The Modern Farm Horse
By 1906 the Canadian farmer was being offered an alternative that was touted as “the modern farm horse.” The new tool was the “kerosene traction engine,” whose name was soon shortened to “kerosene tractor.” Designed for function rather than appearance, operator comfort or safety, they were not technologically sophisticated. The engine, mounted on a four-wheeled frame, was not enclosed, so both it and the drive mechanism were prone to damage from dust and dirt. The operators often had to climb onto the flywheel and use their weight to get it moving so that the engine would turn over and “catch.”
|The Sawyer-Massey 20-40’s gears would have been exposed to the elements. Sawyer-Massey catalogue, ca 1918|
Like their rival, the steam traction engine, these tractors often weighed as much as five tonnes and relied on weight rather than the efficient use of power to pull farm implements like ploughs. Because of their size and expense, they were best suited to the larger farms of western Canada and contract ploughmen and threshermen. When a matched pair of work horses cost $250, a large tractor cost at least $2 500.