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A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1996 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)
One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).
Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.
John T. also had read of the benefits of ensilage for dairy cows, and as a result he put up a cement-block-style silo with a covered top on the west side of the round barn. In 1931, John T. bought a new 1931 John Deere D from Beske Implement in Minnesota Lake. This was the first tractor on the Goff farm, and John T. changed most of his horse-drawn machinery to be towed behind the tractor in an attempt to modernize his farming operation. That same year, he and his neighbor Ernest More, who lived 3½ miles to the northwest of the Goff farm, bought the Model 127 Papec silo filler from Beske Implement which had just arrived on the train from Shortsville, New York. Because it was expected that the John Deere D, with its fast belt pulley and limited range of governable speed, would be one of the primary power sources for the silo filler, John T. Goff and Earnest More needed the optional large Rockwood pulley that was on this particular Papec to offset the very fast feet-per-second which would be produced by the Model D.
That summer, John T. Goff’s 1931 John Deere D provided the power to the belt for the Papec as they filled the silos on the More and Goff farms. The Papec was also employed for some custom silo filling in the neighborhood. Over the hard years of the 1930s, custom work provided a welcome secondary source of income for the More and Goff families.
John T. Goff lived on a farm with his wife, Dora, and his invalid mother, Augusta Goff. They employed a nurse, Blanche Hayes, to help look after Augusta. Over the years, John T. had added all of the latest conveniences to his farm and to the house. The house on the Goff farm was one of the wonders of its day. In the pre-Rural Electric Cooperative (REA) days, it was an electrified house! This was accomplished by means of a gas-operated generator and batteries in the basement. Also, the house had a pressurized running water system, hot water, and a bathroom with a commode and bathtub! All of this was added to the house to ease the burden of caring for Augusta.
As Augusta’s health continued to decline, however, John T. decided, in about 1933, to retire to the town of Mapleton and rent out the farm. Blanche Hayes had heard of a family from the Winnebago area that would be interested in renting the farm. This was the Howard B. and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family. John T. made contact with Howard and Ethel and agreed that the Hanks family would begin renting the Goff farm effective March 1, 1935.
On that day, Howard and Ethel and their family of five children, Fred, Bruce, Marilyn, Lorraine, and Hildreth, moved onto the Goff farm. Another son, John, was born in September of 1935 after the family had moved. The Hanks family continued to fill silo with Ernie More and the other neighbors, using the Papec Model 127 silo filler.
Each year filling silo was a big event on the Goff farm. It was an exciting time for the Hanks children. Preparations for filling silo usually began the day before when the proper amount of pipe sections would be bolted together to reach the top of the silo. The “goose neck” would be bolted onto one end of the pipe. Then, using a tractor and hay rope and a pulley at the top of the silo, the whole pipe would be lifted to its correct position along the outside of the silo. Next, the door covering the opening in the roof of the silo would be opened and the goose neck would be placed into it. Then the whole pipe would be secured to the side of the silo. The Papec silo filler was then backed into position under the lower end of the pipe and the pipe was attached to the outlet spout on top of the silo filler. Before a tractor could be belted up to the little Papec, however, the silo filler had to be staked down. This was accomplished by a 2 x 4 board serving as a brace against the silo filler on the side of the silo filler which would be belted to the tractor. One end of the board would be propped against the side of the propeller/cutter housing. At the other end of the board, a big steel stake would be driven into the ground. This brace would keep the silo filler from being pulled out of position once the belt to the tractor was pulled tight.
Meanwhile, someone would be connecting all of the sections of the distributor pipe together and hitching the connected sections to the end of the gooseneck inside the silo. This distribution pipe would allow a worker to evenly dispense the falling silage to every area of the silo. By walking around on top to the silage, the worker would also pack the silage and force out any harmful air pockets which might be forming as the silo was filled.
To bind the corn into bundles, the Hanks family used the horse-drawn Deering corn binder which John T. had converted into a tractor-drawn binder. During busy times of the year, such as harvest season, John T. would come out to the farm to lend a hand. During silo filling, he would most often ride the corn binder, operating the trip on the bundle chute while Howard Hanks drove the 1931 John Deere Model D. Early in the morning while Carl Nelson, the hired man, and the Hanks boys Fred and Bruce finished the milking, John T. would arrive from town in his 1936 DeSoto 4-door sedan. On the floor of the back seat would be a couple of new balls of McCormick-Deering twine which he had picked up at Borchert’s hardware store and the IHC dealership in Mapleton.
After greasing the binder, putting twine in the twine canister of the binder, and threading the twine up out of the canister and though the eye of the needle on the binder, the little binder was then ready for the field. Fred and Bruce Hanks and Carl Nelson would just be finishing the chores in the barn as the tractor and binder ambled past the round barn on the way to the corn field. The corn binder would be cutting the corn, tying the corn into bundles, and depositing the bundles on the ground in groups of three before the dew had lifted in the corn fields.
After the corn had been bound, the John Deere D would be taken up to the yard and belted up to the Papec silo filler. Once the cows had been let out of the round barn following milking and all the other chores on the farm were completed, Carl Nelson and the Hanks boys would begin hitching up the horses–the black Percheron team and the strawberry Roan team. The Hanks boys would then take the teams and their bundle wagons to the corn fields. Moving down the newly cut stubble, the boys would instruct the teams to stop when the wagon reached a pile of bundles and to “giddup” when the bundles had been thrown onto the wagon. As the boys walked along, the obedient teams moved and stopped on command without the need of a driver on the reins. Once the wagon was full of bundles, one of the crew would jump up onto the load, take up the reins, and drive the team to the yard where the Papec waited by the silo.
Pulling the loaded wagon into the yard, the horses would be steered as close as possible to the galvanized feeder of the Papec. Howard Hanks would then engage the hand clutch on the John Deere D which would start the Papec’s propeller and cutter. Soon the cutter would be up to the recommended 600 to 670 rpm. Howard Hanks would then walk back to the Papec with his characteristic limping gait (he had suffered an injury to his leg as a child when a horse fell on him), engage the feeder control lever, and start the chain apron on the galvanized feeder moving toward the throat of the cutter. Then he would help the person on the wagon unload the bundles onto the feeder. The Papec Model 127 would swallow the corn bundles, twine and all, almost as fast as the bundles could be placed on the feeder. Once the wagon was unloaded, another wagon full of bundles would be arriving at the silo filler.
Meanwhile, another member of the silo filling crew would be moving the distributor pipe around inside the silo, filling the silo with even, tight layers of silage. As the day progressed and the silage rose under his feet, the worker inside the silo would remove another section of the distributor pipe and take it down the manhole chute on the side of the silo. On his way back up the chute, the worker would probably have to bring another door to cover another hole in the manhole chute. Once this door was in place, he was ready to let the silage fill up another three feet inside the silo.
At noon, everybody on the crew broke for dinner. As with threshing rings, there was a large dinner prepared for the whole crew by Ethel and the Hanks girls, Marilyn and Lorraine. Ora Nelson would come over to the main house from the small hired-mans house on the Goff farm with hot-dishes and pies she had made for the big day. Fannie More and some of the wives of the other farmers in the silo filling ring would arrive on the Goff farm carrying more food to be served to the crew. The table would be extented and chairs would be collected from around the house to make a place for everyone to eat dinner. With the huge selection of foods and the excitment, the day took on a festive atmosphere for the children.
Once dinner was complete, the crew returned to the task at hand. Once the silo was full, the task of dismantling the pipe and putting it on a bundle wagon to be carried to the next farm was begun. The Papec was usually towed by the Hanks’ 1931 John Deere D or by Earnest More’s F-20 to the next farm with a silo to be filled.
For the Hanks family, this pattern of silo filling continued until 1945 when they purchased the Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota. (For a history of the Bagan farm, see “Survivors from the Past” by Fred J. Hanks, contained at page 14 in the January/February 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, Vol. 7, No. 1.) Over the years on the Goff farm, the Hanks family had purchased the McCormick/Deering corn binder, the 1931 John Deere D, and other pieces of machinery from John T. All of this machinery moved with the Hanks family to the Bagan farm in 1945. (For the story of the Hanks family’s move to the Bagan farm, see “Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol 7, No. 4.)
The Bagan farm at one time had a wooden silo located on the north side of the barn. This wooden silo had been constructed of long heavy boards which when placed upright and formed into a circle, the beveled sides of the boards would fit together like the staves of a barrel providing an air-tight joint. Just as steel hoops were used to keep a barrel together, heavy cable was fastened at strategic locations at the top, bottom, and middle of the silo to hold the staves together. The wooden silo also had a roof with wooden shingles and a hole for the gooseneck of the silo filler.
When the Hanks family moved to the Bagan farm in 1945, however, the wooden silo had fallen into disrepair and had toppled over. The bottom part of the silo was rotten and useless. Therefore, with Fred Hanks away in the U.S. Army, Howard and his second son, Bruce, undertook to cut off the bottom part of the wooden silo, put a tight wooden floor in the remaining upper portion of the silo, and installed skids under the floor. The upper portion of the wooden silo was then uprighted and thus converted into a portable grain bin which continued to be used on the farm for storage on oats, shelled corn or soybeans until the 1980s. Because there was no silo on the Bagan farm, the Hanks family did not fill silo or feed silage to their herd of Milking Shorthorn dairy cattle during 1945 nor did they for the next two years–1946 and 1947.
As has been related elsewhere, on April 2, 1947, Bruce Hanks married Mary Keller, a girl he had known from the old Mapleton neighborhood around the Goff farm. (See “Wartime Farmall H,” cited above.) When they returned from their honeymoon, Bruce and Mary Hanks rented the house on the Tony Machovec farm, about ½ mile south of the Bagan farm. The Machovec farm had a cement block silo standing next to the barn, so in 1948 the Hanks family decided to rent the Machovec silo and store a portion of their corn crop in the form of silage for feed for their dairy herd.
Having heard that the old Goff/More Papec Model 127 silo filler that the family had used while they were on the Goff farm was no longer being used by the Earnest More family or the other families in the silo filling ring of the old Mapleton neighborhood, Howard Hanks decided to buy the Papec. The Goff/More Model 127, however, had deteriorated considerably over the years. A pitchfork had been run through the cutter, and the frame was broken in three different places. Furthermore, the silo filler had been completely disassembled.
The Hanks family, nevertheless, paid $40.00 for the disassembled Papec in June of 1948 and brought all of the pieces to the Bagan farm where they reassembled and repaired the Papec and welded the broken frame. Soon the Model 127 silo filler was back in running order.
Following the oat harvest in the summer of 1948, the 1931 John Deere was hitched to the newly repaired Papec, driven out of the yard of the Bagan farm and south down the “rabbit road” to the Machovec farm. The Hank’s 1942 Farmall H, pulling one of the bundle wagons with the silo pipe, gooseneck and distributor chute sections for the Papec, had preceded the slow moving Model D on steel wheels to the Machovec farm. Fred Hanks, who had returned from service in the U.S. Army the year before in June of 1947, and Howard then proceeded to raise the silo pipe, just the way they had on the Goff farm years before. After the Papec had been set along side the silo and connected to the silo pipe, Howard and Fred went back to the Bagan farm to prepare the old McCormick-Deering corn binder for the field.
Filling silo on the Machovec farm was completed without the same large crew that had been present on the Goff farm. Furthermore, the teams of horses pulling the bundle wagons had been replaced by tractors. Still, feeding corn bundles into the Papec did bring back memories of the Goff farm. These memories were not to linger long, however. Indeed, 1948 was to be the last year that the old Model 127 was used by the Hanks family to fill a silo. Earl Jacobson was already using his new John Deere Model 64 field forage harvester to fill many of the silos around the neighborhood. Field harvesting of silage was already spelling the end of the line for stationary silo fillers and corn binders. In 1949, the Hanks family rented a newer and bigger silo on the Lloyd Tapp farm and employed Earl Jacobson, with his John Deere one-row Model 46 field forage harvester, to fill that silo with a portion of the corn crop grown on the Bagan farm.
Although the Goff/More Model 127 silo filler was never used after 1948 to fill silo, it continued to serve an important role as a machine to chop green corn for immediate feeding to cattle in the summer when the pastures had dried up. Indeed, the author, whose mother was Marilyn (Hanks) Wells, remembers the old Papec Model 127 when it was towed from the Bagan/Hanks farm to the Wayne Wells farm to make cattle feed on hot, dry summer days. The old Goff/More Model 127 continued in service in this capacity on the Bagan farm (now the Fred Hanks farm) until it was sent to the junk yard on May 15, 1972. However, even after the original Goff/More Papec Model 127 had been taken to the junkyard, the Hanks farm still had need for a stationary silo filler to help with the feeding of their beef herd. Therefore, the same day that the old Papec went to the junkyard, Fred Hanks bought another, identical Papec Model 127 with the galvanized feeder and large Rockwood pulley at an auction. This newer Model 127 was used on the Hanks farm until 1986 when it was hauled to a woods located on the neighboring George Johnson farm.
Recently, this Hanks Papec Model 127 has captured interest as a potential restoration project because it is an exact duplicate of the Goff/More Model 127. Accordingly, preliminary arrangements were made in May of 1995 to have the Hanks Model 127 silo filler moved to the LeSueur Pioneer Power Showgrounds for eventual restoration. Upon completion of the extensive restoration, the Model 127 will take its place along side the little pre-1940 Papec Model R silo filler and a newly restored 1943 Algoma Model 442 OK silo filler in field demonstrations on the showgrounds, and will participate in the field demonstration of the green corn harvest at the LeSueur show every August. (See “Algoma is OK,” March/April 1995, Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 18 for pictures and the story of the Algoma silo filler in its unrestored state.)
Together with the Papec Model R silo filler, it is hoped that the restoration and use of the Papec Model 127 will provide the public with a yearly commemoration of all the people involved in the manufacture, sale, and use of the Papec line of forage equipment. Additionally, it will, for a moment, offer the public an opportunity to stand in the shoes of their grandfathers and pitch a few bundles of corn into the silo fillers.