Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Good Thrashing

You see, that's what I thought my Dad used to say, "Got to go over to Witherow's tomorrow to help out with the thrashing". But later I read the word in books and they clearly said "threshing". Just one of those little mistakes that you make when you're young I thought. But now I have the evidence; I heard right all along!

There it is in black and white: "Steam Engines And Thrashing Machines"  Well, if not black and white then fifty shades of sepia at least. (And apologies to anyone who thought that "A Good Thrashing" was going to be about something else entirely!)

So here are a series of photos to show the whole process. You will notice the large number of men it took to complete the operation which now all takes place, almost unseen, and with the minimum of human intervention. 
The Steam Engine which provided power for the whole process.

The thrashing machine itself.
Made by Ransomes , just like the one in the advert,
which separated the grain from the chaff and the straw.
It was driven by a belt from the steam engine 
which stood to the right of this picture.

The whole sheaves were fed into the top of the thrashing machine by hand
 from a trailer parked alongside.

It was a very dusty business.
But where is that man going?

Off to the back of the machine 
where the thrashed grain
is collected in hessian sacks.
It seems to take quite a while to get a sackful.

Meanwhile the chaff and dust are blown out
through this pipe.
Sorry about the modern trailer on the left!

The straw is passed on to the stationary baler,
a very rare bit of tackle to see nowadays.
It is also powered by belt-drive from the steam engine.

The whole chain of operation can be seen in this shot:
steam engine providing the power,
thrashing machine
and, dimly through the dust,
the stationary baler.

The bales were actually being tied by hand.
Many of these old balers used wire to tie the bales,
I'm not sure if  the knotters were broken,
the wire can no longer be obtained or 
maybe this baler never had a machine to tie the knots.
I know, I should have asked!

Take care.


  1. Great post, always fun too see the old machines.

  2. The tractor in the first photo has so much personality, I'd expect it to start talking any minute. Always interesting to see how farmers used to bring in the harvest. Very ingenious. It would be pretty hard to tie the bales tightly enough to keep them together, though.

  3. And to think, this all was done by hand for a thousand years, and now it's done by a single machine that also harvests the wheat as it move through the field. Great sequence of pictures, John.

  4. Very interesting post, it's great to see some old machinery still in use, even if it is just for shows.

  5. Thanks for the thrashing! I remember similar machines from my child.

  6. Haha! great title!! I think it's wonderful that some people take the time and trouble to preserve heritage vehicles and traditions like this and although the procedure is faster and probably less messy now, are as many people employed in the doing of it. Loved the restored tractors and cars from previous post John, they look as good as new, such dedication is admirable oui!

  7. I did a double-take when I saw your steam engine photo. We have an annual steam engine display here each Labor Day, and I'm sure there's one there just like it--even down to the color! It's fun to watch all those engines, big and small, do all the jobs they used to do once again.

  8. What an operation - but still quicker than doing it all by hand, I guess. It looks like it made loads of dust - did the labourers all die of horrible lung diseases in the end?

  9. It all looks so complicated, but an improvement over what came before. Now there are air conditioned tractors with stereo and gps systems.

    We collected some antique hand tools for a while and even participated in a few "Old Farmers' Days" where we demonstrated their use. I churned butter for my contribution.

  10. Hahaha! I wonder how many new visitors that title will bring you!! And I'm sure ambiguous pronounciation can explain a lot of confusion in the world today ...

  11. Amazing machines again, but especially like that last shot showing the 'human touch' is still sometimes needed! That old sign is great - a good thrashing brings to mind rather more funny images than a good threshing :)

  12. Nicely done. I just visited the AG museum in central valley California and will post photos for you soon. What is it about these machines that so captivates? I cannot get enough! gin

  13. Sorry, John, but you "gave it away" that this wasn't going to be about getting a sore fanny when you included an image of the steam engine at the head of the post.


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