Driving along number three highway to the lake each weekend, just east of Sheddon, I found myself looking each time at the old thirties era steel wheeled Case tractor, complete with two furrow trailing plow showcased on a small artificial hillock. Perched on the driver’s seat, the old farmer in his faded coveralls had his arm held high in greeting to each passing motorist. It was a welcome treat to see this unusual display of a well-used piece of farm equipment that obviously held an esteemed place in the memory of its owner.
Case tractor with farmer
Later in the summer, the farmer’s wife joined him on the hillock greeting the passer by, along with their dog, a great creation of straw. It was only natural that when we reached the approach to Halloween, their heads would be replaced with brightly coloured pumpkins.
Wife and dog added
It was a wonderful visual break to the car trip to see how the usually routine siting of an old farm tractor at the farm entrance was made out of the ordinary with a little imagination and artistic work.
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Over the last few years, the remaining factories of Brantford’s great industrial past are being demolished one by one and with them go physical ties to the memories of thousands of the city’s workers of yesteryear. Just prior to the turn of the millennium, the “brownfields” between Greenwich and Mohawk Streets still contained the factories of the once mighty Cockshutt Plow Company, the huge rambling foundries of the Massey Ferguson owned Verity Company, and the triangular shaped complex of buildings that was once the home of the Brantford Coach and Body Company (formerly Adams Wagon Company).
Adams Wagon plant
The first to disappear was the Adams Wagon factory which went under the hammer of Kieswetter demolition in 1998. The razing of the Cockshutt factory followed in stages a few years later as the various buildings comprising the west side of the complex were emptied of miscellaneous tenants who had occupied them since the closing of the Cockshutt Company (White Equipment Company at that time). The final section to be demolished was the multi storey office building after several years of decay and attempts to keep it as an industrial museum.
Remaining Cockshutt office and time office before fire
A final delay to keep the front section of the office building was thwarted when a questionable fire resulted in mandatory demolition of the remainder for safety reasons. Valuable historic voices did score a small victory when the front door portico of the head office building and the architectural gem of the Time Office were retained for possible future use for industrial heritage purposes. Still remaining at the east end of the former factory complex is the building that once housed World War two bomber fuselage production and subsequently, the Cockshutt combine harvester assembly line, along with a couple of machine and press shops still used for warehousing.
Verity plant complex
The final section of the brownfields across the railroad tracks to the north housed the huge foundry complex of the Verity Company. From these factories, first built in 1899, came hundreds of thousands of plows and millions of castings and parts for the Massey Ferguson factories. With the bankruptcy of Massey Combines came the closing of the Verity works in 1988. Unused since then except for some storage purposes, decay and vandalism wreaked havoc with the buildings so that many were in a severely sad and hazardous condition prior to the current 2014 demolition.
Only the future can tell what will rise on these huge now open properties to generate memories for the next generation of Brantford citizens.
Read more about these companies in my book A City’s Industrial Heritage
On a recent visit to Edmonton, we took a detour to the small town of Wetaskiwin where I was able to fulfil my long desire to see the Reynolds Alberta museum. The huge pieces of steam equipment lining the drive into the museum were almost worth the visit.
But on entering the modern museum building, I was fascinated to see a huge horizontal engine spotlighted in the glassed in entrance. Polished like new, its steel parts glistening, the huge flywheel turned over slowly as an electric motor cycled the engines piston and elaborate valve gear.
The surprise, on studying the placard inside the building more closely, was to find that the engine was made in London, Ontario by the E. Leonard & Sons Company. The surprise part was that I was unaware that the company had made steam engines of this size, equalling those made in Galt by the Goldie McCulloch Company. It was a great entrance installation, and was matched by the exhibits of machinery and equipment inside.
Leonard engine in Wetaskiwin museum entrance
Read the history of the Leonard Company in my book “Steam Engines and Threshers”.
An old Waterous boiler was in the news recently during the renovation of an old apartment building that in earlier years had been an Eaton store, at 90, Colborne St. E. in Brantford. The boiler was part of the old heating system in the cavernous basement.
Boiler door before removal
The building was rebuilt in 1915 after being gutted in a fire and the boiler was installed sometime later. The name cast into the boiler door shows “Waterous Limited”, indicating it was made some time after 1926, the year when the company name was changed from “Waterous Engine Works” to “Waterous Limited”.
The new owners retained the old doors from the boiler, cleaned and repainted them. They now adorn the foyer of the renovated building in recognition of this venerable old company that is an integral part of Brantford’s industrial legacy.
Boiler door mounted in foyer after restoration
You can read more about the Waterous company in my book “Iron, Steam and Wood”.
On a recent visit to the Waterloo Regional Museum, I had the pleasure of being escorted around the museum’s storage warehouse, an area one could spend hours investigating. What did I see – an Adams wagon with its original paint job and logo – somewhat faded. When I checked the serial number, and went back to my records, I found that it was made around 1885 in the Paris factory, some fifteen years before they moved to a new factory in Brantford.
This is the oldest Adams wagon that I have seen, or have knowledge of. And it was in completely undamaged condition. Look forward to when the museum sees fit to put in in a display in the public part of the museum.
I talk more about Adams wagon in my book “From Wagon to Trailer”