Burgon & Ball which still exists in Sheffield has it’s company origins starting in 1730, their name can be found on garden tools being sold in garden centres and online today. By the mid-1800’s Charles Burgon and James Ball are listed as sheep shear manufacturers in Sheffield. Later they are listed as manufacturers of sheep shears, sickles, scythes, knives and garden shears. They registered their invention for “Improvement in the manufacture of sheep shears” in 1869, selling their patent sheep shears worldwide and exhibiting at the Sydney Exhibition in 1880. By 1900 it was an international company, but by the 1920’s the production of garden equipment had outstripped that of sheep shears.

10: B: Kirk-Dyson. In the 1970’s, the Waterolla garden roller which could be filled with water was being sold by Kirk-Dyson. One partner better known as James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame. There was also the plastic bodied Ballbarrow which has a round football-type wheel and was a design by James Dyson.

11. B: In the early 1980’s the advertised AL-KO Corvet City was a small foldable electric lawnmower that took up little space. The Alkotrac was a lawn tractor and the Farmer scythe was a reasonably sized, pedestrian machine, petrol powered with an out-front scythe attachment. It’s a reasonable assumption that more AL-KO machines have survived than Austin Metros.

12: A: Mountfield made the M3 (mower), M30 (rider mower) and the Super and Monarch cultivators. The Australian company Morrison had associated with Flymo, and also Hayter with Murray. 

Did you get them all correct? 

by alan

The Perils of Collecting…..

November 22, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Whatever you are collecting the machine may be out there!

We are possibly all guilty of wasting time looking through classified adverts in the tractor or vintage magazines or browsing online auctions, this is usually done under the guise of ‘research purposes’ even if we sometimes just accidentally end up purchasing the item. The purchase can then be further justified as saving another piece of history and the item joins the ever expanding collection without any sin being committed.

These are my personal thoughts on collecting all things horticultural. Easy and from the comfort of one’s own home, one of the best places to find things is online. But I find online auctions can sometimes be a complete muddle of contradictory statements. For instance a heap of rust for sale doesn’t correlate with its dubious glowing description of a machine needing nothing more than a bit of TLC, or the fact that the engine is scattered between several Tupperware boxes doesn’t necessarily constitute an ‘easy DIY repair’. Other adverts can bring a smile to the face of the people who know the seller is trying to big up their merchandise like a street trader hustling items from a suitcase, making it sound like it’s a once in a life-time opportunity, which it rarely is. Conversely, some rare or unusual machines have passed under the radar, sadly their sales description letting down the unknowing seller from getting a better price or a potential buyer missing out on finding that desired machine.

My favourite online auction machinery description to justify the potential that a machine is still in working order is: “Was working when last used”. Quite frankly, I hope it was working when last used! I often wonder if the rest of the selling statement could be ‘…but not working now’ or possibly ‘…but we cannot get it to start/run/move since it’s been sitting in the shed for thirty years’, which rather puts a damper on the auction.

There’s a huge range of machines out there – but will they run and work as intended once they’ve been brought home?

In this Northern household we take the view that anything with a petrol engine isn’t going to run when purchased, accordingly “Was working when last used” is taken with a pinch of salt. If it does run then it’s a complete bonus and we celebrate by taking the whippet for a pint down’t pub.

I’ve also been dismayed when clicking on a garden tractor advert that’s still at its 99p starting bid only to find that the seller is actually selling the machine for spares. Acting like Arthur Daley of the mower world the seller cunningly announces one is bidding “for a wheel nut only”. I’m always tempted to ask to buy all the wheel nuts, thus hopefully leaving the buyer with a wheel-less and immovable machine in the middle of his garage floor that he can fall over for the foreseeable future.

Having a machine that is moveable is pretty important. It reminds me of a trip one spring to somewhere south of a great metropolis to collect a non-running garden tractor that turned out to also have a couple of flat tyres. Google Street View did a tragically poor job of warning us of the front-garden-cum-municipal-tip-devastation we had to extract the tractor from. We knew we were in trouble when even the owner went out for the day and left us to sort it out for ourselves. A challenge wading through a sea of pizza boxes, beer cans and half a scrap yard, including the ubiquitous car up on bricks and a safe with the door jemmied open, and all at the front of a semi-detached house. I’m told it’s called character building but I’d call it unfortunate; yet we did rescue a tractor and that means it’s another guilt-free purchase.  

The tractor we rescued had one additional label, it was that of an auction. Over the years we have had a few machines that have obviously been bought for tuppence at a local sale and then put online in the hope of bagging a magnificent profit. I’m all for enterprise and if people can find a bargain then sell it on for a profit then good for them and I wish them every success. It’s possible that many machines that are now in collectors hands may have been sourced from agricultural sales, house clearances or free-ads before filtering down through online auctions. I wonder how many machines and tools have been saved from the scrap man because they ended up on online auctions, their last chance of rescue before being dismembered or going to the crusher?

Perhaps collecting hand tools would be an easier option?

But this collecting lark is not without perils. If you are into collecting hand tools with no moving parts then you are very sensible and on to a winner, probably spotting all the bargains I blindly overlook. The most problematic that simple hand tools can get is rust, broken welds or woodworm. However, if any collectable has an engine, gearbox or anything of mechanical importance to the machine actually working as intended, then the money can start flowing and all hopes of saving up for that holiday in the Maldives vanishes. Who needs a foreign holiday anyway? Hours wasted whilst sat idly at an airport when instead one could be back at home trying to source no-longer-available parts for a knackered Tecumseh engine!

Of course the machines we collect are getting older and for some the original spares are getting rarer and some aftermarket reproduction parts can be a potential gamble. Sometimes this can mean turning to the lucky dip put forth by the internet and sticking our oily hands into the digital bran barrel of parts that may or may not fit. I’ve found that cross-referencing part numbers between different machines and manufacturers is a skill, it’s almost an art form; I’m getting good at it.

Once parts have been identified and ordered it’s at this point that doubt could set in, especially if the confirmation email says that the parts aren’t located in the UK after all, the website plainly lied. Imagine if Google Street View comes up trumps this time and, with glee, informs the buyer that indeed the heavy crankshaft for the twin cylinder engine isn’t coming from a seller in a picturesque Cotswold village, instead it’s coming from a bedsit in a backstreet in China that looks scary even in daylight. Will the purchase turn up? Estimated delivery time: Eventually. Plus the frightening thought of import duty and VAT. But that’s a story for another day.

by alan

Engine Replacement Guide

October 25, 2020 in Machinery

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the engine on a machine, usually this is because the existing one, often the original, has come to the end of it’s life and parts are no longer available or it’s just not cost effective. A new replacement engine is the obvious choice and there’s many brands to choose from including the ‘knock-off’ copies of many. Also as important is if the machine in question; a garden tractor, ride-on mower, lawnmower, tiller, etc is required to still look the part and have an age-related engine rather than new in which case a second-hand engine is an option.

From 1985 I have a useful brochure detailing a replacement engine guide from the Engine Division of ‘Autocar Electrical Equipment Co. Ltd’ at the time based in Barking Essex. This guide, which is actually a piece of marketing, details both vertical and horizontal engines between 2hp and 11hp from Briggs & Stratton which can be used in place of Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Robin, Suzuki, Aspera, Tecumseh, Villiers, Mag and Kubota.

It is interesting to see across the board how different engine specs relate between differing manufacturers. I’m sure there will many other engine replacement guides available.

For research purposes, this guide can be downloaded or opened on your computer as an A4 or A3 PDF, you can use the PDF controls to zoom in, often in the bottom right of the PDF screen, on the data.

Download A4 Replacement Engine Brochure

Download A3 Replacement Engine Sheet


by alan

Around The Country With Atco

August 23, 2020 in Club News

An Atco mower at the Hereford Bowling Club in 1929. The bowling green still exists.

Successful advertising can make all the difference to a brand. Displaying a product to the public can aspire them to owning one as well as convincing them they deserve something better than bog standard. Just think how cunning  the newspapers, magazines, TV or internet adverts are at convincing us to upgrade our ideas and our spending power, too.  Joe Bloggs may only have a patch of grass big enough for a 12″ push mower but advertising will do it’s hardest to convince him that a 14″ model would make more sense, no, perhaps a 16″, or even 18″ would be better and have (unneeded) added features too, how about petrol instead of electric, and self propelled would be an advantage. Eventually that £49.99 purchase becomes £349.99 and the newly acquired mower spends several weeks being hidden in the shed, hiding from the family, like the guilty secret it is. 

The better the advert then potentially the better the merchandise will be presented to the public. That’s the theory, anyway. Paying an advertising company to create convincing sales material to sell ones horticultural machinery should be a wise move. A good advert is easy to spot, advertising boffins have obviously spent time, considered how a range of adverts look and been compiled and the resulting consistency makes the public feel reassured. 

A new fleet of Atco liveried Morris vans outside the Morris premises at Foundry Lane, Soho, Birmingham, in 1932.

As an example, in 1967 Mountfield hired the services of Robinson, Scotland and Partners to create consistent adverts for their Mountfield and Wheel Horse machinery. Additionally, manufacturers did provide copy (text), images, incentives and assist franchised dealerships with advertising. I even have a set of Flymo printing plates for dealerships to use. 

Atco was another manufacturer who, from the following adverts, hired professionals to carefully craft adverts. From around the country they used photographs of well known landmarks, pristine properties and testimonials to create the ambiance that their mowers were far superior to any other make. Have a look at the six adverts below from the likes of The Crystal Palace and the Italian garden of Lord Birkenhead and see if the adverts convince you that their machines are the very best. 


1930 Atco advert. Trent Bridge, Nottingham, scene of the first test match beginning June 13th. Also the Oval, Brisbane, Australia. Both maintained by Atco lawnmowers.

Atco lawnmower used at the Crystal Palace, London, since 1924. As shown in this 1930 advert.



Battle Abbey, Sussex, had been using Atco lawnmowers since 1922.  Advert from 1930.


An Atco lawnmower was used by Sir Algernon Guiness at his home in Henfield. The property still exists but the pristine lawn does not.

Atco mowers were used at Hawarden Castle, Flint since 1926.


Lord Birkenhead used (or rather his gardener did) an Atco mower at the Italian gardens of his residence at Charlton, Banbury.

by alan

1951 Exhibitions

July 21, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Pickfords transporting a locomotive to the Festival of Britain

On the 4th May 1951 the Festival of Britain opened to the public. Newspaper reports say that the idea first began to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The main 1951 Festival was located on a 27 acre site on the South Bank, London, and promoted industry, arts and science and inspired a vision of Britain in the future. Other locations included Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Canterbury etc. and events took place in numerous cities, towns and villages bringing the country together.

A vast array of exhibitors, events, crafts and craftsmen took part. The picture shows Pickfords negotiating the streets of St. Albans as they transported a locomotive from Lancashire to London as an exhibit for the Festival. 

Find out more about the Festival on Wikipedia: Wikipedia Link

The Council of Industrial Design compiled a list of items for display at the Festival of Britain, these included furniture with a preoccupation of plywood and brightly coloured fabrics. Household items, artwork, science, agriculture, industry and machinery right up to locomotives as we have seen. But I cannot find if any of the well known manufacturers of horticultural, grounds or garden machinery took part. Does anyone know? 

Allen Scythe Saw Bench

However I have report from the same year of 1951 for the National Association of Groundsmans Exhibition in October 1951. This was held at the Hurlingham Club, London; on, it would seem, perfectly manicured lawns. Fifty-two companies took part showing their products.

We can see that in 1951 a large number of interesting items were being displayed. These included the latest attachment for the Allen Scythe. It was a saw bench with a 16″ diameter blade capable of cutting to 6″, it has an adjustable guard. Other equipment were a power sprayer, electric generator and a front-mounted rotary brush which can be seen in the image behind the saw bench. 

Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main

Items from Sisis also appear. The advertised “Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main” with attached turf aerator could work at a claimed 4mph and put 250,000 holes into two acres per hour. Rakes, rollers and brushes were available as attachments. Available from Hargreaves Ltd, Sisis Works, Cheadle, and Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Ltd, Ipswich. 

1hp Dorman Sprayer

The Dorman Sprayer Co. from Cambridge had a power-driven sprayer suitable for fields, orchards or gardens. It had a 15 gallons tank, treated against corrosion and a 1hp engine. Are there any of these sprayers still in existence? 

Gravely Estate Power Unit

Another machine that looks mighty interesting was the Estate Power Unit from Gravely Overseas Ltd, Buckfastleigh, Devon. This two-wheeled unit had a 2.5hp four stroke engine with forward and reverse gears and a speed of up to 3mph. It could be fitted with a 42″ cutter bar mower, a 24″ cylinder mower, hedge trimmer, pump, generator, compressor, 8″ plough, cultivating tool frame and a cart. Is this Estate Power Unit another machine that has vanished or has someone got an example in their shed? 

Two intriguing photographs to finish. The first is the plant protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. It was housed in a caravan which was described as ‘gleaming in chromium plate and perspex’ which sums up the modern and bright future that may lay ahead. The second photograph is a general view, showing the stands of T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons. I wonder what all the machinery on display was? Can you name the tractor on the right-hand side? 

If anyone knows any machinery that was at the Festival of Britain in 1951 then we’d be pleased to hear. 

The Plant Protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. A caravan in chromium plate and perspex.

T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons stands, 1951.


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable. 

by alan

Build a DIY Tractor

May 17, 2020 in Articles

There are plans for many machines, including this petrol-powered shredder in 1966

I’ve found many references in various online archives referring to home made garden machinery. Interestingly there’s many plans for garden tractors including both the two and four wheel variety. I suppose this should be no surprise as with a bit of inginuity, some workshop skills and a pile of parts, namely an engine, gearbox, wheels, and some means of steering or control, then anything is possible. 

I’ve also found a book from 1951 which looks like it could be of use….

….But before getting excited about sticking mechanical parts together in some sort of over sized Meccano kit experiment, lets  scrutinize carefully the advice given decades ago about concocting a tractor from bits…

1: The 1951 book advises that  the parts required may actually be a greater cost than buying a second hand machine, it quotes that a home made four wheel machine should cost no more than £25.0.0 and a two wheel machine about £5.0.0. Considering that at the time a new two wheel Farmers Boy started around £58 and a Gunsmith about £178, a considerable saving could be made. 

2: Spare parts may not be available in the future for the parts that the home made machine is compiled from. It was advised that it would be prudent to keep a stash of spares for when (not if) the home made machine breaks down. A spare engine and gearbox was suggested.

3: The home made machine may not (probably not) have the equipment and devices to keep the operator safe, like guards and easily accessible controls. This is referred to nowadays as an accident waiting to happen. 

Having satisfied ourselves that the project may be possible, we next need to have a suitable workshop. I’m reminded of a family story where a young person in the 60’s decided to overhaul his motorbike. Having nowhere suitable he decided the spare bedroom would be a solution. Revving the engine and attempting to drive upstairs was not a happy outcome when, in cartoon fashion, the stair carpet was ripped from it’s mountings whilst the motorbike remained at the foot of the stairs. The calamities did not end there as the eventually bedroom’ed motorbike was treated to a through clean, the result being spilled oil and petrol seeping through to the ceiling below. Outdoor space is therefore advised, plenty of room being a must for the intended project, unlike a long ago neighbour who had to remove the end of his garage in order to extract the trailer he had made.

Just like a cookery book, the 1951 book gives a list of ingredients but in mechanical form, yet doesn’t divulge any way of attaching one to another.

But if we want to jump in at the deep end and proceed with our 1951 book and muddle a machine together in an ad-hoc manner then it recommends the following parts for a four-wheel tractor, but no instructions:

An engine (7hp), gearbox, clutch, radiator, steering (modified), front axle (inverted), and a shortened chassis (4′ 8″) all from an Austin 7. A rear axle and differential from a Wolseley Hornet, 19″ rear wheels from a Trojan, and two 8″ wheel barrow wheels for the front. This would create a 6′ 5″ long tractor. 

A two-wheel tractor would again require scavenging parts from an Austin 7, these would be the engine, gearbox and clutch. The chassis would be home-made from angle-iron. The wheels would be 19″. This would give an 8′ long by 3′ wide machine. 

Without plans this may turn out to be a big challenge, but help is at hand to help us achieve a home-made machine, at least in the USA anyway….

1944 Shaw tractor advert

….Through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond In the USA many adverts appear ( try Popular Mechanics magazines) providing plans and diagrams to build a garden tractor, these would be a great idea as, presumably, many others have followed the plans with great success. 

The Shaw MFG. Co. of Kansas (image on the right) were offering plans for their tractors at $1 in 1944. This was due to the war limiting production of their own machines and therefore you could follow their plans and build your own using old car parts, and powered by a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine. A two wheel garden tractor that was powered by a 1/2hp to 3hp engine could also be made. Apparently a machine could be constructed in a few hours, that is if the parts were readily available. 

Build your own battery lawnmower in 1947

Or how about creating something futuristic from 1947 and building a battery powered lawnmower? Advertised as an ultra-modern rotary mower it could be made from inexpensive parts and an old motor, it looks interesting, and at just 35c I may enquire. 

We could also make something even more amazing like  the tracked Mini-Dozer or Mini-Beep lawn tractor in the style of a Jeep from Struck in the USA in the 1960’s. I know I’ve caught several peoples attention with the Mini-Beep pictured in the advert, below!

The Mini-Beep was a 4/5 scale, DIY kit of a WWII Willy’s Jeep. It was made out of plywood and had a mechanical 2wd or 4wd system. More impressive is that the Mini-Beep plans are still available to buy from the company today and the Mini-Dozer is available in kit form, too. The Mini-Beep would be a great project to undertake, especially as it can be fitted with a dozer blade or have a trailed mower for cutting the paddocks. Without a doubt, for me, I’d end up with a superior result rather than hacking an old Austin 7 to pieces!


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  

by alan

10 Machinery Questions

April 6, 2020 in Articles

Would you like to test your knowledge on vintage garden machinery? Here are ten general questions to pass five minutes, the answers are at the bottom of the page. 

If you missed the Christmas questions – they are much harder – then they can be found here: Christmas machinery quiz.


Questions:

Q1: This is a Brott ride-on, but what was their pedestrian machine called?

1. Brott mowers (see gallery) are interesting machines from the 1960’s and 1970’s. They are ride-on mowers with a flail cutting action. Brott also introduced a pedestrian controlled flail mower to their range in 1972, what descriptive name did they give this mower? 

A: Cuttit
B: Cropet
C: Choppit

—————-

Q2: What other manufacturer’s mower looks like this?

2. The Dynamark 10/36 ride-on-mower was available in the UK, image right (or larger image). It looks familiar to other ride-on-mowers of the 70’s and 80’s but which other manufacturer had an almost identical machine?

A: Mountfield
B: Lawnflite
C: Westwood



—————–

Q3: What attachment could the Merry Tiller have?

3. The Merry Tiller was a versatile machine with many attachments. Which of the following was a genuine attachment for some of the machines? 

A: Cement Mixer
B: Paint Sprayer
C: Elevator


——————

Q4: Not all MF tractors were painted red.

4. Massey Ferguson retailed a range of their MF badged machinery. Although most were painted red, which other colour were some of their early tractors painted?

A: Blue
B: Yellow
C: Green

——————–

Q5: Which manufacturer is associated with the 2WD Scout quad bike?

5. A yellow painted two-wheel drive quad-bike called the ‘Scout’ with an air-cooled Piaggio engine was produced by a well known machinery manufacturer in the 1980’s, but who was it? 

A: Marshall
B: Sisis
C: Massey Ferguson

———————-


Q6: What does O.T.A. stand for?

6. The company called O.T.A. made tractors that  started to appear in the late 1940’s. In 1953 the rights were sold to the Singer Motor Co. But what does O.T.A. stand for? 

A: Opperman Tractor Assembly 
B: Oak Tree Appliances
C: Oxford Trading Association

———————

7. An attachment was available to make some Flymo motorised cultivators more useful for the gardener, but which of the three listed attachments was it?

A: A wheelbarrow 
B: A chainsaw
C: A trailer

——————–

Q8: What else could the Gardenmaster do? 

8. Another attachment question:  In 1964 Landmaster Ltd was advertising the Gardenmaster tiller. It was a very useful piece of equipment and versatile, too. Advertised as being able to use various attachments it could be used for digging, weeding, lawn raking, grass cutting and which other task? 

A: Edging lawns
B: Sweeping paths
C: Hedge trimming

——————–

9. Around 1960 Lea Francis Cars based in Coventry were struggling with sales of  their new Lynx motor car and to try to fill the gap they produced which type of horticultural machine for a very short time?

A: A pedestrian mower with optional seat 
B: A garden tiller with flexi-drive tools
C: A tractor with optional attachments

————————-

Q10: What snack can sometimes be found here?

10. A certain food product can sometimes be found on VHGMC show stands if the Chairman is in attendance. What food item does he take along to share with everyone?

A: Pick & Mix
B: Luxury Belgian chocolate selection
C: Pork Pie

————

Answers:

1: B: The pedestrian controlled Brott flail mower was called the Cropet, it had an 80cm cut and featured hydrostatic drive.

2: C: The Westwood range of ride-on-mowers with the plastic front end are much the same machines as the Dynamark. 

Q3: Merry Tiller Cement Mixer

3: A: A Baromix cement mixer was available for some of the Merry Tillers

4: B: Yellow. Some of the early MF tractors such as the MF Elf were painted bright yellow and were based on Gutbrod tractors. 

5: A: Marshall had a couple of ‘Scout’ quad bikes produced and brought to the UK. After assessment they were dropped and never went on sale. 

6: B: The initials stand for Oak Tree Appliances. 

Q7: A wheelbarrow attachment was available for the Flymo cultivators.

7: A: A wheelbarrow attachment was available for some Flymo cultivators. It attached to the front of the machine. 

8: C: The Gardenmaster (as in Q8 image) could be equipped with a hedge trimming attachment that enabled hedges to be cut ten times faster than with hand shears. 

9: C: A tractor. Lea Francis produced the Uni-Horse tractor for about a year before they ceased trading. Manufacturing of the tractors was taken over by another company.

10:C: Pork pie.

by alan

Then & Now, Locations Home & Abroad

March 9, 2020 in Articles

This months meanderings is generally about one particular manufacturer, but also crosses the paths of Farmfitters, Kubota, Countax, Husqvarna and Wheel Horse. Initially taking us into the 1960’s on a short trip abroad and then a trip back over to the UK all thanks to Google Earth and Street View. However, having researched this I think I need a real holiday. 

This article is also partly about looking up places on Earth and Street View and seeing if the location of your machines manufacture is still there. Suprisingly many factories still exist, we have found five relating to one company and they exist on Google Earth, read on to find out more….

Norlett 8hp Tractor (Image: VHGMC)

An article from 1969 informs us that a new but small enterprise had just been established alongside the King Baudouin Motorway in Belgium and one of the two parties involved was Norsk Lettmetall of Askin, Norway. This new setup (that is at this location) which was employing about 100 people was ‘to assemble lawn-mowers, light agricultural tractors and similar machines’, in fact their trade is listed as ‘Lawn & Garden Tractors & Attaching Tools’. Even more impressive is that Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja of Norway participated in the inauguration of this new factory (source).

Any idea which manufacturer this small enterprise could be?

It’s a little bit of a trick question as there’s more than one company name associated with this factory. To start it is Amnor with this location being in Oevel, Belgium. One reason you may know this is as an outpost for the American Wheel Horse tractors and equipment with many UK Wheel Horse machines having the ‘Amnor NV B-2431 Oevel, Belgium’ identification attached to them. But there is another important name here….

The main company involved was Norsk Lettmetall, shortened this gives us the name Norlett which we’ve seen on countless machines in the UK. Amongst other machines, coming from the same Oevel assembly plant in Belgium some Wheel Horse tractors were badged as Norlett and painted gold. These were Norsk Lettmetall’s ‘Golden Blades’ range of horticultural and domestic gardening equipment. The three ride-on mowers they made out of Wheel Horses were the Scout, Ranger and Commander, all painted gold.

If you have a Norlett machine then the Oevel factory might be where it came from, or it just might not. The reason is that the Norlett group had manufacturing units in England, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. 

Norlett Versatiller 1000 and a Norlett tiller.


Perhaps, since the Oevel factory was sandwiched between the motorway and with the 25 mile long navigable Albert canal, maybe many a Norlett or Wheel Horse made it’s way down the waterway (pictured below) to the great port of Antwerp before heading across the sea to this country? Who knows, but it’s an interesting thought!

The navigable waterway, which can handle vessels up to 9000 tons and servicing a highly industrialized area leads through Oevel to Antwerp. Did the factory use this method of transportation? Or did they just use good old lorries and the motorway? ((C)2020 Google)

A few years later in the 1970’s and over in the UK, Norlett had been working out of a factory and distribution point (perhaps one of many) at Stadhampton Road, Great Milton, Oxford. The factory still exists, image below, although the road layout has changed. It is now home to Countax. 

The Norlett, Stadhampton Road premises, until 1975. Now occupied by Countax mowers and tractors. ((C)2020 Google)

In 1972 it’s reported that the Norlett Versatiller (tiller, pictured way above), Bushwacker (wheeled grass scythe) and Rapier (lawnmower) models were being assembled by Farmfitters LTD, their address being the above factory in Stadhampton Road before being taken over by Norlett in 1973. Up to 1973 Norlett owned 50% of Farmfitters. (see source 1973). 

Gold-painted Norlett Scout, it’s a Wheel Horse in disguise. (Image: VHGMC)

One of the 1975 machines that Norlett was distributing from it’s Stadhampton Road address was the Norlett Scout electric-start rider mower with 5hp Tecumseh engine, pictured right, this became a discontinued model by late 1975 and was not a big seller. The Scout retailed at £299 + vat, was ex-stock and dealers were being sought in some areas to sell this machine. Can we assume that the gold-painted ‘Golden Blades’ ride-on machines were therefore brought in to the Stadhampton Road premises from Oevel in Belgium before distribution or were they assembled at the Stadhampton Road premises? It’s often assumed that they were all built in Oevel in Belgium purely because they have an Oevel label attached. Anyone?

From 1975, bigger works, warehousing and assembly line were required for Norlett. It’s interesting that there is mention of an ‘assembly line’. These new premises were at Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire, which is now home to Kubota, image below. In 1979 they were detailed as being ‘Distribution & assembly of horticultural machinery’ with their company as ‘Norlett (Norway)’. Two years later in 1981 Norlett was again expanding by creating new assembly lines in England (Dormer Road), Belgium, Denmark and Norway and had a total workforce of 340 employees. Lawnmowers were Norlett’s main machine and 90,000 units were being assembled each year across all plants.

Amazingly in 1980 it was reported that an order had been placed with Norlett of Dormer Road, Thame for 3000 rotary lawnmowers worth £250,000 to be exported to France. One thing I have found is that a lot more Norlett machines such as mowers and tillers were actually built in this country rather than being imported, in fact Norlett appeared to be exporting from here! 

The site of the Norlett factory and distribution depot. Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire. ((C)2020 Google)

Norlett Professional Range Advert. A presumably original design but with input from Yazoo.  (Image: VHGMC)

Advertised in 1974 with the Norlett Professional logo as in the image,right, was an out-front mower created with input from Yazoo ZTR mowers.

We also end up with Flymo being involved with Norlett, this is after being acquired by the Electrolux Group in 1981. This created the company of  ‘Flymo-Norlett Commercial Products LTD’ in the UK.

This was headed by a Norlett Sales Team and the division formed at Flymo’s Newton Aycliffe, County Durham premises. The image below shows the 1990’s Flymo factory location today which is now Husqvarna, an earlier address gives a factory up the road at Redworth Way.



The 1990s Flymo factory location, now Husqvarna, later incorporating in 1981 Flymo-Norlett Commercial products Ltd with the ‘Professional’ range of equipment. Note there is an earlier location detailed as Redworth Way a short distance away. ((C)2020 Google)

There we have it a trip abroad and then through a few counties to find where Norlett worked from. And all from the comfort of ones own home.

It is surprising how many locations can be found online, either through maps, old photograph or archives. Do you have any images of old factories or locations? 

Additional: There’s an advert from Murdochs in ‘The Wicklow People’ May 14, 1960. This advertises newly introduced Norlett Rotary mowers; 2 stoke at £25; 4 stroke at £33. Norlett machines existed in the UK (and Ireland) from at least 1960. Reports state such as ‘tremendous sales’ for the mowers due to them being economical as well as their robust build quality. 



Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  


by alan

1967 Book Review

February 10, 2020 in Articles

The Terrex spade, still available today as the Autospade

It’s not often, if ever, that a book review for horticultural machinery and tools for the garden appears. But here it is, a very short review, albeit fifty three years late, because this particular gem of a book I hold within my hands was published in 1967. It’s a small hardback book of just 80 pages and is a guide to buying and using machines, tools and an array of equipment for the garden. A recent purchase for 10p from a second-hand book shop, it’s price already reduced from 70p, but it’s got a few dozen photos of machinery from the time upon it’s pages and on the back pages is an extensive list of manufacturers and their addresses, for 10p it was a bit of a steal. 

Would such a book be published today? A helpful guide to the homeowner wishing to buy and use tools and machinery in a most efficient manner? I’ve had a look on Amazon and nothing in book form appears to exist. This format is generally now superceded by blogs, websites and some consumer magazines testing and comparing machines and giving (hopefully) unbiased views on what to buy. Sadly numerous adverts for modern domestic machines are selling their wares on low price points and as long as the advertised machine does the job then little else matters, it’s perceived as a bargain!

Lay your decorative driveway and garden paths the easy way with the Temple Pavex in the 1970’s. I’d swear that’s Tom & Barbara from ‘The Good Life’.

Also, times and fashion change with smaller and more suburban gardens tending to have also gone through a transition of being more decorative and reflecting the inside of a home than being horticultural, the result being that they just don’t need as many tools, or indeed the people to recommend what they should be buying. Social media showing a growing trend for the removal of herbaceous borders, shrubberies and the veg patch at the bottom of the garden, to be replaced in some places by short-term items such as decking, artificial turf and unnecessary lighting. The modern plastic throwaway garden, with plastic tools, anyone?

Anyway, back to the book, a publication that was ahead of it’s time and was the equivalent of a blog but in book form. The sad fact is this book, which was published just once, is that it was rapidly out of date regarding the lists of manufacturers and machines it contains. It needed constant updating. But the extensive list of those manufacturers, all existing in 1967 at the same time, is a fascinating snapshot of what was about.

The list of manufacturers on the back pages of this book along with their 1967 addresses are listed at the bottom of this article. It would be interesting to see if these addresses and premises exist today. Have a look through the list and see if any are local to you. 

The book begins: ..Dreary weekends spent digging, weeding, and lawn maintenance are often regarded as the inescapable cost of a presentable garden”, and this is why folk today consider opting for the (perceived) easy artificial turf and minimal planting schemes. “The battle to trim fast growing hedges, keeping the lawns in order, or fighting with perennial weeds. These are jobs bad enough when one is young and fit…”…Ok, where’s the phone number for the astro-turf and decking people? I’m only on the first page and it’s already putting me off gardening. It does redeem itself with “The purpose of this book is to suggest how the use of modern machines, chemicals and other aids can reduce this hard labour”. I hear the thoughts of a young generation in 1967, sat in their gardens and flicking through the pages of this book, marvelling at how chemicals and modern machinery can make their lives easier, whilst tucking into a bowl of newly introduced pink ‘Angel Delight’. The future had arrived.

The book is full of useful advice and ‘Getting The Best From Your Machines’ is a useful chapter. It details that six months storage in a damp shed can cause greater depreciation than many hours spent cultivating or working. It’s very true. How many of us have prized machines (restored or otherwise) which after a few months winter storage have shown slight corrosion or fading of once shiny parts! Making sure that machines are in good, clean condition before being put away is always time well spent.

A Mountfield rotary mower with rear roller for that stripey lawn

On lawnmowers it says that caked on mowings are the chief menace, it’s true they rot steel decks, perhaps labels should be attached to mowers in the DIY chains? This reminds me of one place I worked which asked TV viewers to send in their gardening tips, the best ever received was a gentleman who said that a plastic kitchen spatula was ideal for scraping grass clippings from a mower deck – a second-hand brilliant tip from the VHGMC there! Again with cultivator blades they should be kept clean after use and hedge trimmer blades should be clean, dry and lubricated before storage, these are all standard pieces of advice and I’m thinking a book on garden tools such as this one from 1967 would actually be a good idea once again. 

The chapter on ‘Hoes & Hand Cultivators’ tells us that ‘conventional gardening tools, evolved over many years, are not easily bettered but many modern tools contribute towards saving time and effort’. Two items mentioned are the Wilkinson Swoe (a long handled hoe) of which millions of that design must be in use today, and also the Wolf range of garden tools which from experience have been fantastic. I notice that many vintage Wolf tools are appearing upon online auctions, still capable of a good days work and built to last too. 

Mention of the Dennis Swift in the ‘Flexible Drive Systems’ chapter. I have never heard of this, I may need to do further research but appears to be a trolley mounted engine unit. It was detachable for use with a flexible drive in places where it was not convenient to push the engine. Much like the Tarpen system it could be used for jobs such as hedge trimming and log sawing.
 
Lets move on from the text and to the important bit of having a look at a few items recommended for the domestic garden at this time, these machines seem quite common now, but were probably prized machines on some very tidy gardens. What is great is that examples are still around today and working too! 

 

The Jalo Gardener, a useful time-saving tools which can be equipped with many attachments.

The brilliant British Anzani Lawnrider, and the Tarpen Raser rotary electric lawnmower.

Three machines for looking after the vegetable garden: The Howard 300, Merry Tiller Major, Landmaster 100.


hhhh

Spraygen made the Wunda Spray for keeping the garden bug free. Everain made a clever adjustable garden sprinkler.


Sheen made a lawn and driveway sweeper. Centre is the 34cc lawn edge trimmer from Andrews. Right is the Tudor Newington push lawn aerator.


Do you know if any of these 1960’s premises and factories still exist where you live?

Advon Engineering Ltd, St. John’s Road, Hampton Wick, Surrey
Andrews Lawn-Edgers Ltd, Sunningdale, Berks.
John Allen & Sons (Oxford) Ltd, Cowley Oxford
Associated Sprayers Ltd, Elliot St, Birmingham 7
Auto-Culto International Ltd, Reading Bridge House, Reading.
Autogrow Ltd, 9 Station Road, Cullercoats, North Shields, Northumberland.
E.P.Barrus (Concessionaires) Ltd, 12-16 Brunel Road, Acton, London, W3.
Bayliss Chemicals Ltd, 37 Bedford Row, London, WC1. Berk (Retail) Ltd, 8 Baker Street London, W1.
Bering Engineering Ltd, Doman Road, Camberley, Surrey.
Black and Decker Ltd, Cannon Lane, Maidenhead, Berks.
British Anzani Eng. Co. Ltd. Upper Halliford, Shepperton, Middlesex.
Broadbent and Co. (Rochdale) Ltd. Grove Spring Works, Lincoln Street, Rochdale, Lancs.
Joseph Bryant Ltd, PO Box 111, Bristol 2.
Butlymade Ltd, Haywards Yard, Brockley Rd, Crofton Park, London, SE4. 
Calidec Ltd, Station Approach, Solihull, Warwickshire.
Cooper,Peglar and Co, Ltd, Burgess Hill, Sussex.
Thomas Cowley and Sons Ltd, Quadrant Works, Leamington Road, Gravelly Hill, Birmingham.
Cultivex Ltd, 2-3 Norfolk Street, London, WC2.
Delfa Associates Ltd, Westminster Works, Victoria Road, London.Dennis Bros.Ltd. Guildford, Surrey
Dorman Sprayer Co. Ltd. Ditton Walk, Cambridge
Doxams Ltd, Kates Bridge, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs
Drivall Ltd, 207 Crescent Road, New Barnet, Herts
P. J. Edmonds Ltd, Itchen Abbas, Winchester, Hants
Eclipse Sprayers Ltd, Rawlings Road, Smethwick, 41, Staffs. 
Donald Edwards (B’ham) Ltd, 22 Grove Road, Harpenden, herts
Edward Elwell Ltd, Wednesbury, Staff.
Farmfitters Ltd, Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
Findlay, Irvine Ltd, Bog Rd, Penicuik, Midlothian
Richmond Gibson Ltd, Bishops Stortford, herts
J.D.Gillet & sons, Old Market, Wisbech, Cambs.
Gilliam & Co. Ltd, Purley way, Purley, Surrey.
Thomas Green & Sons Ltd., P.O.Box 45, North Street, Leeds. 
Hayters (Sales) Ltd., Spellbrook, Bishops Stortford, Herts
Heli-Strand Tools Ltd, Winchelsea Road, Rye.
Highlands water Gardens, Rickmansworth, Herts.
Honda (UK) Ltd, Power Road, Chiswick, London, W4
Howard Rotavator Co, Ltd, west Horndon, Essex
Hozelock Ltd, 5 High Road, Byfleet, weybridge, Surrey
Industrial & Agricultural Improvements Ltd, 5 St.Andrews Rd, Malvern, Worcs.
Jalo Products Ltd, Longham, Wimborne, Dorset
J.P.Engineering Co. Ltd, Meynell Road, Leicester
Ladybird Appliances Ltd, Molly Millars Lane, Wokingham, Berks
Landmaster Ltd, Hucknall, Notts
Lloyds & Co, Letchworth, Herts
Loheat Ltd, Everlands Road, Hungerford, Berks
G.D. Mountfield Ltd, East Street, Maidenhead, Berks.
Mow-Rite Engineering Co. Ltd. 8-12 Queens Road, Reading , Berks.
Murphy Chemical Co, Ltd, Wheathampstead, St.Albans, Herts
Mytaz Flame Co, Bridge works, Alfreton Road, Derby.
H.R.Nash Ltd, Nash’s Corner, Ashstead, Surrey.
Nutt Engineering Co .Ltd, Stapleford, Cambridge
Charles H. Pugh Ltd, Atco Works, Tilton Road, Birmingham 9. 
Qualcast Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, derby.
Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies Ltd, Orwell Works, Ipswich, Suffolk
B.A.Rolfe and Sons Ltd, Mile Hill, Romsey, Hants
Ryland Works Ltd, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
Sheen (Nottingham) Ltd, Greasley Street, Bulwell, Nottingham
Simplex of Cambridge, Sawston, Cambridge
Sisis equipment (Macclesfield) Ltd, Hurdsfield Industrial Estate, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Smith & Davis Ltd, Beacon Works, Friar Park Road, Wednesbury, Staffs. 
Solo Sprayers Ltd, Solo Works, Progress Road, Southend-on-Sea, essex
Spear & Jackson Ltd, Aetna Works, Savile Street, Sheffield
Spicers Ltd, Langston Rd, Loughton, Essex
Spraygen Sprayers Ltd, 10-12 Carver St, Birmingham
Stanley-Bridges Ltd, York Road, London, SW11
Suffolk iron Foundry (1920) Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, Derby
Tarpen engineering Co. Ltd. Coronation Road, Park Royal, London, NW10
Temple Pavex, Temple Mill, Passfield, Liphook, Hants
Tudor Accessories Ltd, Beaconsfield Road, Hayes, Middlesex
Victa (UK) Ltd, Victa House, 16 North Pallant, Chichester
Philip B Waldron Co. Kings Road, Tyseley, Birmingham
H.C.Webb & Co. Tame Road, Witton, Birmingham
Wolf Electric Tools LTD, Pioneer Works, Hanger Lane, London W3
Wolf Tools for Garden and Lawn Co, Ross-on-Wye, Hereforshire
Wolseley Engineering Ltd, Wolseley Works, Electric Avenue, Witton, Birmingham 6

Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.