As April draws to a close and the weather begins to change, farmers have been getting stuck into another seeding season. Long days and nights spent sitting in the tractor, limited family time and frozen meals will be the norm for some, for the next several weeks. Of course, seeding is made easier by ever-changing technology so evolved that some tractors virtually drive themselves.
Technology in farming and agricultural machinery has come a long way over the years from horses to horse power.
Right here in Geraldton sits a piece of agricultural history that has taken Bob Taylor approximately four years to restore and stands as an example of farming evolution.
Bob’s pride and joy is an 1899 HV McKay ‘Sunshine’ Harvester that came from Williams in Western Australia’s southwest and is likely the only one of its kind – restored and running – in the country.
“It’s a passion I have and it’s seen me restore a 1904 6-foot harvester and a 1924 H.S.T header,” said Mr Taylor, who enjoys the work as a hobby.
Bob estimates he has spent about 910 hours working on the 1904 harvester and another 826 hours on the HST header, but admits he can only work on these when time allows.
“I started restoration of machinery in 1992 and over the years I have gained an appreciation for the engineering skills of that era.”
The Sunshine business began in 1890 in Bathurst where 400 employees would construct about 1,000 harvesters a year. In 1910, Sunshine employed more workers and were able to start exporting to South America and South Africa. Before long, they were exporting machinery to 160 different countries and soon the company merged with Massey Harris in Canada and later with H. Ferguson.
As well as restoring the Sunshine harvester, Bob has spent time building six models of other Sunshine equipment dating back to circa 1920. These include a field roller, a horse wagon bag lifter, hay rake, heavy duty bag trolley and a wheat bag dumper carrier.
Many of these machines are the only of their kind in WA and possibly the country, which has increased the challenge of restoration.
“Because of the age of these machines, replacement parts are very hard to come by and I’ve relied heavily on modifying other parts off later machines or building them myself,” said Mr Taylor.
In terms of what’s next, Bob says he has a 1912 six-foot harvester waiting in the wings and hopes to find a home for the 1899 HV Sunshine Harvester where the public can enjoy this rare piece of farming history.
“Hopefully it ends up in a show room or a museum where it will be seen and appreciated by people.”