The Farmall F-12: The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Tractor (Part II)
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the July/August 2003 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
As we have noted on a previous occasion, the 1936 F-12 bearing the Serial No. 65999 could well have been sold from Dingman Hardware, the International Harvester dealership in the town of Clear Lake, Minnesota (1930 pop. 242). (See the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the article called “The Farmall F-12: The 1935 Minnesota State Fair.”) No. 65999 had been sold to a dairy farmer living in Sherburne County, Minnesota, and in Palmer Township of that county. Our Palmer Township farmer had put the tractor to use in the spring of 1936. It had been a very cold, record breaking winter, especially January and February of 1936. Indeed, Cedric Adams on WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) had reported that the temperature had never risen above 0° for a total of 36 straight days during that period of time. However the cold weather broke in late February and except for another cold snap in early April, the temperature had evened off into a very nice planting season. (Downtown Minneapolis Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures for 1936 from the Internet.)
That spring our Palmer Township farmer was putting No. 65999 to use in a number of different tasks around his farm. He had shortened the hitches on much of the horse-drawn machinery on his farm that spring. It always seemed to be handier to start the little F-12 than to get the Belgian horses all harnessed up just to complete even small tasks on the farm. His records were also reflecting that use of the tractor was actually proving more economical in the long run than using the horses for the same tasks. He wished to see just how much of the work on the farm could be accomplished by the little dark gray tractor. Now he used the horses only during the days when his second daughter was able to help out with the field work. She was becoming quite an expert at driving the tractor. As always, she wanted to be involved with whatever her father was doing. Thus, while she was preparing the seed bed with the tractor, her father was using the horses to plant the corn.
While she was in School during May of that year, he used the tractor to plant the rest of the corn. He wanted to see if the tractor was truly the “farm all” that it was advertised to be. It was not because No. 65999 performed the farm tasks at a faster rate of speed than horses that made the tractor more profitable. Even at top speed (3-3/4 mph) the little tractor was no faster than a horse. Rather it was the stamina of the tractor as opposed to the horses that made the F-12 profitable and 1936 was the year that our Palmer Township farmer was to prove the economy of tractor power as opposed to horse power in this regard.
Shortly after he had planted his corn in the spring of 1936, he finished up his morning milking. After letting the cows out of the barn, he went to the machine shed to get the tractor and manure spreader. He always tried to park the tractor close to the two 55 gallon barrels that he now had in the machine shed. These barrels, sitting upright, were filled with kerosene for the tractor. One barrel had the bung plug removed. Screwed into the bung hole was the J.J. Groetken Pump Co. barrel hand pump which he had purchased at an auction at a neighbors farm. (Jack Sim, An Illustrated Guide to GasPumps [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2002] p. 190.) The Groetken Pump Co. had ceased advertising in 1927. Clearly, he would not be able to replace the pump or finds parts for the hand pump once it wore out. However, the hand pump seemed to be working so far and the price he had paid was very reasonable. He would worry about the demise of the hand pump when it happened. The Groetken hand pump had a hose attached to the outlet nozzle of the pump. He put unscrewed the cap to the opening on top of the fuel tank of the tractor. Inserting the hose and observing the level of the fuel in the tractor tank he began turning the crank on the hand pump with his other hand.
After filling the 13-gallon tank sufficiently, he unscrewed cap on what appeared to be another opening to the same tank. Actually, this was an opening into a second smaller compartment within the fuel tank. This one-gallon compartment held the gasoline that was used to get the tractor started. From a partially filled five-gallon gas can, he had in the machine shed he filled this little tank with the more expensive gasoline. Then he took an 8” Crescent wrench from the work bench located nearby and opened the plug on the fuel line vent which protruded through the hood of the little tractor just above the engine. By opening the valve at the bottom of the fuel bowl, he let all the kerosene out of the carburetor and the fuel line. Then he reached back under the fuel tank and turned off the fuel coming from the kerosene tank and turned on the valve leading from the gasoline tank.
With a bit of gasoline from the five-gallon can, he now poured gasoline down the gasoline vent and replaced the plug. The engine was now all primed to start and start it did after one pull upwards on the crank with the choke on and another upwards pull with the choke off the tractor came to life. This certainly was faster than harnessing up the horses. He would allow the engine to warm up entirely backed the tractor out shed and turned it around and hitched it to the New Idea Model 8 manure spreader and headed to the barn. (For a discussion before he would switch the engine over to kerosene. During the warmup the throttle would not work, but still the tractor could be backed out of the shed and hitched up to the New Idea No. 8 manure spreader while allowing the engine to warm up sufficiently to run on kerosene. (For a history of the New Idea Company, see the article “The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater , Ohio” contained in the September/October 1998 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 14.)
In the coming winter, our Palmer Township farmer would find that even after the tractor was driven to barn he needed to let the tractor run a while before switching to kerosene. However, this morning it was quite warm suggesting that today would be warm summer’s day. Accordingly, he would not be able to drive the little tractor across the yard to the barn before the engine was able to start burning the cheaper kerosene fuel.