Dowerin tractor attraction steals the show

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
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Mukinbudin farmer and Tracmach member John Smith with his 1918 Fordson Model F tractor.
Camera IconMukinbudin farmer and Tracmach member John Smith with his 1918 Fordson Model F tractor. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

While the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days is all about showcasing the best in new technology, a dedicated group of machinery enthusiasts are proving there’s plenty to be learnt from years gone by.

Every year, Tracmach members from across WA haul an impressive array of vintage tractors and farm machinery from their personal collections to exhibit at the annual event.

For Kukerin farmer Bob Lukins, who founded Tracmach in 1981, it’s all about keeping the past alive for future generations.

“We collect tractors and restore them, and we do it to preserve the history of agriculture,” he said.

“All the gear is privately owned by our members and we don’t do static displays — everything has to be working.

“It’s a bloody lot of work loading and unloading all these tractors; you’ve got to be fairly dedicated to the organisation, but we have a lot of members who are pretty keen on what we do.”

Kukerin farmer Tracmach founder Bob Lukins with his early 1970s John Deere 6030.
Camera IconKukerin farmer Tracmach founder Bob Lukins with his early 1970s John Deere 6030. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Mr Lukins, who brought along his prized John Deere 6030, said this year’s Dowerin Field Days exhibit was a celebration of 100 years of German tractor manufacturer Lanz Bulldog. Several examples were displayed including fellow Tracmach member, Katanning farmer and Lanz Bulldog enthusiast Mal Beeck’s 1934 HR5.

“I reckon they were the best single cylinder tractors built,” Mr Beeck, who owns about 70 vintage tractors, said. “It’s a hot bulb (engine) tractor, it revs at about 500 revs, has 30 horsepower, and it’s very economical.

“They were very popular at that time because they were cheap to run.

“They used to run on cheap oil and they’re very easy to work with; you don’t have to be a brilliant mechanic to pull them to bits and put them together again.”

Katanning farmer and Trachmach member Mal Beeck with his 1934 HR5 Lanz Bulldog.
Camera IconKatanning farmer and Trachmach member Mal Beeck with his 1934 HR5 Lanz Bulldog. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Bragging rights for the oldest tractor went to Mukinbudin farmer John Smith with his 1918 Model F Fordson.

“This one here is fairly special ... it’s a pre-mass produced one,” he said.

“Henry Ford made the Model T, and he wanted to make tractors but the Ford motor company said ‘no, they won’t sell’, so he opened a factory on his own with his own money.

“He made 2000 or 3000 of them, and when the Ford Motor company saw them going like that, they said ‘we’ll make them for you’.”

Mr Smith said restoring and displaying old tractors was “a lot of fun”, though he has now sold most of his collection to focus on vintage cars.

“I had a collection from 1918 up to 1953, but I got a bit old to crank them,” the 87-year-old said.

“I’m getting rid of my tractors and concentrating on the cars, but I’ve still got this one left and a Fordson E27 on steel wheels.”

For Chapman Valley farmer Marshall Gould, restoring tractors has become such a consuming hobby that he has built up his own private museum.

He said restoring his 1970 Massey Ferguson 1150 proved a particularly difficult task.

Chapman Valley farmer and Tracmach member Marshall Gould with his 1970 Massey Ferguson 1150 tractor.
Camera IconChapman Valley farmer and Tracmach member Marshall Gould with his 1970 Massey Ferguson 1150 tractor. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

“It was purchased from a bloke in Chapman Valley, it was a bit of a wreck,” Mr Gould said.

“It was rusted, wasn’t going; motor was badly dusted, but we stripped it down, redid the motor.

“Parts were really hard to find, but I sourced a bloke over in NSW who had most of the parts and then spent a lot of time putting it back together and painting it.”

A third generation farmer whose sons now run the business, agricultural history has been a lifelong passion for Mr Gould.

“I’ve always been interested in old tractors, especially the vintage ones,” he said.

“The first tractor dad had on the farm was an old two cylinder John Deere, and I’ve purchased three or four of them now.

“I was originally going to stick with the two cylinder Johnnies, but a few other things came along over the last 10-years or so, and we’ve eventually filled a museum up.”

Tracmach State president John Piavanini with a 1942 Murphy’s farm water cart.
Camera IconTracmach State president John Piavanini with a 1942 Murphy’s farm water cart. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Tracmach State president John Piavanini said the organisation had grown from humble beginnings to about 530 members across WA.

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