Home & Shop Companion #0034
William Castle is attending a wedding this week. The following is taken from the Reports of the United States Commissioners attending the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.
The Future of Plowing
by Edward H. Knight, U.S. Commissioner to the Paris Universal Exposition, 1878
Experiments in steam-plowing began in England about 1850. It is usually the case that in any great change of method, attempts are made to follow the previous system so far as possible, merely adapting the new idea to the former system. This was the case in the present instance, the idea that first occurred being to hitch the engine to the plow and draw it over the field, the traveling engine being a substitute for a team of horses. We have tried the same in the United States, and the failure of that system on both sides of the Atlantic is complete.
Moving the implements by wire-rope traction was introduced by John Fowler in 1855; and in 1866 the same inventor introduced his double-engine sets, which are the most effective, and this system includes the majority of the tackles in use at the present time.
Of the many schemes and systems which have been brought before the public three only have proved successful. In each of these the traction power is transmitted to the implement through a steel-wire rope winding upon a drum.
1. The direct or double-engine system (Fig. 63) has two engines, with a winding-drum to each, working along opposite headlands, to draw a plow, cultivator, or other implement from one engine to the other, alternately. While one is pulling, the other moves forward the width of the row of furrows. Two engine-drivers, a plowman, and one or two boys to attend the rope-porters are required.
2. The single-engine and opposite-headland-anchor system. The locomobile moves along one headland and the anchor, with a pulley, traverses along the other. The engine has a pair of drums, upon which the wire-rope is alternately wound, the bight of the rope passing around the pulley on the traveling anchor at the other side of the field.
3. The roundabout system, in which the winding-drums are fixed in a windlass frame and connected to a portable engine, which is made stationary in a corner of the field. One end of each rope is made fast to the plow, and the implement is drawn forward and backward by the drums pulling alternately; the pulley-sheaves and anchors at each end of the furrow move forward as the plowing proceeds.
The traveling engine and plow. This plan, upon which so much money has been wasted in the United States, need occupy but sufficient room to condemn it. It was the one originally attempted both in England and in the United States, and may be mentioned first as it was first in point of date, and to clear the ground for the display of what is really valuable.
The persistent attempts in this false direction have greatly retarded the progress of the invention both in England and in the United States, and it is not perhaps too much to say that the discouragement arising from these abortive efforts is at present the cause of our being behind so many other countries in the introduction of steam-plowing.
The double-engine system is the most expensive in the first cost and the most economical in the cost of plowing per acre. Its adoption will be determined by the ability of the purchaser to invest in the required amount, and by his command of sufficient land to require apparatus of the greatest working capacity.
The balance-plow (Fig. 82) is the best result of all the attempts to adapt an instrument for the to-and-fro method of working. One set turns the furrow slice to the right and the other to the left, so that the forward plow in each case throws its slice into the furrow last made on the previous passage. Many attempts at a turning-plow were made before the very effective balance-plow was invented, and now it enters into all the effective systems of steam culture.