Antique Communication

Antique Communication

Communication is a curious endeavor. It is one of the things that (supposedly) makes us humans superior to all other creatures. (That statement is worth a book all on its own – human civilization is short and we have big problems getting along, so “superior” might be the wrong descriptor.) But over the last few hundred years, our methods for communication have evolved so dramatically it is mind bending.

Once humans were able to speak and write, we could send messages to each other via courier, whether that be person or pigeon. This was great, but it took days, weeks, or even months to deliver that message to its chosen audience.

The advent of the telegraph in the early 1800s was a game changer. Through a series of long and short tones, we were able to communicate across the country and eventually across the ocean, in real time. Getting an “instant message” in San Francisco from your parents back East instantly shrunk the world down. It was at this point that privacy became a concern. Everyone in that communication chain got to hear what you were saying. Telegraph messages were received and delivered but, someone had to translate Morse Code back to words.

army telegraph cartoon smallWith the emergence of shortwave radio in the early 20th century, we learned how to send the sound of a voice to anyone that had the receiver to pick up the signal. By bouncing a signal off the atmosphere, we were often able to send those signals long distances. With this medium, there was no privacy at all.

But, humans are a resourceful lot. During the cold war, governments needed to keep in touch with their spies in other countries. A telephone call wasn’t secure because it could be tapped or traced. But, a coded message via shortwave became a viable option. The spy could tune into the predetermined frequency at the predetermined time and get a coded message. The odd part is, these number stations still exist and even now are broadcast over the internet so that anyone, anywhere, could receive them. The overlay of antiquated technology with modern (internet) communication creates an unusual juxtaposition.

Sometimes, when I am working on the layout of the next issue of the N-News and I get bored with listening to the radio, music or some other more overt distraction, I tune into number stations. The calming hiss of the background signal sounds like a constant wind or waves and then the tones, or voice of some person trying to communicate with some other people feels like I am listening to a world from a hundred years ago. And there is something about listening while creating a print magazine and concentrating on old tractors that somehow seems to connect.

Antique tractors, antique listening.

Ford 660 & A Rear Fork

By John Spyker. Published in the N-News Winter issue, Jan-Feb-Mar 2019, Volume 34 Number 1

Ford 660

John Spyker’s 1956 660

I bought my 1956 660 from a farm auction in the spring of 2015. To make the delivery, I drove it the twelve miles up the valley to our family cabin. It was a nice spring day. I called my mom who was watching my son, Isaiah. They were playing a game at the picnic table. When I came up over the hill, Isaiah realized it was me and came running out to the end of the drive, smiling ear to ear.

The tractor was in solid shape. It had brand new rear tires and a finish mower attached to it at the estate auction, which upped my top bid price. I don’t get to work on it very much because it is at our cabin and I don’t want to take up all of my weekends doing repair work, so I get a local shop to do many of the repairs. It has needed the oil tube going to the pressure gauge replaced and a new radiator.

The tractor is unrestored at this point. I like the dings and faded paint – it gives it character. The right fender has the paint worn off where the previous owner rested his arm while mowing. The trailer in the picture above is made from the axle of my maternal grandpa’s model A dump truck that was used on their farm. My dad and his dad had Ford tractors, so there is some family history.

I didn’t know much about Ford’s before buying it other than dad had one. His had a narrow front, maybe it was a 901, but I’m not sure. Mom had to sell it when Dad passed away in 1984. I do remember that it was a Select-O-Speed. I loved riding around on my 660 with my son and passing on a life in the outdoors. Isaiah and I also rode in the Fulton Fall Festival tractor parade in McConnellsburg, PA this past year.

We use the 660 mostly to drag or haul in wood, move stones, grade and plow snow. Our tractor is a worker. My feeling is that once a tractor is fixed up and painted, I would only want to show it. For now this 660’s major job is to get firewood, but we still enjoy riding it in the parade.

The fork at work cleaning the road

The fork at work cleaning the road.

I rebuilt a tandem axle trailer after pulling it out of the weeds. I’m a self-taught welder for the most part. I picked up hints and ideas from welders and took some classes. I bought a welder at auction and started practicing. The trailer was one of my first projects.

I also built a set of forks for the 3-point hitch. I got some of the materials at auctions and also at the junk yard. The pipe I bought at the junkyard. I had to buy the entire length, so I have enough for my next project – a lift boom. The gussets and diameter holes were burnt at my workplace, Habot Steel in York, PA. (I have worked in the steel industry since I was 19). They let me use the plasma machine. I cut everything else on my neighbor’s bandsaw or with my acetylene torch.

building the fork

In the shop building the fork.

This involved lots of grinding and welding. I tell my son, “You can make anything with a torch, grinder and welder.” When I told him about this article he said, “I’m going to be famous! I’m going to be famous!” His name is Isaiah and he loves tractors. He has inherited his great grandfather’s Wheel Horse, which we take to the tractor parade too.

Isaiah helping to bring in the firewood

Isaiah helping to bring in the firewood!

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Working: Dave Westen’s NAA Keeps Going!

We purchased this five-acre property in 2000 from my wife’s parent’s estate. A man about five miles away had the 8N sitting along the road for sale and we made a deal. My brother had bought his NAA from a neighbor and I had the 1948 8N at the time. I traded the 8N to him for the NAA (I’ve had it since 2004) and find the NAA to be a much more versatile tractor. We’ave added a couple of pieces of land since then and now have 25 acres and the NAA has been the workhorse! Continue reading

How to Restore Ford Tractors

Book Review: How to Restore Ford Tractors cover

Back in stock! How to Restore Ford Tractors: The Ultimate Guide to Rebuilding and Restoring N-Series and Later Tractors 1939-1962 does an excellent job of hashing out the details of restoring a vintage Ford tractor. Published in 2008 with over 200 pages, this soft cover edition includes wonderful pictures of unusual models and options scattered throughout the pages (as are many photos of hands-on, down and dirty restoration work being done). Though the book emphasizes the N-series machines, overhead valve Hundred Series machines are covered as well.

trader 580-365-4429 1949 8N


trader-580-365-4429-1949-8N1949 8N V-8 totally restored. Rebuilt motor, new tires, professionally painted; $12,000 obo. Lawrence 580-365-4429 or 580-583-0751 (OK)

trader 479-633-2441 1953 Golden


trader-479-633-2441atrader-479-633-2441b1953 Ford Golden Jubilee which has been TOTALLY restored. Engine has seven hours on it since completing overhaul. Call with questions 479-633-2441 or email Tractor is in Rogers, Arkansas.

trader 580-365-4429 1952 8N


trader-580-365-4429-1952-8NCompletely restored 1952 8N 6-cyl Funk w/ cast iron oil pan, Sherman Over/Under trans, motor rebuilt, dual rears, new tires; org. hat rims. $9500 obo. Lawrence 580-365-4429 or 580-583-0751 (OK)

trader 803-240-0489 1957 861


Trader-803-240-04891957 861 remanufactured by N-Complete in 2010. Certificate signed by Tom Armstrong. approx, 200 hrs; $6600. 5 speed w/ps & Rest-O-Ride seat. Call Tim 803-240-0489 (SC)

Ford Fire Trucks

Book review Ford Fire Trucks cover

Ford Fire Trucks by Kent Parrish is a wide ranging collection with tremendous captioned info with each photo. And there are a lot of photos, over 400, most in color but some in black and white. Ranging from 1917 Model T’s that were custom built into fire engines all the way to 2009, the book is broken up into ten chapters, roughly one for each decade.

Ford Postwar Flatheads

Book review: Ford Postward Flatheads cover

Ford Postwar Flatheads: 1946-1953 Photo Archive by James H. Moloney is another wonderful collection of public relations and advertising photos from the Ford archive. All black and white, most with descriptions and details. If you have interest in Ford cars from the late 1940s into the early 50s, this is a great collection.

Harvesting Ice in New England [DVD]

DVD Review: Ice-Harvesting cover

Before refrigeration and commercial ice production, ice was cut from lakes and ponds and stored for the summer delivery. In this 66-minute video, we go back in time to the days of ice harvesting. Harvesting Ice in New England is narrated by New England historian, Dennis Picard.

The Age of Genius

The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century & the Birth of the Modern Mind isn’t a philosophy book. This is a book proving that the 17th century was in fact a turning point in humanity relinquishing much of the ancient world for the beginnings of a “modern” point of view. A.C. Grayling is a professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of Humanities in London who believes that philosophy needs to be integrated into everyday life.