EIGHTY-EIGHT years ago the Gallinagh family passion for tractors started growing. With a brand new 1929 John Deere Model D tractor added to their Western Australia property, they went about putting it to many and varied uses to make their farming life easier.
After more than 30 years of service it was sent out to pasture (literally) and in the process, was ravaged by the elements for another 50 years.
Then in 2009, Vince Gallinagh‘s enthusiasm for restoring antique machinery, coupled with his childhood memories, sparked a restoration journey to return the family’s original tractor to its former glory.
Back in 1929 the Model D was purchased for approximately £400 (just over AU$700) by Vince’s father, Joe Gallinagh, and shipped from the United States to Fremantle in 1930 during the great depression.
After arriving at the port, the tractor was placed on a train and hauled up to the Gallinagh family farm at Dowerin in WA’s central Wheatbelt region.
Packed with cutting edge features for its time, one of the most notable assets of the machine was its interchangeable wheels: ‘steels’ with cleats for ploughing and ‘rubbers’ for seeding and harvesting.
Even in these first models, ease of use was paramount, Mr Gillinagh noting that “changing the wheels was a matter of undoing a 3-inch nut, slide off, and slide on – pretty easy”.
The Model D spent much of its life dragging a log for land clearing.
“(It was) such a reliable tractor, actually quite powerful 30HP, others (were) not as powerful… they were easy to start, no shot-gun shells or crank, just put the choke on, swing the fly-wheel and bang, away she went,” Mr Gillinagh said.
After approximately 30 years of action, including a relocation to a new family property at Corrigin in May 1949, the family stopped commercial use of the Model D around 1960, but even then it didn’t rest.
The tractor was repurposed and spent the next six years or so running a belt driven water pump taking water from the dam to a tank for garden watering on the property. Plus it spent time cutting chaff hay for the horses and cattle.
The next phase of the tractor’s life was not its finest. Unneeded and all but forgotten, the Model D lay parked under a big Salmon Gum in a creek bed for approximately 35 years.
The years were not kind to it. In 1996, concerned that a piece of history was going to rack and ruin before their eyes, Mr Gillinagh’s wife, Sue, suggested that it might be wise to bring the tractor up and put it in their shed.
Once towed to its new home, Mr Gillinagh started to dabble with it as time permitted, pulling the head off the engine and getting it running.
However, it did stay in its rusty condition in the back of the shed for a while yet.
He would cast an eye over it every now and again while he turned the engine over to check it was still in working order.
Even in this rusty state it still managed to help the family, being used to transport Father Christmas to give out presents on a couple of occasions when a big Gallinagh family Christmas was held. When they say big, they mean big – 96 family descendants converging for a celebration of mammoth proportions, with the tractor of course being a major talking point
In 2009, the Gallinaghs thought they could finally ‘semi’ retire. It was then that Mr Gallinagh got to work on finishing the restoration.
The engine was painstakingly restored. The radiator had a tiny seep around the gasket on the head tank but the brass core was still as good as new and has been kept as the original. Parts like mud guards and foot plates were sourced from John Deere in America.
Carnamah local, Hal Walton, who owned a local John Deere dealership at the time and was a fellow restoration enthusiast, was another critical connection to sourcing the necessary parts to do the job right.
Mr Gallinagh got his hands on the final parts required in March 2011, just in time to show off his handy work at the local Rotary Club Vintage Show in April. The cleats came off, and the rubbers went on and it was ready to parade around the local town oval.
Onwards and upwards
The now restored Model D is still kept in Mr Gallinagh’s shed but is available for public viewing at least once a year at the Corrigin Agricultural Show on the Ag Implements Narembeen (local John Deere dealer) display.
Further to the family’s John Deere Model D tractor, Mr Gallinagh has restored a collection of other historical machines including a rare Chamberlain 6G tractor and two Chamberlain 9G tractors.
At this rate, the Gallinaghs might need to invest in a bigger shed. “I love old gear and I love restoring it… I’ve got a bit of history there,” Mr Gallinagh said.
Source: John Deere
The Gallinaghs’ Model D tractor will be on display at the Corrigin Agricultural Show in the first week of September 2019.
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