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University News

Engineering Students Embark On Tractor Restoration Project
by Dave Reid


from Dateline (May 8, 2003)

Engineering students restoring a vintage tractor
Dave Parsons, machine shop supervisor, second from right, and mechanical engineering students contemplate the job of removing rust in their volunteer restoration of a rare 1918 Bean tractor. Under the direction of Parsons, students hope to restore the vintage farm machine to showroom condition. From left are students Milton Vidaurrc, Alex Latteri, Mico Tobias, Troy Rippeto and Allen Loconte.

What looks like a rusting hulk of machinery in the fenced-in area behind the physics/engineering shop is in reality a rare treasure of California’s agricultural past – awaiting restoration.

The rusty diamond in the rough is a 1918 Bean tractor that Dave Parsons, machine shop supervisor, and a volunteer crew of engineering students hope to restore to “showroom ready” condition as a reflection of the pride farmers had 85 years ago when the tractor was new.

Parsons, a frequent visitor to the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, arranged to borrow the tractor for a restoration project that would enable university students to have the hands-on experience of repairing and refurbishing a vintage piece of farm equipment.

The project also will provide students with an insight into the design elements and engineering aspects of early farm machinery, says Parsons, who estimates it will take up to two years to complete the project.

Parsons plans to involve freshmen and sophomore students in the project, so they can apply lessons learned in the machine shop to future engineering projects.

“The largest amount of work needed on this project will be in rust removal,” says Parsons. “This will involve taking the tractor apart, cleaning, repairing or replacing the individual parts and reassembling the machine to working condition.”

Sandblasting will be used to remove much of the rust.

“If there are any parts to be fabricated, the shop is certainly capable of that. The frame was bent in an automobile accident and will present a challenge to straighten out, but it is nothing that can’t be solved,” he adds, noting that some adaptation of parts may be required – such as a radiator.

Students working on the project will utilize the shop facilities to machine new parts as needed, under Parsons’ supervision.

The Bean tractor is one of nine known to exist, according to the machinist. It was manufactured in San Jose in 1918 and was probably used to pull orchard wagons in the Sacramento Delta region. Unlike tractors of a conventional design with two large wheels in the back and two smaller wheels in front, the Bean model has a single-track drive in the center (like the track on a bulldozer) and two trailing wheels, says Parsons.

The operator sits on a pivoting carriage attached to the rear wheels and controls the direction by turning the joint in the middle. There is no steering wheel. The tractor is powered by a small Le Roy four-cylinder engine off to one side. “It was not one of the better designs of its era,” Parsons admits.

In addition to renovating the tractor, Parsons plans to take groups of students to the Vista museum to show them other examples of antique farm equipment.

When completed, the tractor will be displayed on campus, then retuned to the museum’s permanent collection. Signage will indicate that Cal State Fullerton engineering students restored the tractor.

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