Massey Ferguson park road north Brantford 1964
Any Website dedicated to Massey Ferguson equipment would be failing if it didn't mention what was the biggest combine plant in the world building the biggest production combine in the world from the early seventies the
760 model rolled off the production line in 1971 the original concept for this machine started in the late 1960s again Massey were at the forefront of future technologies in Harvesting. This giant plant at Brantford started its humble beginnings in 1872 when
Alanson Harris moved his farm machinery workshop to Brantford, a decade earlier Daniel Massey moved his farm machinery shop to Newcastle Ontario.
In 1891 A Harris & son merged with Massey manufacturing to form
Massey Harris the new company headquarters were based in Toronto this merger spawned global sales of farm machinery and manufacturing plants in Europe as well as North America.
In 1911 the company had moved into
the United States farm machinery market in a big way and proceeded to buy companies in the following decades including F Perkins engine manufacturer G Landini and the assets of the Standard Motor Company in England and France.
Probably one of the landmark achievements associated with Massey Harris came in 1938 a young Australian Engineer by the name of Thomas's Carroll who worked for the company was responsible and credited to inventing the first self propelled combine harvester
! This invention coupled with Ferguson's 3 point linkage system helped the company on its way to become one of the worlds most successful agricultural machinery manufacturers, whatever colour combine you operate today its very origin and development would
of came from these humble beginings, also your tractor is likely to to be fitted with the Ferguson system 3 point linkage! Another materpiece from this unique partnership.
In 1958 the company was known as Massey
Ferguson after the Amalgamation of Ferguson several years earlier and the dropping of the Harris name.
Brantford had been producing farm machinery for over 140 years the cockshutt plow company, J O Wisner and
son co who manufactured seed drills and fanning mills this company also almalgamated with Massey Harris.
At the dawn of the sixties MF had ploughed millions of dollars into building the huge new Park road north
facility covering over 300 acres ! This state of the art facility would soon be producing combines that would be exported all over the world and as market leaders the sky was litteraly the limit, several generations of families worked at the plant the
wages were the best in town, and it seemed at that time nothing would stop this roller coaster from supplying the latest technologically advanced combine harvesters to the rapidly growing population who needed more food produced year on year.
Brantford at this time was blessed with highly skilled workers and the best engineering brains available, at the turn of the seventies the several year in design and trialed launch of the 750/760 was well received by the home market
which was huge also these models would eventually be supplied to other parts of the world including Europe the first one arriving in the Uk the summer of 1974 initial valuation of the combine was not as expected the heavy crops and long straw meant the combines
would need modifications and a maximum width of 18 ft table where as in the drier lighter crops of the state's and Australia they would handle a table width way in excess of that.
The 750/760 combine was the machine
of choice for most of the farms and custom cutters in the states, the dealer back up of the product was second to none in these Times with a convoy of parts and engineers moving across the country with the migration of the ripening crop similar to the legendary
harvest brigade of the 40s 50s.
Within a decade of the 700 series launch the 800 series would feature state of the art electronics digital shaft speed sensors,hydrostatic drive transmission the 85 series had a
5 channel digital tachometer to monitor fanning mill speed ,cylinder speed,all of this was fully adjustable electrically, also a triple sieve shoe to break up heavy chaff accumulations, also the use of polyurethane paint that would retain the combines deep
red glossy shine for longer.
As with all large industries in the western world at this time the plant was heavily unionised, but when you compare the disruption caused by disputes and walkouts compared to other
plants inc Kilmarnock and later Marquette in France, a part from a few minor issues this plant had a pretty good track record.
As you can imagine all of this technology didn't come from nowhere and
wasn't cheap to obtain, Massey Ferguson would test all there products and parts extensively around the world in harvest seasons, also at there own Brantford facility but to stay ahead of the game the cost was very high indeed, it has been said that the combine
division was for several years a cash cow for research and development throughout the company and this reflected in the lack of funding in the later years for future combine development,although Massey had been developing a rotary model as early as 1979, and
contrary to many beliefs this was there own design and not Whites as would eventually go into production.
The acquisition of White farm machinery gave Massey Ferguson a rotary Combine that was well designed and
developed over several years in fact Cockshutt White had been working on the rotary concept since 1962,Massey spent a good deal of resources turning this into the biggest rotary production combine available in the world but sadly there was very troubled times
approaching that few could imagine not least the generations of proud families that worked at Brantford.
When you look at the figures of this company from the past its quite impressive in 1961 they had 27 factories
in 10 countries and nett sales at that time of $591 million and they employed over 40,000 people, Brantford was not only building combines they also built balers, swathers ,muck spreaders, and tractors it truly was the capital of farm machinery manufacturing
for Canada, with an impressive 567,900 sq ft of floor space, the plant had the capacity to build up to 60 combines a day subject to demand.
that captures the changing times that would add to the many problems that this business faced was this.
Rick Carter who was a manufacturing engineer for Massey Combines Corp said one morning a truck driver from
Winnipeg arrived to pick up some machine parts at the plant and unfortunately there was a delay in getting him loaded so Rick invited him into his office for coffee, while they chatted the trucker said he and his brothers owned a 5000 acre century farm and
they were told by the banks the farm valued at $5 million dollars they could borrow 20% of its value which was $1 million so the brothers borrowed $800,000 to purchase new machinery for there enterprise this was in 1980.
Then two things happened !!
Farm commodities dropped, and interest rates shot up to record levels !!
After a few disastrous years with financial difficulties
the Banks valued there farm at just $2 million so they could only now borrow 10% which equated to$200,000 the Banks demanded $400,000 immediately from the original loan which the farming business didn't have, which forced the seizure of the farm and 3 houses
and even the kids bank accounts!!
The trucker said my brothers are now separated from there wives and I think when I return to Winnipeg most probably my wife would of filed for divorce!!
Rick stated that this one incident of many that were to beset this business was to him the grim reality of what the farming industry had been experiencing and it set the wheels in motion of the hardship that was to beset this plant.
Special thanks to everyone who supplied the forthcoming photographs and particularly Ray Bianchi for his hard work and help.