ORGANISERS of the sixth annual Tracmac Lights on the Hill at Brunswick Junction are calling all ‘Cat’ owners.
This year’s event, scheduled for Saturday, April 14, on a hillside immediately south of the town and fronting South Western Highway, is featuring Caterpillar tractors, including commemorating 100 years since World War 1 and the Caterpillar Holt gun tractors.
The Holt Manufacturing Company started in 1883 with founding owner Benjamin Holt, later credited with patenting the first workable crawler tractor design.
By the early 20th century, Holt Manufacturing Company was the leading manufacturer of combine harvesters in the USA, and the leading California-based manufacturer of steam traction engines.
The manufacturing company in East Peoria, Illinois, was changed to the Holt Caterpillar Company with the Caterpillar name trade-marked in 1910.
The company’s initial products focused on agricultural machinery and were distributed internationally.
During World War I, its tractors were widely used by the Allies to haul heavy artillery and tow supply trains.
Holt tractors also played a part, as military tanks in Great Britain, France and Germany and Holt’s equipment was credited with helping the Allies to win the war.
The Holt company merged with rival C L Best in 1925 to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co.
According to Tracmac South West president and retired Kukerin farmer Bob Lukins, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Caterpillar’s involvement in World War 1 and coincides with a push to form a Caterpillar Club in WA.
“There is huge interest in Caterpillar machines worldwide and it’s a really big deal in North America with a national organisation and thousands of Caterpillar owners,” Mr Lukins said.
“We know there are a lot of WA farmers who owned a Cat when they were starting their farms, using D6s, D4s and D2s, and there are still some models in working condition.
“We think a club would help focus on co-ordinating working displays of these machines throughout the Wheatbelt, because static displays don’t work that well.
“People want to see what old equipment used to do and it’s educational for younger generations to see what their pioneering grandparents did.”
A meeting of interested people will be held at 12 noon on the day where people will be given an opportunity to register their interest in forming a club.
“From the response we got from a small mention in Farm Weekly (Torque’s column, Section 1) two weeks ago, we think we’ll get quite a bit of interest,” Mr Lukins said.
“One farmer who read the article rang me to see if we wanted to display his rubber-tyred Caterpillar tractor.
“And other farmers have told me they will donate machinery if we form a club and they’ll know it will be well looked after by club members, with the idea they may see their machine in a working display at some event in WA.”
Mr Lukins said this year’s event would have a “military flavour”.
“We’ll have a 53 tonne Centurion tank on display (donated by a Busselton owner), a range of armoured vehicles, early model Jeeps and the Bunbury 10th Light Horse also will be involved during the event.”
Lights on the Hill co-ordinator John Tilling said the program would start at 10am and continue “into the night under lights”, hence the name of the event.
“There also will be a grand parade of tractors, displays of vintage trucks, cars and motor cycles along with craft stalls and working displays of old equipment such as wood turning, axe making and vintage hand tools,” Mr Tilling said.
“And we’ll have a team of Clydesdale horses engaged in ploughing.”
An added event this year will be a Swap Mart.
“People can contact Robert Cook on 0428 637 207 to register,” Mr Tilling said.
Owners of vintage John Deere tractors can contact Bob Lukins on 0428 960 594 if they would like to be involved in the display.
“It’s actually 100 years since John Deere made its first tractor in Waterloo, Iowa, USA,” Mr Lukins said.
“It was called the Waterloo Boy and it ran on kerosene.
“It developed about 16 horspower (11.9 kilowatts ) at the drawbar and 25hp (18.5kW) at the belt.
“We encourage any owner of a vintage John Deere tractor to bring it along to the day and be involved in the displays and parade.”
An interesting feature of the Lights on the Hill event will be a tractor ‘start-up’ demonstration.
Several models will be used included a Field Marshall tractor that is started by a shotgun cartridge.
A cartridge is loaded into a breech on the engine’s intake system and smouldering paper placed in the cylinder head.
The cartridge is fired by tapping the base of the protruding firing pin with a hammer.
This put a charge into the bore, sending the piston through its stroke, bursting into life.
This method, however, deposited carbon which often caused jamming of the decompression valve if cartridges were regularly used.
Later versions of the Field Marshall had more sophisticated electric starting systems available.
Another of interest is the International Harvester TD9 that has a petrol/diesel start.
Since diesels rely on compression instead of spark to ignite the fuel, it was necessary to heat the cylinders on these tractor engines in order for the ignition process to take place.
International used a petrol-powered engine to turn over the larger diesel engine, heating the cylinders until it was warm enough for the operator to flip it over to the diesel cycle, which fired up the engine.
Caterpillar D2 and D4s used ‘donkey motors’, which warmed up the main motor and when oil pressure was up you started the engine.
Lanz Bulldog tractors owners would have loved the donkey motor because they had to use a blow torch to warm up the Lanz engine and crank the oil case to build up pressure before a ‘crank start’.