Remembering technology of yesterday before celebrating technology of today and tomorrow has become a tradition every two years. The Half Century of Progress Show held in Rantoul, Ill., each time the Farm Progress Show returns to Decatur, Ill., gives equipment from days gone by a chance to be seen and show what it can still do. Like the Farm Progress Show, the Half Century of Progress Show is a working show.
It got its name because the first one was held near Henning, Ill., in 2003, on the weekend before the Farm Progress Show celebrated its 50th anniversary. The two shows were across the road from each other. They’re now about 60 miles apart, but still close enough together that someone could see what is old and then go see what is new.
Here are two older machines a reader saw at this year’s Half Century of Progress Show. They have one thing in common: The engineers who designed them solved problems that existed at the time using technology available to them in that era.
Massey-Harris self-propelled picker-sheller. We’ve featured the two-row Massey-Harris self-propelled picker before because it was a unique machine. Minneapolis-Moline engineers were experimenting with how to put a self-propelled corn picker in the field with their Uni-System, which the company later sold to New Idea. Otherwise, the Massey self-propelled picker was in a class by itself.
Engineers and marketing mangers apparently thought the demand for ear corn pickers would continue. Maybe they grew up on farms where they had to mount supposedly easy-to-mount corn pickers on tractors every fall, and then take them off. There was a reason why some people elected to devote an older tractor as the picker tractor and leave the mounted picker on it all year. Putting on or taking off a mounted picker could be an all-day job if things didn’t go just right.
When shelled corn appeared, Massey-Harris tried to help those who already had pickers by offering a sheller unit option. That’s what makes this Massey-Harris self-propelled picker different than ones highlighted before. You could keep the corn picker you had, and still shell and sell corn straight from the field.
Other companies also offered this option on tractor-mounted pickers. John Deere, for one, offered a sheller for their popular two-row, mounted 237 picker.
Gleaner GH combine. There is no question what the H stands for, added to the model G designation. It’s for hillside. These machines were developed for operating on steep hillsides, especially in the far West in places like Oregon and Washington. However, some people liked them for what they considered steep hills in the Midwest.
The model pictured here is set to show how the combine could adjust on a hillside. A more realistic picture might show driving one wheel onto a solid, raised object and showing how the combine would adjust to keep the threshing unit level. That was really the idea behind hillside models — keeping the threshing unit level so grain didn’t concentrate on one side.
ADJUST ON SLOPES: The Gleaner GH combine could adjust on hillsides. While it’s showing that ability here, on a real hill, the adjustment would allow the threshing unit to remain level.
Other companies also made hillside models. John Deere introduced hillside versions early in its development of self-propelled combines.
One farmer with lots of hills in southern Indiana says he prefers Lexion combines today because they tend to keep threshing more uniformly, even on hillsides.
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