Following a talk at one of the Bourne Bygones Club's winter meetings in early 2007, the club was invited to visit Ron Knight's collection of old harvesting machinery, tractors and steam engines at his premises in Little Casterton, near Stamford, in Lincolnshire.
A healthy turnout of over thirty club members and guests were made welcome by Ron in his own inimitable style and we were first shown a small Swedish made Viking combine currently under restoration. This little machine has a single steering wheel at the back and looks rather top heavy, and Ron was concerned that if "you yekked around a bit sharp" it might have a tendency to topple over. It also has the most cables, belts and pulleys I've ever seen on a piece of machinery.
Then we were instructed to wander wherever we wanted around the buildings at will. Immediately behind was one of the smaller sheds with workshop facilities which housed a trailed combine with no markings also under restoration, a large IHC McCormick Deering 123SP tanker combine, the Massey Harris Sunshine No.4 trailed combine seen at the Little Casterton Working Weekend last year, plus the Geo. White & Sons combine.
Next-door was perhaps the largest building on the site that housed a selection of both steam engines and harvesting machinery. The former includes a pair of Fowler ploughing engines, a Ruston & Hornsby traction engine and a Ruston roller, plus a delightful little Robey engine. The combines included an old Massey Harris No.21, more modern Massey Harris No.21A tanker, Massey Harris No.26, a trailed McCormick Deering and again a more modern self-propelled model F8-63 of the same make, trailed Claas and Ransomes self-propelled plus several different straw jacks.
Across the way another building with an inviting open doorway housed most of the tractors within the collection, all being from the International stable in one guise or another, plus some of the binders and the occasional combine. Just inside the door stood the Massey Harris Sunshine binder and next to it an Allis Chalmers All-Crop trailed combine. Tucked away in a corner was an older and larger Massey Harris trailed combine and opposite a nice green Aktive example.
Packed away in between and around were examples of Farmall Cub, M, BM, BMD, F20, International Titan 10-20, T6 crawler, W12, McCormick Deering Standard W4, W9 and W12 amongst others, and from the roof hung various cutter bars for some of the different combines.
The final building across the yard housed yet another selection of combines and machinery, again all crammed in to make maximum use of the space. In here was a small portable steam engine alongside both self-propelled and trailed Ransomes combines, McCormick Deering B64 & yet another Massey Harris machine, plus an International 594 powered Knight crop-sprayer and a B275 tractor with Ransomes plough.
Outside in the yard sheeted down against the elements were all the machines that weren't lucky enough to be under cover, including both silver and green Claas examples, a yellow New Holland, several Allis Chalmers including a Gleaner version, yet another Massey Harris, several balers, a cultivator for the steam engines to work, and more my size, a Crown cake breaker to go with the solitary stationary engine seen in the tractor shed.
After 90 minutes or so, people began gathering around Ron in the yard and he recounted tales of what actually happened when Claire Barrett and Suggs from Channel 4's Salvage Squad came to him for help in restoring a Massey Harris 780 combine. This led on the brightly contrasting colours used on such machinery, e.g. the red & yellow of Massey Harris, the red, blue and green of Ransomes, etc., and theories that different parts were colour coded for easy of assembly by unskilled workers. This was disputed by some until it was pointed out that some sets of dominoes have the different numbers colour-coded for people (and children) who are neither numerate nor literate.
With much leg-pulling going on about the great man's lack of gardening expertise, no one except Ron himself noticed a car moving through the yard, but it wasn't until Mrs Knight reluctantly came around the corner, that he realised something was afoot. Out of the back of the car and on behalf of the club, a superb flowering rose bush was presented to the couple as a thank you for their time and trouble on the understanding Ron himself had to plant it.
Offers of a collection for a charity of his choice were politely declined on the understanding that those present should come to the Little Casterton Working Weekend on 15-16 September to put their money into the pot there for the benefit of the nominated charity of that event.
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