The Avery came into being in 1919 – not any later than that.
“She” was bought new for about $700 by a farm family near Climax in 1920. So, her work life would have started in the spring on 1920.
Farmers traditionally purchased large items and put them to work as soon as possible to avoid interest cost on an expenditure. So she worked on a farm and would have replaced a four-horse hitch or maybe more. The engine on the Avery is rated at 8-16 horse power (eight draw bar horse power, 16 belt horse power). Thus, right after the First World War, a small tractor could replace a number of horses. That in turn would free up barn space and pasture acres for milk cows or beef cattle.
In the spring of 1920 the Avery tractor was every farmer’s favourite dream.
The Avery worked until 1927. Then the unspeakable happened. The farm family was distracted or taken by surprise by a sudden early frost. The coolant in the engine froze. It was just water. The damage was catastrophe. Both water jackets surrounding the cylinders were cracked. The tractor’s work life was over.
The WDM acquired the Avery in 1956. It was stored outside in the grove of trees north of the main building. In the fall of 1996, volunteers assembled a troupe of grease monkeys to start a rebuild. What followed during the winter of 1996-97 was a comic opera in the shop.
The Avery is not a high tech invention. She has no fuel pump, fan, fan belt or water pump. She does have two heads pointed in opposite directions, a radiator that borrowed technology from a steam engine and a cranking arrangement that is worse than eccentric. The power train is shifted by the “armstrong” method and the engine ran on two kinds of fuel – gasoline, and then when the engine warmed up, kerosene. She has an apparatus to inject water into the air intake to improve performance.
The Avery engine has an air preheater and fuel preheater for the kerosene circuit. There is also an arrangement to snort oil fog onto the gear train. All of the above was learned from a pooling of ignorance and by interviewing “old timers” who were familiar with such things. We had no parts or operating manuals.
Work started and stumbled along through the winter. She was disassembled, cleaned, and blasted; missing parts were scrounged or made and any useable parts were cannibalized from other tractors. Anything that would fit was used. John Deere AR piston rings were fitted into the second compression groove on the piston. This made best use of the cylinder walls that were not damaged by the mouse excrement left by the many families of mice that lived inside the cylinders while the tractor was not operating.
The Avery’s “entertainment life” began in June of 1997. Anyone watching would have been amused. We — the troupe of assorted grease-monkeys — were not amused. After months of difficult, dirty work, the great day had arrived and, after the final tuning and fitting of a driver belt from another tractor, the Avery roared to life, showering us with dirty engine oil from the crank case vent! I had put too much oil in the engine, and the Avery became a fountain of dirty oil. That was some reward for days of TLC and mechanical genius applied so skilfully through the winter.
So, Ms. Avery is enjoying a second life. She is admired, cursed at, inspected periodically, and started twice a year for tractor parades during Those Were The Days Aug. 11 and 12. The Avery can be seen running and observed parked during those two days. See you there!