Tractor Island A true story by Jean-Raymond Pelletier.
The story begins in the fall of 2004. At the time I was restoring a Farmall Cub and was saying to anyone who would listen: My next one will have steel wheels. Then one day Francois my eldest son told me about one he saw in an island where his friend Mario had just bought a cottage. It had been sitting there since God know when. A three fell on it, but it was just about all there and maybe salvageable. I could probably get it for not very much. At first it seemed a little too far, a little too complicated so I decided to forget about it. After a few weeks I could not stop thinking about it and how pitiful it must have been under that three. I was beginning to think about saving this beautiful machine, prevent it from disappearing forever. I decide to contact Mario and go to his little corner of paradise with him.
Mario explains to me that the three has been removed. Luckily it had only damaged the fuel tank, the steering wheel and right side fender. Just enough to make it even more desirable, I fell in love with it.
I decided to think about it a little bit before getting too involved in this project but still came home with some nice pictures.
Here is what I wrote to Rejean a fellow enthusiast a few days later:
First salvage plan
I could dismantle it and move the pieces in a boat even if I have to make many trips. This would seem like the safest and least expensive way of doing it, what do you think?
I returned to see it the next day. Here is how it went:
Returning from Tractor Island which is how we are going to call it from now on, I realise it is not that far off, even though I have to make a detour through Montreal to the other side off the river to get to Mario’s marina. As I got there I called him up and he came to pick me up in his boat, it would be much simpler if I had one myself but I think I can do without for now.
Second salvage plan
I found everything needed to make a raft on the island. I could use drums for flotation, then move all the parts with a wheelbarrow to the raft. We would then tow it to mainland using Mario’s boat. I am now looking for a youngster who would help me in this endeavour….
This seemed like the plan at the time but I had to change it mostly for lack of said youngster. Only my brother who is hardly a youngster anymore was interested, but was way to busy. I convinced him to come and see the place anyway: it was a memorable trip, more of which later.
Here is what I wrote to Rejean following that trip:
I started to take the tractor apart this afternoon. It is not excessively rusty, definitely feasible with good hand tools since there is no electricity there, but I think I will bring cutting torch next time. I started by lifting it up with a hydraulic jack to free it from the earth it was sinking into for so long. It went well enough but made all kind of macabre noises, as if to say:” why don’t you leave me to rest in peace?”
I removed the fenders, the seat, the fuel tank and the pulley on the rear PTO. This will allow me to open up the transmission which is locked solid. Something I found a little surprising since apart from the engine everything seems to move relatively smoothly. It might have been abandoned there because of a problem with the right rear wheel, which has a radial play of about 1/4 of an inch…
I later found that the brakes were locked preventing any movement of the rear wheels, a rather usual problem in retrospect.
Here is the list of what was missing:
Magneto, carburettor, hood, that’s it!
I may be lucky and find all of those at once, but more likely it will require some digging… If all else fail I will make it work with parts from something else. I would rather have it original though but I am not worried about it too much at the moment. The engine will probably be the ultimate challenge (only water came out of the sump plug)
I will let a couple of weeks go by before returning to give me some time to finish my Cub.
I finally found out that the man who harvested this island died many years ago and that when his grandchildren sold the cottage there was no mention of it so it truly is a forgotten piece.
I bought a little outboard boat so that I can now go to Tractor Island anytime.
Third salvage plan.
This one is a little less conventional. I will use a small rototiller (3 hp) to drive the rear PTO pulley with chain and sprockets. The whole rototiller will be mounted on a custom made bracket on the back of the tractor and will have a sprocket on the tiller shaft which will drive another on the tractor’s pulley. It should go .5 mph in top gear if I got my ratios right and it should work in every gear including reverse. As long as the clutch is disengaged and the PTO engaged it should work fine. I will then DRIVE! ! The tractor to shore and decide how to bring it to the mainland. My options are as follow: 1-Rent a roll on roll off boat, which I have heard, is available in the area. 2-Wait until winter and drive it across the frozen river. 3-Build a raft to carry it on.
The raft idea is a little dangerous and I certainly do not want to see it sink… I did not find the guy with the boat so on ice it will probably be, the only inconvenient is to have to wait until the winter and I can’t wait to have it in my garage.
After a few not so productive trips to Tractor Island in which pour quality tools and even an improperly tightened and subsequently lost outboard engine slowed down progress, I finally went again with my brother. We finally installed the rototiller /rear PTO contraption on to the back of the tractor and after removing the transmission cover to engage PTO which had a broken lever, IT RAN! ! ! The machine came alive after all those years. What an incredible sight! ! !
Okay the steering was a little tight, maybe due to lack of scheduled maintenance we shall see…but I drove it from the little valley it had been abandoned in to shore. We then reinstalled the fenders and drained all the fluids to make sure it would move freely come wintertime and not be frozen solid with water in it. There was some water in the transmission and differential but all the gears seemed to be in excellent condition. The motor though was full of water which will probably make for an interesting rebuild…
It is a very interesting mechanical layout with the transmission transverse to the tractor, the bevel gears are on the input shaft and all the rest is parallel to the rear axle much like a front wheel drive car.
January the 29th 2005
A milestone in Tractor Island history!
The Tractor travelled across the St-Lawrence River. We had a great day! We went first to the island with all our tools, fuel, rototiller-PTO drive, transmission oil and video camera equipment on a sled. After we finished rigging it all up the descent to the ice went smoothly. We then hooked the sled to the tractor and put up the video camera on the sled so we could tape the crossing. We got pretty nice video footage of it all. But boy was it slow! Slowly but surely we made it across in 2 hours the little motor humming along the whole time. The ice was beautiful as you can see in the pictures. But then 50ft from shore the motor stopped!! We pulled it the rest of the way with a long cable and then loaded it on to my brother’s truck.
Jeanray, QC, entered 2005-02-21
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