Ferguson Ploughs: Development & Types 1917·64 part 3

In this third feature article John Baber traces the history of Ferguson ploughs from 1939 to the 1960s. Acknowledgement to Colin Frazer’s book ‘Henry Ferguson, ‘Arthur Battelle, Fordson Magazine of Pro. E.P Neufeld’s ‘A Global Corporation’.

In January 1939 the great partnership between Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford began. It is remarkable to recall that by April 1939 the first prototypes of a new Ferguson System tractor were being tested and that by June the Ford-Ferguson 9N was launched to the public. At the same time the old Ferguson Sherman link was re-established with financial assistance from Ford. This new Ferguson/Sherman Corporation marketed the 9N tractor and also manufactured the implements for it.

Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor

The principle implement was, of course, the 2 furrow plough (2 bottom plow to our North American readers). The design followed the English ‘B’ type except for the increase in under-beam clearance to 22″. However there were several minor differences worth noting. The beams were more slender in appearance and had a revised fixing for the cross shaft with the ‘U’ bolts actually passing through the beam itself. The head­stock on early production ploughs was cast in two pieces with a slightly curved section to the vertical and inclined struts. On later ploughs the inclined struts were separate and flat in section as they had been on the ‘B’ type. The ‘B’s curve plate behind the top link pin was omitted. Coulter stems were mounted in recesses cast into the beams with an eye bolt to clamp them in place.

Other minor changes affected the coulter assemblies and the furrow wheel (rolling landslide). The two small brace bolts on the ‘B’s coulter forks were omitted and the furrow wheel mounting bracket, after first appearing as the English design, later came with the hanging clevis that both limited up and down movement and anchored the flat spring. (Early type design is shown in the exploded diagram). To allow for the use of the Ferguson spanner to assist in turning the cross shaft two flats were machined at each end instead of one central one. Turning of the top link pin was prevented by two cast protrusions that engaged the lynch pin.

Various changes were made during the War years. These appear to be mainly concerned with strength using a more robust saddle to carry the mouldboards and heavier beams without the holes in the forward ends. The word ‘Ford’ was stamped where the holes had been. It is interesting to note one aspect common to all Ferguson ploughs from 1936 to the late 1950s and that is the angle of the cross shaft in relation to the beams. It is not quite at right angles but slightly advanced on the right hand side. Likewise the disc coulters are set to slightly undercut the furrow wall.

In due course there were six American ploughs.
They were:-
The IOH, 2 furrow 10″ with a base similar to a Scotch or lea type
The 310H 3 Furrow 10″ with a base similar to a Scotch or lea type
The 12A 2 furrow 12″ general purpose base
The 12B 2 furrow 12″ semi-digger
The 14A 2 furrow 14″ general purpose
The 16A 1 furrow 16″ digger base with slip nose share.

Early Sherman Plough: exploded diagram with part numbers.

The 9N was launched to the world’s press and several hundred invited guests from eighteen countries on 29th June 1939 at Dearborn. To demonstrate the ease with which the tractor and plough could be handled, an eight year old boy, David McClaren, drove around before the assembled company. The following September at New York’s World Fair daily demonstrations were given of the 9N and plough.

During 1939/40 a tractor plus implements were sent to the U.K. to demonstrate the ‘System’ and gain publicity. Ferguson’s main objective was, however, to persuade Ford Motor Co. at Dagenham to produce the 9N. Ford U.K. management was independent of the U.S. and had already made an agreement with the British Government to supply the Fordson ‘N’. They were not inclined to re-tool with the war under-way and did not want much to do with Ferguson. A further setback occurred in 1941 with the departure of the Sherman brothers. Implement manufacture continued under a new company, Harry Ferguson Inc. with the dynamic Roger Kyes as marketing manager. Kyes’ approach to problems was well illustrated by the steel shortage in 1942. Production of tractors all but ceased in the latter part of the year and cash flow was slashed. Kyes exhorted dealers to send scrap tractors for smelting, persuaded his industrial friends to part with second­-grade steel ingots and developed an austerity tractor, the 2N. Ferguson’s approach was to try some high level politicking including the President of the United States himself. Successfully, it must be added.

Ferguson 2N Austerity tractor

Ferguson continued to press for the manufacture of his equipment at the Dagenham plants but was continually rebuffed. He eventually wrote directly to Henry Ford stating that he wished to withdraw from that part of their ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ covering the manufacture of Ferguson System tractors in the eastern hemisphere i.e. Dagenham. Henry Ford’s private secretary, Frank Campsell, on seeing the letter was horrified. Fearing what reaction it would arouse it is believed that the letter was never shown to Henry Ford. It was placed in a drawer and left. possibly in the hope of maintaining the relationship.

In the early summer of 1943, as a result of growing interest in human nutrition and health, a conference was held at Hot Springs, Virginia. Ferguson saw this as a golden opportunity to expand interest in his philosophy or his ‘World Plan’. He arranged a series of demonstrations at nearby Bethesda in Maryland at which he presented his ‘Plan’ as being integral to the development and progress of his ‘System’ . Ferguson saw poverty. inflation and nutrition as the key elements to overcome for all mankind and his System as the ‘vehicle’ to achieve it.

Trevor Knox. who had joined the Ferguson team in the early 1930s. was assigned the task of finding a manufacturer in the U.K. The 9N tractors had, by mid 1943. begun to make their mark on the British market. A chance meeting between’ an acquaintance of Trevor Knox and an advertising executive who handled the Standard Motor Company’s account led to the eventual production of the famous TE20 at Coventry. War time restrictions were overcome by Ferguson’s extraordinary lobbying abilities: he even went as far as the then Chancellor. Sir Stafford Cripps and argued .. successfully. that Ferguson equipment was needed not only for our farms but as a dollar earner as well. Sufficient dollars were allocated to build’ 200 tractors a day including the purchase of ‘Continental Z 120’ engines from the U.S. and 3 million for implement parts. The first TE 20 (Tractor England) machines came off the assembly line in the autumn of 1946. Implements, including ploughs, were supplied by outside contractors such as Rubery Owen, a Midlands company.

Ferguson TE20

The design of the post-war ploughs essentially reverted back to the pre-war ‘B’ type. The plough beams were of thicker section than the Sherman and differed from the ‘B’ in having a concave face to part of their length giving, at first glance, an H section appearance. The headstock was similar to the ‘B’ but minus the characteristic curved plate behind the top link pin. The brass patent/identification plate was located on the headstock instead of on the brace beam as on all earlier ploughs. The coulter clamps were fixed to the beams as on the ‘B’ models and similarly the cross shafts were, once again, a separate assembly bolted to the side of the beams. Cross shaft movement to adjust front furrow width was as on the Ferguson/Sherman ploughs (see illustration). A key was set into the underside of the cross shaft to prevent side movement. The settings shown in the table are critical and this key helped to maintain the correct shaft location. The double arm disc coulters were virtually the same as on all earlier. ploughs though, as with the Sherman models, the two small pins behind the coulter stems were absent. The furrow wheel was similar to the earlier types with the clevis arrangement to locate the spring against the lower pin and the top pin restricting upward movement.

A small L shaped piece was fitted below the top link pin, the pin stopper, to prevent rotation and consequent breakage of the retaining chains. Various accessories were developed for the British ploughs. Mouldboard extension plates and, later, single arm disc coulter, a third furrow conversion kit and a lever operated furrow width adjuster were introduced. Post War plough development, that had started in 1947 as a standard 2 furrow 10″ general to purpose type, proceeded until by the 1960s there was a choice of 5 bases and 176 different builds. All these models were built around one basic frame apart from the disc plough and reversibles. Even these shared some common parts. The British ploughs were designated as shown in the following chart in three series. Firstly, from 1947 to 1956, secondly from 1956 to 1958 and lastly all ploughs built after 1958. This last range was to set the pattern that continued until the mid 1960s.

Under the Ferguson name the conventional ploughs were identified thus: (1947-1956)
Type AE 28   Description                                    Weight  Price **

AE28 10H 2 furrow 10″ width general purpose base 3591b £47-10-0
AE28 10B 2 furrow 10″ width semi-digger base 3641b £47-10-0
AE28 12B 2 furrow 12″ width semi-digger base 3611b £47-10-0
AE28 12C 2 furrow 12″ width Deep-digger base 3981b £51-10-0
AE2816C 1 furrow 16″ width Deep-digger base 2581b £38-00-0
AE283-8G 3 furrow 8″ width Lea type base 540lb £76-00-0
AE28 3-1 OH 3 furrow 10″ width general purpose base 5251b **
AE28 3-1 OB 3 furrow 10″ width semi-digger base 5331b **
AE28 3-12B 3 furrow 12″ width semi-digger base 560lb **
TAE2816C Single furrow reversible 16″ width 5451b £84-00-0
Deep-digger base (bodies at 80° angle)
2PAE20 2 furrow disc plough 4481b £63-00-0
3PAE20 3 furrow disc plough 672 Ib £88-00-0
approx .

** Prices denoted are for equipment supplied new in January 1952.

AE28 10 Plough

A third furrow conversion set was available for 10″ width ploughs at a cost of (1952) £26-10-0. Steel shares cost an extra 15 shillings each over cast iron. The 3-8G plough was supplied with a cast iron share. All other types had an option on cast iron. cast steel, or fabricated steel shares with the exception of the 12C and 16C ploughs which had steel shares only.

By the mid 1950’s when the company had merged with Massey Harris the conventional range was redesigned as:
FE93 mould board ploughs available with general purpose, ‘H’ base FE93 mouldboard ploughs available with semi digger ‘B’ base
FE93 mould board ploughs available with Digger ‘N’ base
FE94 mould board plough with Bar point ‘Y’ base – 12″ only
(with either disc coulters or large on-beam skim coulters)

Several new features were added to this range, i. e. Screw type. furrow width adjuster, greater clearance between bases, strengthened furrow wheel design, inverted ‘U’ strut from top link to mid beam on three furrow ploughs, improved single arm coulter design, simplified cross shaft clamp. The 8″ Lea base had been discontinued.

Cross Shaft Settings: Ferguson AE28 types:

Dimension for 8 inch three furrow plough …..5.875″ (150 mm)
Dimension for 10 inch two furrow plough… 9.875″ (240 mm)
Dimension for 10 inch three furrow plough .. 5.5″ (140 mm)
Dimension for 12 inch two furrow plough …7.5″ (190 mm)
Dimension for 12 inch three furrow plough …6.5″ (175 mm)
Dimension for 16 inch single furrow plough….8. 875″ (215 mm)
(Corrections were published in next edition Vol.3 No.1 of the journal)
Ferguson/Sherman same as above with addition of 14 inch 2 bottom plow 3

Copyright: Ferguson Club & John Baber. Club Journal Vol.2 No.3, Autumn 1988.