Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Farm Machinery on Flat Cars

Before agricultural implements got so large that it could not be shipped by rail, it was not uncommon to see large or small agricultural machinery on passing freight trains. Fields and farms got larger, leaving the family farm in the dust, with only large factory farms being economically viable. Manufacturers adapted their designs, adding more sections and unfolding large one-pass, minimum-till implement trains, steered around by huge tandem tractors. 

During my trainwatching in western Canada, almost every train could carry ag implements, especially those heading west. Multiple pieces of forage equipment or tractors were shipped on one flatcar. Much of the equipment was built in southern Ontario, or was brought north from the US midwest. One of the best-known manufaturers was Massey-Ferguson in Brantford, ON. M-F opeed their new combine plant in 1964, but the company entered receivership in 1988.

I snapped Massey-Ferguson combines on a westbound CP freight through CP yards in Portage la Prairie in June, 1980 (top photo). Two Bill Grandin photos kindly shared by Jim Parker show DTTX 97326 carrying an International combine in 1981:

A photo of CN "Portland" covered hopper 388011 that incidentally shows Massey-Ferguson equipment on an adjacent track. 
An online photo auction site photo showing two International combines on a Burlington Northern flat car:
A CP bulkhead flat car load of M-F's on CN's team track opposite the CN station, in the shadow of Manitoba Pool 'B' elevator at Portage in 1983 (L.C. Gagnon photo):
On August 25, 1981 also at Portage, this 86-car westbound crossing the diamonds at West Tower included a Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo flat car with two White 8900 combines and headers, plus CP bulkhead flats each loaded with four John Deere 2140 tractors:

Lots o' links:

Running extra...

We had a nice visit from our two grandsons recently. Even at two years old, our younger grandson has excellent taste in reading material.  Not only did he enjoy checking out my winter-reading box, carefully removing and stacking back issues, but we also paged through several issues, pointing out trucks and trains of interest!
A snowless December thus far. I saw a lot of old bags out on the street. That's because the city leaf-collection rounds were just made today. Couldn't be mulch later!

Hallmark's onslaught of Christmas movies continues. The longest title I've seen yet, "Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas", was an eye-opener. Clearly, all the two-word titles like "Charming Christmas" are already taken. As are the Christmas-pun titles like "We Wish You a Married Christmas". We won't even talk about "Three Wise Men and a Baby", but I bet it was magi-cal.


Brian said...

At one time, the Massey-Ferguson 750 and 760 combines, and their successors, the 850 and 860, were ubiquitous on the prairies. I used to see them operating singly or, in pairs on larger operations, during harvest. As you say, Eric, they were M-F's last before the company went into receivership.

Seeing your pictures, I have to wonder if the combines were purposely designed to fit on a flatcar. More than just the width, two of them, along with the headers, would just about fill a 60' flatcar. That way, they could be shipped anywhere on the prairies relatively economically, compared to if they had to be shipped individually.

Eric said...

Hi Brian,

I think the shipping considerations definitely would have played a role in the equipment design, or at least how it was broken down for shipping. Pieces that were too wide were creatively broken down, wheels removed, etc.

I stayed away from the typical 'model railroady' image of a flat car full of perfectly-placed old-timey tractors, being a little too late to observe those shipments!

Thanks for your comment,

Elijah/Zartok-35 said...

There’s some nice rural western Canadian content! It’s a shame you can’t get Massey Ferguson combines in HO Scale. I have a couple John Deere Titan IIs and a Cornbinder to ride flatcars on my trains, though!
The Bill Grandin collection is a valuable resource in researching implement loads in western Canada in the early 80s, along with everything else in western Canada in the early 80s. One photo I found shows partially assembled John Deere swathers neatly aligned at Swift Current:
The Burlington Northern 630-series flats are an interesting prototype also not yet available in HO scale. The protruding plate sill gives them a distinctive profile. I believe these cars were homemade by the CBQ to haul tractors and implements.

Eric said...

Some of those flat cars (and auto racks) just didn't have enough real estate on which to place the railroad's name. I get a kick out of the captioning of such photos sometimes - South Current!

It's tough to get implement modelling right, but when it's right, it looks right.

Thanks for your comment, Elijah.

It’s me again Margaret said...

The best part about hauling Farm Equipment is how many different machines you can mix on a single flatcar. Who could forget this old classic:

Eric said...

That's a good one, indeed. Thanks for sharing it, IMA Margaret!