Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Silo blowers used to also chop corn

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I plan to discuss silo filling more in the future. For now, videos showing corn and haylage being blown up into a silo provides a sneak peak of modern blowers in operation. One of the silos they fill is a 90-foot Harvestore. Now I want to discuss this vintage blower I spotted at the 2016 Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. I'm motivated by a Facebook posting.

The silage wagon in the background would not be from the era of the blower. It was used for the demo because the show grounds did not have a silo. In practice, that short "silver" pipe would be long enough to go up the entire side of a silo. Of course, back then, judging from the old silos you can still sometimes find in the country side, silos were only 20 or 30 feet high.

When the guys at the show mentioned this was a chopper as well as blower and that the corn was brought from the field in bundles, I took a closer look. In the 1800s, a corn bundler would be pulled by a team of horses. (You Tube offered several other horse drawn corn binder videos: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. (I haven't watched them all.)) Note that the binder is powered by the wheels.

Screenshot
McCormick Deering Corn Binder with team of Percherons
Originally, these bundles would be gathered and piled in stocks to allow the kernels to dry.

Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
It's the fall season, thus this photo. The back of the photo says "Southbound Twin Cities-Chicago train #508, the "Viking," near Lodi, Wisconsin. March 16, 1957." The photographer was William D. Middleton. It is held at the archives of the Chicago and North Western Historical Society.

But in the case of corn silage, the bundles were piled on a wagon and hauled to the chopper/blower. They would lay each bundle on the conveyor you see in the first photo.

A picture of the back shows that it was belt driven by a steam traction engine. (JI Case, Illinois Thresher, and others) The steel wheels also indicate this is old equipment. Since no one else was around this piece of equipment, I asked of they would raise the cover so that I could see the "guts."


You can see three of the wide blades that throw the material up the pipe. Near the top of the flywheel, by the blue pants, you can see one of the knife blades that chops the corn as it comes off the conveyor. There is another knife blade peaking out to the left approaching the shear plate.

I stepped over to the left to get a better shot of that blade, the shear plate and the "roller" that helps feed the corn into the chopper. Unfortunately, it is blurry. Looking at the file properties of my photos, I took all of these pictures at f9 because I forgot to change the camera from "aperture priority" to "program mode" after my last video. The shutter speed was 1/20th. I can normally hear when a shutter is that slow and know to reset the controls. But I missed it this time. Oh well, this give me a good excuse to go to the 2017 show and try to get better photos.
In this view of the corn binder, I include the tractor because it is aMinneapolis-Moline U. My grandfather's "big tractor" was a U so I have a sentimental attachment to them. Note the belt pulley in front of the rear tire.
You can see the long PTO shaft going from the binder to the rear of the tractor. U's were built in the 1950s during the transition from belt-driven to PTO driven equipment. Other manufactures in this era had dropped the belt pulley and converted the PTO to "live" or "independent" operation. But the U still had the original clutch-controlled PTO design. That means if the pulled implement got clogged, you had to disengage the clutch, put the tractor in neutral, engage the clutch to work the clog through the implement, disengage the clutch, put the tractor back in gear, and reengage the clutch to be on your way. With "live" PTO, you just had to disengage the clutch until the clog cleared because the PTO kept running.

One of the men I was talking to said that modern hybrid corn plants have become so tall, and I assume so strong, that now someone has to ride on the rear of the binder to help shove the corn over.

The pictured PTO-powered corn binder looks a lot more modern than I thought corn binders would be. I had assumed that soon after they developed PTO driven implements, they would have switch to the newer design of putting the fan blades on the pull implement and chopping into a silage wagon. But to switch, a farmer would have to buy the forage wagons as well. So maybe they continued to build corn binders into the PTO era to save farmers the cost of converting all of their equipment.

Jim Schwartz posted
Had to get the picker out and I forgot how nice this chopper looks.
[Note that there are about a half-dozen fan belts to transfer the power from the PTO shaft to the fan shaft.]
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This is a contemporary picture of what was my grandfather's dairy barn. The silos, from left to right, are 50, 75, 40 and 60 feet. My first memories of the barn would be from the late 1950s. Back then only the 40' silo existed. The tramp shed and extra mow space along the road also did not exist. I remember the blower they used for the 40' silo was belt driven by their Minneapolis-Moline U tractor like the one pictured above that was hooked to the corn binder.. Before they built the 60' silo, they had switched to a PTO driven blower.

Update:

A video that shows binding the corn, putting the corn on wagons, hauling the corn, and unloading the corn onto the chopper+blower. It looks like the silos are made with big bricks.
Diana Makinen My dad lost his pointer finger in one of those. [It struck me that the guy shoving the corn into the chopper had to be very careful.]

A video that shows a leaf of hay being blown out of an unconnected blower. You can hear the tractor slow down when it has to chew up a leaf. Normally copped haylage would be dumped in a continuous stream and the tractor would not bog down.

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