Sunshine harvester gets a new glow

09 Jan, 2010 01:00 AM
A modern day harvester eclipses the humble Sunshine
A modern day harvester eclipses the humble Sunshine

A TASTE of yesteryear was provided recently at Pingelly, when local farmer Graeme Lange displayed a 1936 Sunshine harvester (type C) that had been lovingly restored to its former glory.

The road to rejuvenation had begun last year when Mr Lange, on a visit to the nation's capital, spotted the run-down machine sitting on a block near Canberra airport.

"I remembered the old harvesters that my dad used to operate," Mr Lange said.

"When I took a closer look at this unit, I saw it was capable of being restored, the white ants hadn't got to much of it at all."

A business transaction was duly made, and Mr Lange and a mate drove to Canberra a few weeks later to pick up the new acquisition.

"People say I was mad to have made the trip to transport the harvester," he said.

"But I wanted the machine. You see lots of old tractors and trucks being brought back up to scratch these days, but not many old harvesters."

Once back at Pingelly, Mr Lange worked on the harvester "on and off", and managed to have it ready and functional by mid-December.

"I decided to show off the machine to anyone interested, so ran a small advertisement in the paper, and we got 37 people turning up for the demonstration day," he said.

"The next week, another 11 people turned up to see the harvester.

"There was immense interest. The local John Deere dealer even sent three of its mechanics round, who were intrigued by the workings of this simple machine.

"A Melbourne museum has also requested photos of the machine because it is so rare.

"The harvester only has a six foot front, and was originally drawn by horses.

"I converted it to a tractor-drawn unit driven by a ground wheel under the grain box."

On the demonstration day, the harvester took off half a tonne of wheat, or around five bags.

Taking a particular interest in the vintage item was local Archie Kirk, who operated a similar machine in the 1930s with horses.

"He said it was wonderful to see the Sunshine in action again," Mr Lange said.

The Sunshine Harvester Works was the largest industrial enterprise in Australia in the 1920s.

It had a major impact on the social and economic development of Australia, and was a significant contributor to the mechanisation of agriculture around the world.

The company was gradually absorbed by various global corporations (Massey Ferguson, Iseki and Agco), and stopped manufacturing equipment in the 1980s.

The Sunshine harvester was devised by Victorian farmer Hugh McKay, who, driven by frustration with the slow and laborious nature of farm work, and fueled by a persistent and inventive mind, searched for a better and more efficient way of harvesting wheat.

At the age of 18 he developed the Sunshine stripper harvester, a machine which revolutionised farming.

Patent rights were acquired, and inventors and engineers were invited to join the Sunshine enterprise to help maintain the leading edge in farm mechanisation.

An extensive range of equipment was manufactured at Sunshine, covering nearly every area of agricultural activity.

Field-testing was essential to developing all new products, and was carried out in secrecy ahead of major competitors.

The new technologies increased the size of farms, and changed the types of crops grown, the methods of farming, and the way in which land was used.

The Sunshine harvesters were part of a wheat record that was set in 1905, when 202 bags of wheat were taken off in South Australia "from sunrise to sunset" by two teams of horses and two of the units.

The harvester restored by Mr Lange cost ?119 new in 1936.

* Click here to view a photo gallery from the machinery field day.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


11/01/2010 8:18:43 AM, on Farm Weekly

Heartiest compliments to Mr Lange for the efforts undertaken and interest displayed in the old historical machine. It was indeed very nice and much appreciable. Amarjit Singh


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