The Port Hope Agricultural Heritage Club’s Antique Machinery Centre is a museum unlike anything else in the area. Located at 5077 County Road 10 in the village of Canton, Ontario and features threshing machines, farm tractors, chain saws, hand tools, plows, engines, pumps and seeders that would have been used by our parents and grandparents.
In 1995, six tractor enthusiasts saw a need to preserve agricultural heritage in the local area. Because farmers of today must use the most modern practices and equipment to survive, the old techniques are being lost and equipment is becoming obsolete and are about to be lost forever. The club is well named.
Hope: All of the founding members are from Hope Township. Agricultural: Members focus is on agricultural machinery & equipment, its restoration and preservation. Heritage: Is what they aim to preserve, old techniques, machinery and the skills to operate and maintain them properly that would surely be lost if not properly recorded.
We should be grateful, the Club members from all walks of life, not just the farming community are sharing with us their treasures. Rusting scrap is being rescued by caring members. They scrape, sand, rebuild, repair and paint to bring this junk back to a new life as valuable pieces of our history.
On a recent Saturday open-house I decided to take advantage of the great weather to check out the museum for this post. I will endeavor to describe from memory, as well as this ‘oldguywalking’ can remember, some of what can be seen here. Upon entering the large parking area were two old tractors, a newly restored 1950’s vintage bright orange Case and an older Ford N9 tractor with a front-end loader, donated by local residents Peter & Susan Whitfield. Inside the mammoth building, along the south half were two ground rollers which were used to compact soil after seeding. Several seeders in aged condition were displayed next to a farm wagon which held two horse-drawn sleighs. Several stationary ‘putt-putt’ engines, one a Gilson kerosene, chain saws, butter churns and other household stuff. From the ceiling hung all sorts of antique paraphernalia and the wall was adorned with the same and pictures. A large old threshing machine occupied the rest of the floor.
The north half of the building featured several old tractors, one a rare yellow British Ford, a few hammer mills (for grinding grains), several hand powered ‘win-mills’ for cleaning seeds of chaff and wood working tools. One small artifact caught my eye, it was a rare ‘hay fork’ which few people today have ever seen in operation. It is shaped like an inverted U, it’s two, 3 foot long double prongs were hung from a barn ceiling with a bloc ‘n’ tackle system. When forced into a wagon load of loose hay the two inner prongs with ‘barbs’ would grip the hay like a claw as the hay fork was hoisted up to the ceiling by a long rope pulled by a horse or tractor, it would rise and stop at the ceiling. It would then follow a metal rail over top of the hay mow. Another rope would ‘trip’ the fork and drop the hay, saving a lot of hot, manual work. It would take 4-6 loads to empty an average wagon. An enclosed office and a work shop complete with an antique Ford ‘crawler’ well into restoration minus it tracks and cylinder head rounded out this half of the building.
Outside, at the rear of the building were an array of equipment, most waiting for restoration. At the far end of the lot, one old ‘beat-up’ 1950s’ vintage Case tractor immediately caught my eye. It was identical to the old Case I drove all during my twenty years on my Dad’s farm in Camborne, and yes, it had the rear fork we used for loading manure into the spreader. This fork was unique in that it was raised and lowered by a chain drive from the tractor’s power take-off. No hydraulics needed. It had a scoop attachment for moving snow in the winter, both great labor savers. This ‘ghost’ from the past was donated to the museum by Clarke Kennedy, a neighbor from my past. I will forever wonder if Clarke purchased this tractor from the defunct Case Dealership once located on Hwy. #45 in Baltimore around the same time as my dad did or was it purchased at Dad’s auction sale after he passed away?
Near-by was an old manure spreader and a ‘side-delivery’ hay and straw rake. Other equipment found here were hay mowers, several two-furrow plows, a cultivator, a John Deere hay bailer and a commercial potato digger. A huge McCormick thresher and too many items to remember are all here.
The highlight of the Club, is their annual Antique Machinery Show held on the second weekend in August, Saturday and Sunday. This is the only place to see the pride and joy of all the members in one place. The location for this event varies from farm to farm locally and is your chance to see dozens of restored tractors and related equipment. All sorts of activities happen here. Have you ever seen a thresher actually in operation, powered by an antique tractor with a long drive belt? Be prepared for a lot of noise and chaff as grains are separated from the crop. You are likely to see how cedar shingles and shakes are cut from a block of wood and ploughing demonstrations. You might see lawnmower or garden tractor races or see them in weight pulling contests and of course a great flea market. With free parking, and a $5 admission why not check out the show from the bleachers or tour the grounds from a tractor or horse drawn wagon? If you work up an appetite, check out the food truck and enjoy some fries, a hot dog or a great burger made from fresh local beef at the food booth.
Okay, you talked me into it…I would like to share a couple of memories from what are now antique tractors. I well remember a near incident with an old Case tractor with slim, high rear wheels, ‘row-crop’ front wheels and a hand clutch. While plowing up a rather steep hill, the plow caught a large under-ground rock. The front-end of that Case, like a bucking horse started to point skyward! A quick pull on the clutch stopped it from turning turtle and likely causing me some real pain!
Another memory I would like to share is of a vintage Oliver (can’t remember if it was an 66 or 88 model) and I wonder if the local dairy farmer Larry, still owns both above mentioned tractors…but I digress. The first time I drove that beloved old Oliver was when I was asked to deliver it and a hay wagon to a field about a half mile away. Leaving the farm driveway, I thought I would put into high gear down the road. Turns out that 6th gear was a highway gear and could likely propel that beast to about 90 miles an hour. Well, the tractor should have had seat belts! It took off like a sling-shot! The only thing that saved me from ending up back on the hay wagon was my firm grip on the steering wheel! If you think that all tractors back then were ‘slow-moving vehicles’…you would be wrong.