Along with the Land Rover, the Ferguson tractor transformed post-war Britain’s agriculture. In 1946, the Ferguson tractor arrived in a world where the horse was still the most common agricultural power source.
NAME: Ferguson TE-20 Tractor, 1946 onwards (TE-20, TO-20, TO-30, TO-35, FF-30), Enthusiasts’ Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Pat Ware
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: Tractor, agricultural vehicle, technology
DESCRIPTION: Along with the Land Rover, the Ferguson tractor transformed post-war Britain’s agriculture. In 1946, the Ferguson tractor arrived in a world where the horse was still the most common agricultural power source. Most farms were still below 100 hundred acres and the average was 51 acres. Few farm estates exceeded 2,000 acres, except those that included large tracts of uncultivated land and forestry. Many were given to sheep or cattle and land hastily cultivated between 1939 and 1945 to feed the nation and relive demands on merchant ships were beginning to return to rough land and woods. Tractors were not new to Britain, having been introduced as steam traction engines as much as a hundred years before, but the small farm and field sizes did not lend themselves readily to the economic use of tractors. Everything was on the scale of the horse and the farm hand, with the methods of agriculture following the four course rotation developed in the 18th Century to improve fertility of land. The American tractors that had been increasingly introduced on the larger estates were too costly and large for British farm land. The brilliance of the Ferguson was firstly that it was on a more appropriate scale, dwarfed by the contemporary heavy single cylinder Land Marshal and Track Marshal diesel tractors. The Ferguson was small and easy to work on with minimum tools, within the capabilities of the blacksmith who was still to be found in most villages. Technically, the brilliance of the Ferguson was that it was not just a traction engine, but an agricultural cultivation system that could be operated entirely by one man. The early steam tractors were used to plough but this was achieved by a ploughman riding a plough that was pulled across the land by cables from a traction engine that was parked, often with two engines being employed and periodically moved along the edges of the field. When petrol and diesel tractors became available, they were frequently used in a similar manner to steam tractors, making much use of a power take-off pulley to belt drive machines like thrashing machines. The Ferguson was equipped with a three point hydraulic linkage. This allowed a set of farming tools to be design to attach to the linkage, making the tractor a versatile tool system. Importantly, the linkage could be worked by the tractor driver without help. For example the tractor could be reversed up to a two wheel trailer, the linkage attached and the tow bar of the trailer lifted hydraulically to the correct position. Similarly, ploughs could be attached and form an integral part of the tractor rather than being another form of trailer attached to a simple tow hook. The use of inflated rubber main wheels meant that the tractor could use the public roads safely and at higher speed than the early petrol tractors that employed spike and studded steel drive wheels. The Ferguson could be fitted with rubber tracks over the normal rubber wheels where ground conditions required. In common with most agricultural vehicles at the time of its introduction, the Ferguson had the disadvantage of providing no weather protection for the drive and no protection during a roll-over. As a result there were fatalities, particularly on hill farms, when the tractor rolled on an incline and crushed the unprotected driver. However, compared with earlier machines and horse-drawn vehicles, the Ferguson greatly improved farm safety. The Ferguson played a major role in taking the British tractor population from the 7,000 of 1918 to over a million by 1960. Some continue in use to this day on the remaining smallholdings, but since the 1960s, British farms have rapidly expanded by merger. Today the 3,000 acre farm is a small farm and a number of farms include more than 20,000 acres under cultivation. As farms have grown, hedgerow have been removed and fields merged so that the 4 acre field of 1946 is now 50 acres or more, larger than many complete farms of 1946. The work force has also shrunk dramatically and only a handful of farm hands are now required where scores of people would be needed in 1946 at the main stages of the farming year. This has required progressively larger tractors and the smaller number of more demanding farm hands are now equipped with monstrous air conditioned, stereo equipped tractors that make the Ferguson look tiny and primitive. As new more powerful tractors arrived, the humble Ferguson was discarded in hedgerows and old barns, to be rediscovered and restored in recent years as agricultural heritage preservation becomes a popular activity. During its working life, over 790,000 tractors were produced and at least 100 implements. The total number of implements may be higher because farmers and blacksmiths made their own specialist tools to take advantage of the three point hydraulic linkage either because there was not a Ferguson implement available or to save money. Amongst local modifications, some owners added roll bars and basic cabs to improve safety and comfort, but to the end of its main working life, the Ferguson driver usually had nothing more than an old sack on the hard steel seat and another piece of old sacking in his lap. Important though the Ferguson was to British farming, it was also produced in numbers in France and the US, although attempts to produce in the US with David Brown and Ford failed. This enthusiasts’ manual provides a fascinating insight into the machine and its working environment. As with Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual, this book includes the farmer’s view, the owner’s view and the mechanics’s view, together with review of the story, the system, and the anatomy of the TE-20. The manual is a must for any agricultural enthusiast, but will hold wider appeal not least because the Ferguson story is based in an environment that is so changed today. As numbers of Fergusons have been used for military applications and as industrial tractors, the manual will appeal to other vehicle restoration enthusiasts. The high standard of illustration as with all Haynes manuals adds greatly to the work, supporting the text very well.