How did Tractor Pulling started
When, at the start of the 20th century, the agriculture in the US was booming, a lot of boulder had to be removed from the acre with the help of horses. One farmer told another that he had removed a larger one than his. And so a competition started.
At the time of the second world war, the mechanization of the agriculture took place and now tractors were used. The boulder-pulling was also introduced. The tractor that was needed at the farm, was doing ‘Tractor Pulling’ on Sundays.In the course of years the tractors were becoming bigger, and the competition was heavier. The boulders were also becoming a little too large to handle. And so the ‘dead-weight-sled’ was introduced. This was a kind of sled with weights on it and was connected to the tractor with a chain. In was all or nothing: the tractor took off with the sled or it lost grip and dug itself into the track. To gain more grip, the tractors were loaded with anything that was heavy.
Later on the idea came up to make the sled heavier during the ride. A certain number of volunteers took place next to the track and stepped on the sled as it went by. This was called a step-on-sled . The further the covered distance, the higher the position. If a tractor made it to the end of the track this was called a ‘Full Pull’ and he classified for the finals of that day.
After some years of pulling, the tractors grew. The finding of volunteers was harder, because it was going faster and faster. Also safety became an issue. To solve this, the ‘weight-transfer-machine’ was developed. This sled has wheels at the rear end. At the start of the pull the weights are placed above the wheels. When the tractors starts to pull, the weights are transported forward to the sled-plate by a chain. The friction increases and at some point the tractor loses grip.
The best pull is made when the tractor has a quick start. At the start of the track the sled is easy to pull, so a lot of speed can be developed. When the friction increases, the speed of the sled and tractor makes that the whole keeps sliding a few meters more. Nowadays the tractor kills the engines at about 90 or sometimes 80 meters (180 or 160 feet), the speed is that high that a full pull is a piece of cake. The covered distance is nowadays measured with infrared-equipment like used in road construction. The accuracy is about 1 centimeter. The results of a pull show that sometimes tractors came 1cm short for a full pull or stopped at exactly the same point. With each pulling event, it’s not only the power that makes a tractor win. The most important is the balance of the tractor. A 4000 hp tractor can sometimes beat a 7000 hp. And don’t forget, these power-explosions hare accompanied with a great amount of noise (over 110 dB). The sport of Tractor Pulling can rightly be called.
A bit about the Tractor Pulling history in Europe
In 2012 it is thirty-five years ago that the sport of Tractor Pulling from the United States came to Europe. Since then the sport conquered the continent. No wonder, Truck and Tractorpulling has the same in the grand manner and high grade as the Formula-1-autosport. But you have to remind that the F1 drivers have ‘only’ 700 horsepower, while the trucks and tractors in truck and tractor pulling often have a multiple of that.In 1976 a number of Dutchmen visited a agricultural show in Farmfest in the state of Minnesota. One of them was Gerrit Alting from Oud-Alblas (NL) and a number of editors of the agricultural magazine ‘Boerderij’ (Farming). On the way back they discussed the possibility of introducing tractor pulling to the Netherlands. And why would that be a strange thought? After all, most of the youth in the agricultural world haven’t much more to do than plowing- and tractor-skill-competitions. Their conclusion therefore was that tractorpulling should get a chance in the Netherlands.
In February 1977 an article about the Farmfest appeared in ‘Boerderij’. In a fine way, the article was all about tractor pulling. Accompanied with that a call to all enthusiastic wrenchmen that were interested in this sport. All the interested people were invited for an information-meeting in Bunnik, that spring. Also a number of engineers of the IMAG (Institution for Mechanization and Buildings) from Wageningen were there. On this meeting they took the initiative to found the ‘Nederlandse Truck en Tractor Pulling Organisatie’ (NTTO). The new organization could start their work right away, because the plans were taken to combine the introduction with the world-championships plowing.
This was done in cooperation with the Boerderij-magazine on October 7 and 8 in 1977 at the Flevohof. Boerderij invited several tractors and a sled from the US. A lot of attention was paid to the quality of the track at Flevohof. This track was provided with a drainage-system. The track-officials were practicing on a concrete road in Wageningen, using a friction-sled of IMAG. Finding competitors wasn’t hard. Even from Germany a number of pullers had registered thanks to the German magazine ‘Top-Agrar’. The English ‘Farmers Weekly’ organized a special trip to Flevohof for it’s subscribers.
Everything was done to make the introduction on October 7 and 8 a succes. Unfortunately the Dutch climate did not cooperate. The carrying-capacity of the track was getting worse because of the rain. The covering with plastic and the quick lime did not change that. When the American Les Houck gave a demonstration with his Foxy Lady for the Dutch Prince Claus and some accompanied people that Friday, the track did not meet the needs. After a few meters, the 800 hp strong machine, powered by Dodge 440-engines, dug itself into the track. His fellow American Mark Stauffer did not get his Sneeky Pete (a Deutz D9006 Super Stock) any further. After a minor discussion, they decided to use a small asphalt road nearby.
The second day the interest was great. About 20.000 visitors came to see the spectacle. The roads leading to Flevohof turned into chaos. With miles of traffic-jams and many small collisions. The Mayor of the town (Dronten), that was present at the plowing-competition, had to organize more policemen to take control. Right after the successful event, every action was taken to not make this demonstration-pull a one-time event. The sport had to get settled in the rest of Europe. The sled of Dan Brubaker was to be an example of the sled to be built by the agricultural-machine-factory ‘Vicon’. This sled came under the ownership of the NTTO and was called “Keep Moving”. The Foxy Lady, owned by the American Les Houck stayed in the Netherlands. The twin Dodge was bought by Maurits lmmink, who demonstrated tractorpulling for several years after.
The development of the sport came into a rush during the last three decades. It is now practiced in many European countries. Also from a technical point of view there have been many changes. The almost standard tractors from 1977 made place for the multiple-engine creations that can now easily compete with the tractors from the United States, where it all began.
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