Old Russian Tractors: a Source Of Inspiration?
By Tom Seest
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Early in the 1950s, large state-owned collective farms in Eastern Europe began using worn-out and unreliable tractors that required replacement by ordering new tractors from manufacturers.
These tractors were produced at factories located in Minsk (Minski Traktorny Zavod, MTZ), Belarus. These models are commonly known in the UK as MTZ tractors.
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One of the key characteristics of a tractor is that it was created specifically to fulfill a specific purpose. An excellent example is Belarus, designed specifically to serve State-owned collective farms situated in some of Russia’s more inhospitable regions and not equipped with specialized machinery – thus necessitating reliable tractors capable of operating under all circumstances.
Russian tractors first appeared in the early nineteenth century. A peasant named Fedor Abramovich Blinov received a patent for his steam-tracked tractor design based on an endless rails wagon driven by one or two small steam engines; these powered track wheels were capable of turning forty revolutions per minute, resulting in an efficient machine that could navigate both muddy and sandy roads with ease.
After the invention of Russia’s inaugural tractor, many other companies began manufacturing them as copies of foreign machines – Balakovo, Putilovets, Petrograd Obukhov Kichkass, and Kharkiv were some of those involved. Although these tractors weren’t popular among their users, they did help establish an essential framework for tractor construction within Tsarist Russia.
At the time of Russia’s civil war, these tractors had become worn down due to heavy use and had become obsolete. To advance the agricultural industry in Russia and improve productivity for farmers, communist state authorities decided to develop new types of tractors. Large specialized tractor plants were ordered and constructed that produced Soviet-designed models.
In the early 1950s, a new generation of Soviet tractors was released onto the market. Based on three principal principles – reliability, simplicity, and value for money – this wheeled tractor eventually became known as the MTZ tractor, designed in Minsk and mass-produced at various locations throughout Soviet Russia for both agriculture and forestry applications. These machines served to establish a new age of Soviet engineering innovation.
This museum stands as a testament to those Russian engineers who laid the groundwork for modern tractors and is truly unique. As its founding members wanted it, this unique establishment provides visitors with an opportunity to gain more knowledge on this industry while at the same time emphasizing its significance in Russia’s history and culture.
At the museum, there are various types of tractors on display, and some even still work! It’s amazing that such powerful machines managed to withstand so many years of hard labor.
Some of the older tractors on display are quite rare, and it’s an amazing treat to see them in person. One such MTZ-2 tractor managed to last 25 years of farming work! That’s an impressive achievement from any machine, particularly as this was one of the very first Soviet models!
Another exhibit at the museum is a wheel tractor from Stalingrad Tractor Plant called SKhTZ 15/30 that was widely used for timber industry enterprises during the 1930s and 1940s. Equipped with a carburetor engine running on kerosene fuel and equipped with a three-speed gearbox that enabled top speeds of 7.4 km/h, this model saw action at forest enterprises all across Russia.
This type of tractor was widely popular due to its ease of operation and cost-effectiveness, yet its inherent simplicity left it vulnerable to problems – for instance, its ignition system often failed while the engine overheated during heavy work on collective farms.
Thankfully, the SKhTZ 15/30 was soon replaced by the Universal, an advanced tractor designed to work on various terrains and equipped with a more powerful engine than its predecessor. Furthermore, this model could carry greater loads. This Universal soon became the most common tractor used throughout the USSR until it was replaced by KD-35 models.
Early Soviet tractors were small-wheeled models based on American Fordson F engines. These tractors were simple, cost-effective, and easy to operate – hence their mass production; annually, over 10k models were manufactured! Their production helped transform Russia’s backward agriculture into mechanized farming practices during these initial prewar years.
However, many issues were present with this tractor design: its ignition system was unreliable; its 20 horsepower engine didn’t provide enough power for heavy work; and it overheated when exposed to shock loads; as a result, it wasn’t suitable for collective farms where such demanding tasks took place.
In 1924, Putilov began producing its new tractor model known as “FP.” This model was much more advanced than its Fordson predecessors: its engine had increased power while its chassis could accommodate greater weight. Furthermore, the three-point hitch offered increased stability and made mounting and operating implements possible.
Centralized lubrication was another improvement that reduced maintenance costs and extended chassis service life, and designers added two extra wheels for general work purposes – two solutions to address many shortcomings found with Fordson tractor models of old.
During the Great Patriotic War, Soviet factories produced numerous tractors, including Belarus tractors – one of which is now being offered on the United States market and submitted for Nebraska Tractor Tests, which evaluate performance under demanding conditions.
In 1978, the tractor plant in Minsk, capital of Byelorussia, celebrated the 25th anniversary of their popular Belarus model tractor. To commemorate this landmark occasion, workers at the plant began searching scrap metal warehouses and graveyards in search of one still working and in good shape; ultimately, they found one nearby, used at a collective farm in Minsk region over autumn field season at one time; it had once been considered the most common tractor in Byelorussia at that point in time.
Machine Tractor Stations, commonly referred to in Soviet parlance as MTSs (Ukrainian: mashinno-traktornaya stantsiia or Russian mainno-traktornaia stantsiia), were state enterprises responsible for owning, maintaining, operating, and providing technical personnel for agricultural machinery used by kolkhozy. Each MTS was responsible for approximately 40 kolkhozy, typically being supplied with Putilovets models due to their simplicity in construction, ease of operation, low metal consumption, etc.
Today’s globalized farm equipment business can be seen as similar to car or motorcycle imports: like cars or motorcycles coming into America from other places, so too do tractors from Russia come into North America as imports. John Deere remains popular with farmers here, but there are other brands available, such as those made in Russia, which also face criticism from some individuals.
Russia released a grainy black-and-white gunsight video to support its claim that its military had destroyed some of Ukraine’s most fearsome tanks, according to visual analysis conducted by The Associated Press’ Chris Bryant. Bryant says it shows that one Soviet Kirovets tractor manufactured in Melitopol was destroyed during the fighting that took place there on February 24.
Agrotek-Invest, which was selling this tractor at the time, reported significant losses as soon as Russia escalated its conflict in March. They claimed Russian invaders stole two combine harvesters worth $300,000.00 each from its showroom in Melitopol and other equipment headed toward Chechnya from there; unfortunately, Agrotek-Invest was powerless to stop these thefts since the tractors were remotely locked.
No one knows exactly how many tractors were affected in this attack, but it appears to be the first time so many machines have been stolen from an authorized dealer in one go. A representative for the dealer told CNN he is working with an outside consultant to find ways to circumvent digital protection on these machines and unbrick them.
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