The Paul Rackham Collection has often been talked about as a possibility for a club visit, both by the East Anglia Group of NVTEC and the Bourne Bygones Club, but it was the latter group who managed to organise a trip, complete with transport courtesy of Abacus Coaches of Corby Glen, near Bourne, in their Gold Service 28-seater coach. Ivan Cowlen greeted us on arrival at the site on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and explained the format of the visit, wander at will with a copy of the collection's catalogue to help identify and give some history where possible of each item. No entrance fee as such but a hefty donation to charity of GBP10 is a condition of access to the collection.
A large part of the Hunday Collection of Ferguson tractors and implements is now resident with Paul Rackham, taking up about a quarter of the large building. There are also some other products of Banner Lane with a trio of Standard motor vehicles, painted up in Ferguson System liveries, plus a significant number of horse-drawn vehicles and carts etc, as well as a very good selection of other tractors to look at, and the odd fire-engine for good measure.
The veteran tractors include a Holt 75, IH Titan & Junior, pair of Rumely Oil-Pull, Wallis, Waterloo Boy, Peterbro, Baker and a possibly unique-in-preservation Weeks-Dungey New Simplex. Slightly later machines include French-built Austin, Hart-Parr, Fordson, Massey-Harris GP, Twin City and Ferguson-Brown.
The majority of the later vintage and classic tractors are arranged in groups with David Browns, Fordson, John Deere, Minneapolis Moline, International, Allis Chalmers, Case, Nuffield & Oliver all having significant numbers present, in addition to the Fergusons mentioned above. However, there are several other makes on show including Winget, Newman, Fowler, Caterpillar, Cockshutt, Turner, BMB, Cletrac, Chamberlain, Leyland, Lanz & Marshall in various guises.
The horsedrawn vehicles I find quite fascinating, such as the subtle differences between similar types of waggon from different parts of the country. One particular pantechnicon I remember being on the prestigious agricultural and heavy horse show circuit when in the pale blue livery of Abel's of Norfolk many years ago. Many of the larger vehicles are painted in the bright yellow and red Rackham livery, and photograph very well.
Amongst the farm waggons and brewers drays, are some more unusual items such as bullock carts for transporting livestock with access at both end and interchangeable shafts. Other traps and carts are more mundane, such as the dairy and milk delivery vehicles, but all restored to a very high standard.
And so on to the Ferguson collection, well documented on the Internet by other knowledgeable Ferguson clubs and experts who've gone before us. When looking at what I now know to be part of the Rackham collection at places such as Euston Park and Woolpit, my attention has always been drawn to the many different implements available but here back at base there are some rare American versions and conversions of Ferguson tractors such as those by the wonderfully named Funk Aircraft Company.
The rare implements including the replica wrap-around combine, baler, single-row maize harvester, Twose roller conversion, hammer-mill, etc really bring home the idea of the Ferguson System of farming, as these were the high-end deluxe items, and Harry Ferguson left no stone unturned. Some of these items were made by other manufacturers and only badged as Ferguson, but they formed part of the total package, on top of ploughs, cultivators, harrows, subsoilers, drills, rakes, hoes, planters, fertilizer spreaders, ridgers, post-hole borers, trailers, potato spinners, transport boxes, muck-spreader and loaders, crop-sprayers, etc that the 'ordinary' farmer would need throughout the year.
As a footnote to our visit, I know someone, and there are many others I'm sure, who still owns the Little Grey Fergie his grandfather had from new, but an interesting footnote to the visit is that one other local enthusiast who still owns the grey Fergie his Dad had from new has now also obtained the tractor his grandfather had when new, and they now sit one behind the other in his shed.