Rare combine to take to fields once more

The 1929 Massey Harris 9B combine in Manitoba is believed to be the only one of its kind operating in the world

AUSTIN, Man. — Jake Hamm and Helmut Neufeld have the attitude it takes to rebuild farm mechanical history.

“There’s always a way,” said Hamm, a retired farmer and mechanic, about the 1929 Massey Harris 9B combine he, Neufeld and other volunteers worked on daily throughout July.

It’s an aged creation of metal and wood that Neufeld has been hoping for more than 20 years to get threshing again.

“Everything is a surprise,” said Neufeld about rebuilding, restoring and recreating the operations of a combine they and the Manitoba Agricultural Museum believe is the only one of its kind operating anywhere in the world.

The 9B will be running as part of a fundraising and awareness-raising project at the museum on Aug. 25, called the Heritage Harvest Growing Project. The project raises money for the museum and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Finding spare parts for a 1929 combine isn’t easy, but volunteers found some for this one on an abandoned combine near the Rockies. | Ed White photo

Neufeld first spotted most of the combine as it sat among a gaggle of other non-functioning machines on the museum grounds.

Fellow volunteer Nathan Sims wanted to pull something in the annual parade with a 1929 Rumely Model X 25 40, and Neufeld thought the 9B was a suitable match.

But it was nowhere near being presentable, so he got working on it in 1994. Neufeld wasn’t willing to leave it as an ancient relic and decided to try to get it operating again. To see if that was even remotely possible, he decided to test the engine, which had been covered by tin sheeting.

“I grabbed a hold of the crank and gave it a crank and it turned,” said Neufeld.

“I figured if it’s turning, I can make it run.”

But before he could make the combine operate again he had to replace a plethora of parts, and those are hard to find for old and anachronistic equipment.

Fortunately, he has the eyes of a policeman (he spent his working career in the RCMP) and an obsession in finding ancient equipment. On a 1995 driving holiday with his wife, Rosana, he spied a hulk that thrilled him as they drove through the country southwest of Calgary.

“In the woods, I saw the outline of this combine,” said Neufeld.

Sure enough, it was another 9B, and miraculously the abandoned machine offered Neufeld the salvage he wanted.

“All the missing pieces on this machine were on that machine.”

Rather than just removing the parts and driving on, Neufeld determined to find out who owned it. He logged the co-ordinates on GPS and continued on with his holiday. But on the way back home, he hunted down the landowner, an elderly woman, contacted her son, who was in Calgary at the time, and was given permission to take whatever he wanted. They returned to Manitoba with a trailer load of parts.

Back at the museum, he assembled what he could and Sims pulled it in the 1996 parade.

Then it languished as Neufeld and other museum volunteers worked on their hundreds of other projects, but it was never forgotten.

This year, looking for something special for Heritage Harvest, Neufeld decided to try to get the Massey Harris in full working order.

He and volunteers like Hamm have spent weeks working on it, which has included inventing a mechanism to operate the beater.

It hasn’t been easy, but volunteers are looking forward to showing off this unique piece of farming history as it once more threshes grain.

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