Fordson Tractors with Logging Accessories
Roots of Motive Power has among its exhibits an original Fordson Tractor.
Henry Ford grew up on a small farm outside Detroit, Michigan in the late 1800s. As his interest in automobiles grew, he also expressed a desire to "lift the burden of farming flesh and blood and place it on steel and motors." In the early 1900s, he began to build experimental tractors from automobile components. Four years after founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Ford finished his first experimental tractor. Ford introduced his newly designed tractor known as the Model B in August 1915 at a plowing demonstrated in Fremont, Nebraska. The Model B was never produced.
The Fordson Model F was completed in 1916 and was the first lightweight, mass produced tractor in the world, making it possible for the average farmer to own a tractor for the first time. The tractor was mass produced from 1917 using the same assembly line techniques he used to mass produce the Ford Model T. It took thirty hours and forty minutes to convert the raw materials into the 4,000 parts used for the tractor assembly. The Fordson sold for $750 ($16,000 in 2012 dollars); and each unit cost $567.14 to manufacture (including labor, materials and overheads), leaving a profit of $182.86 on each unit.
The Fordson succeeded in being cheaper to maintain than horses, as the Ford Model T had previously done. A government test concluded that farmers spent $.95 per acre plowing with a Fordson compared to feeding eight horses for a year and paying two drivers which cost $1.46 per acre.
Mechanical winches or hoists have been a mainstay in various industries for centuries. The 'steam-donkey' used in early logging operations enabled logs to be skidded up to a landing, sometimes on over-head cables strung from tall trees that had been 'topped' to make the operation possible. Smaller logging outfits tended to use stationary or portable winches, often with some type of gasoline engine providing power. Many types of winches and hoists mounted on Fordsons.
Fordson 'skid-units' or complete Fordson tractors with integrated winches and hoists became very popular with the success of the Fordson tractor. These hoists (some of them front-mounted, others mounted on the back - one company even featured a side-mounted hoist) could be either single or double drum versions.
Many articles on Fordson tractors note that Henry Ford never made any attachments for either the Model T or the Fordson tractor. This prompted many early entrepreneurs to manufacture a great variety of mechanical innovations to retrofit on the Model T or Fordson tractor.
Period advertisements for various hoist-equipped Fordson tractors show many were adapted to fully operational “in the field” Fordson tractors, whilst many, were used in small logging operations with a Fordson platform that was mounted on skids.
Left is a gallery of pictures taken of an O scale Fordson Tractor with a Skagit Hoist attachment. Typically, for small logging operations, it has been mounted on skids.