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Big Tractors


Even though I have retired from my farm broadcasting days and radio work, I still keep up on the latest happenings in agriculture. I get some farm publications yet and I get the emails from some of the people still actively involved in agriculture in some way. I hear from some of my old farm broadcasting friends from around the country who are working in radio or TV or both. I still have friends who work at USDA in Washington as well. I was interested in an article I saw the other day on a brand new tractor from Case IH. The Steiger 715 is a Quad-trac tractor that is rated with 715 horsepower, hence the name Steiger 715 but the press release says it can max out at 778 horsepower.

You might remember the old Steiger tractors and their lime green color. The Steiger Tractor Company was formed in the 1950’s by the Steiger brothers, Douglass and Maurice, who were farmers near Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. The two built their first tractor in their workshop in 1957 using truck components. And that was the start of these big green machines. I remember seeing my first one down by Claremont, MN. Steiger was acquired by Case IH in 1986 and with that move the lime green turned to red.

But the Steiger name is still used today. According to the press release, this newest tractor has an industrial twin-stage-turbine engine, 16-speed Powerdrive powershift transmission. It also has a 520 gallon fuel tank or as I used to measure – 104 5-gallon fuel cans. The bulk fuel tanks I used to have on the farm weren’t that big.

On the farm we’d talk about road gear in our tractors. If you had a tractor that went 18-20 mph down the road you were really moving. Now they go that fast across the field. The road gear, if you will, in the new Steiger gets up to 26.5 mph. It weighs over 30 tons, 61,200 pounds to be more precise. It’s very maneuverable as it has a turning radius of less than 22 feet. My pickup doesn’t even turn that short. The tractor must be a cinch to parallel park!

So as I’m reading all about the tractor, I harken back to my youth thinking about the tractors we had on the farm. In the late 1950’s, when the Steiger brothers were building a tractor half the size of our barn, our ‘big’ tractor was the 62 horse Oliver Super 88, which my dad used to win his class in a tractor pull in Dodge Center in 1956. In today’s world, that tractor would be a lawn mower at best. We moved to a bigger tractor in the 60’s when Oliver came out with many models, one of which was a 1750 that my dad purchased from Roberts Bros. This tractor had a PTO rating of 80 horsepower.

Our big jump up in horsepower came in 1973 with the German air-cooled diesel Deutz with front wheel assist. I thought we had a mini-Steiger of sorts. The model we got was 130 horsepower. But the best part was it came with a cab. We did a lot of snowblowing and with a cab we stayed much warmer. It was better than the heat-houser we used on the old Farmall ‘M’. That was nothing more than an army green canvas that kind of kept the wind out but in reality, it did not. I remember hauling in two wagon loads of corn with one wagon hooked behind the other and pulling it with the Deutz to the elevator in West Concord. ‘Virg’ was giving me grief about it asking if I had enough power to pull them. I told him it was light test weight corn so yes I do.

Now days, the very same 130 to 140 horse tractors are the utility tractors on the farms. I’ll take the 40 horse narrow front Oliver 660 diesel that my dad bought new in 1959 to run the PTO driven grain dryer. It used one gallon per hour on the dryer. We ended up using the 660 for most any job on the farm, except for plowing. We had the Super 88 to do that.