Crank-Up Day attracts thousands

From our archives: January 31, 2000

RYAN KEEN
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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150 stories in 150 days

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Classic cars and vintage machinery swamped the Edendale Domain, 39km north-east of Invercargill, on Saturday, along with more Caterpillar machines than you would need to shift Mt Cook.

The Edendale Vintage Machinery Club's 13th Crank-Up Day celebrated 75 years of International brand Caterpillar.

More than 60 of the sturdy steel, yellow beasts were on display. Some Cats can pick up trees, others may have dug the foundations for your home.

Many have revolving metal tracks that can go just about anywhere.

All of those swooning over the diggers and graders agreed Cat's success was because the machines stood the test of time. But it's more than that.

Southland earthmoving contractor Bill Ward knows the score - he has read the history of Cat.

There are three reasons for the company's success, he said. Firstly, good marketing - owning a Cat will enrich your life. Secondly, good steel - good steel is good steel. Thirdly and most importantly, an efficient parts and servicing system - the best machinery in the world is not much good if it breaks down and you have to wait weeks for a $20 part.

Crank-Up Day promoter Alex Henderson said many were blown away by the Caterpillar log-handling demonstration and he was pleased with the crowd of more than 7000 people - about 2000 more than last year.

Amidst a bluster of dust and steam, seven men made hay, an almost single- handed operation today. There was a certain rustic beauty seeing the operation as it was done in the old days.

One man fed coal to a steam engine turning a fly wheel. The fly wheel powered a baler. Another man fed straw and oats into the baler while two other men provided him with more straw and oats. Mice ran mischievously from the straw and children delighted in the chase.

An interesting manual technique involving that old favourite, No 8 wire, required two men to string up bales before they were spat out on to the ground. There were plenty of helpers stacking.

George Morrison, of Waikaka Valley, had been manning the steam engine.

His face and overalls were splotchy in black soot. He's working hard.

"People talk about rural depopulation.

Well perhaps we wouldn't have rural depopulation if we went back to this. But I don't think anyone would want to when nowadays all you have to do is push a button." Cat man Mr Ward agrees the effort required to operate some of the old tractors and farm implements was extremely physical.

"You had to be extremely tough to drive one of those old dungers. Fumes coming off the engines, no cabs. You got off one of those, " - he was looking at some of the 1920s to 1950s' machines - "after a 10-hour day and you were half dead." New Zealand farming's mainstay, the tractor, was also out in full force. More than 90 John Deeres, Massey Fergusons, McCormicks and others filled a paddock.Southlandpaddock.Southland Steam Engine Club members putted around in an eight- horsepower Burrell traction engine. A notice said the now 50-member club that began in 1959 hoped to turn the old Brydone Dairy Factory, near Mataura, into a working museum recreating an atmosphere similar to "when steam was king." Folk speculated on the age of a chaff- cutter being fed oat sheaves.

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"It would be ... aww, what age do you reckon that would be George? 1940s would it?" George: "Early 20s those, I would say." Along with the vintage farming equipment came the classic cars driven idly around the rugby field.

An announcer told the crowd what they were seeing: "Here's a Daimler with a bench seat. You've got six people in there. Here's a Model T, cars of yesteryear. You can't even hear it, what a beauty." Ford was the most prevalent make among the cars, a throwback to the efficient manufacturing techniques pioneered by Henry Ford before the 1920s.

Not of quite the same pedigree, although Southland's 32 club members would disagree, were the Minis on show. Southern Mini-Owners' Club president Ken Tinker was proudly celebrating 40 years of his favourite car.

He had owned 187 Minis and wore a hat declaring his nickname, Mr Mini.

"I can take you for a leisurely drive or take you for a drive in one that will scare the crap out of you." Even smaller than the Minis were the miniature steam trains. The enthusiasts, however, were no less fanatical. A man wearing a red hat with white polka dots operated a mini-steam train chugging children jauntily around a small circular track.

A four-wheeled motorbike hitched to a cart did the same around the domain.

It's not all motors at Crank-Up Day though.

Edna and Ben Lewis, from Lawrence, sat at their stall named Beechwood Cottage, displaying homemade marmalade, jams, chutneys and sauces.

Edna said the whisky and brandy in some of the marmalades acted as a preservative.

Lower Mataura Valley Music Club leisurely picked out the tunes including Kenny Rodgers' The Gambler.

And what would a day such as this be without a good, old-fashioned lolly scramble? Rather than the traditional parent throwing out handfuls of lollies on to the grass, Macintosh toffees rained down from a helicopter which swooped overhead, rotor blades pounding the sky.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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