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The McCrindle Sawyer Massey 25-45 gas tractor

This beautiful piece of machinery was donated to the museum by the original owner

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum’s collection contains a Sawyer Massey 25-45 gas tractor, donated in 1960 by J.M. McCrindle of Foxwarren, Manitoba.

James Marshall McCrindle was born in Nova Scotia in 1879 and later came to Winnipeg when his family moved there. McCrindle then moved to Foxwarren in 1897 to work as a clerk in Laycock’s General Store. In 1900, J.M. took over the general store and operated it.

J.M. also served as the telegraph operator for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Foxwarren until 1905, when a station agent was appointed by the CPR. While this seems like an unlikely arrangement one has to remember that the line through Foxwarren was owned by the Manitoba and North Western (M&NW) railway until 1900 when this railway was sold to the CPR. The M&NW was in bankruptcy from 1894 forward.

Probably the M&NW’s bankruptcy trustees were operating the line as cheaply as possible so employing locals on a part-time basis made financial sense particularly as there may not have been a large volume of business for the M&NW to handle at the time in Foxwarren. It would have taken the CPR some time to get organized after buying the M&NW and as well the CPR would be determining which of the existing stations on the line had the potential to warrant a full-time station agent and telegraph agent. This may explain why it took the CPR until 1905 to appoint an agent at Foxwarren.

J.M. continued to operate his general store and was very active in the community. He played a part in opening the first bank in Foxwarren, building a rink, starting an athletic association and he served as the president of the Foxwarren local of the United Farmers of Manitoba. He married Agnes Leckie in 1907. She was born in Glasgow, immigrated to Canada with her parents then moving to Foxwarren where they operated a general store in Foxwarren in competition with McCrindle.

J.M. went farming in 1912 with the purchase of a quarter section of virgin sod near Foxwarren. He broke this land with horses. Later more land was purchased, again virgin sod and the Sawyer Massey 25-45 was purchased to replace horses in the breaking operations.

J.M. became a purebred Percheron heavy horse breeder and won numerous prizes with his horses. J.M. joined the Canadian Registered Seed Growers Association in 1940 and entered into registered seed production. McCrindle retired to Foxwarren in 1943 and his son continued to farm. Even in retirement, J.M. remained active as he served as councillor and then as mayor of Foxwarren for some years. He died in 1966.

The Sawyer Massey 25-45 tractors were somewhat common on the Prairies as we at the museum have seen a number of photos of 25-45s at work on the Prairies. The 25-45 is in the category of “prairie”-style tractor, that is the first round of tractor designs which borrowed heavily from steam engine designs as tractor designers had no other experience to draw on. The 25-45 borrowed many design elements from Sawyer Massey steam engines such as wheels, drive gears and steering gear.

Sawyer Massey was a major Canadian manufacturer of steam engines, threshing machines and other implements. Sawyer Massey was formed in 1892 when the Massey family bought into the L.D. Sawyer Company. While the Massey family was also a major shareholder in the Massey Harris Company there was no other connection between the two companies.

Sawyer Massey achieved sales success from 1892 to 1910 but the emergence of gas tractors by 1910 posed problems for Sawyer Massey. The Massey family felt gas tractors were the future however, the other partners in Sawyer Massey thought steam engines still had a place. The Massey family felt strongly enough about the issue that they sold their interest in Sawyer Massey. After the departure of the Massey family, Sawyer Massey changed its mind and moved into production of gas tractors.

Sawyer Massey designed and built the engine used in the 20-40 and 25-45 tractors. This was a major expense for Sawyer Massey. Records indicate the first Sawyer Massey tractor model built was rated as a 20-40 but it was discovered the engine actually turned out 51.85 horsepower on the pony brake which was a belt-driven dynamometer. The design was then re-rated as a 25-45.

The 25-45 design did evolve over time. The 20-40 and the early 25-45 tractors used a tank-type radiator in which engine exhaust was ducted into a stack on the top of the square cooling water tank. As the exhaust escaped upwards, cooler air was pulled into the tank and drawn upwards through the exhaust stack. Along the way the air was directed through baffles in the tank, over which hot coolant from the engine was being trickled. While this arrangement cooled the water, the loss of cooling water was substantial.

The Sawyer Massey 25-45s with the tank-type radiators also featured a trombone-type arrangement in the piping which took heated cooling water from the engine to the tank for cooling. This arrangement appears to have been installed to increase the cooling capacity. The 25-45 tractors built after 1912 featured an automotive-type, non-pressurized radiator cooled by an engine-driven fan. The McCrindle 25-45 features an automotive-type radiator.

Sawyer Massey also produced two smaller tractors, an 11-22 and a 17-34, using engines from outside suppliers. Sawyer Massey tractors were sold throughout Canada.

Sawyer Massey continued to build steam engines, threshing machines, clover hullers, saw mills and road machinery along with gas tractors. By the mid-1920s, Sawyer Massey along with other small manufacturers of farm equipment began to find it increasingly difficult to compete with larger concerns such as International Harvester Corporation (IHC) which were better financed, had integrated manufacturing facilities, offered complete machinery lines, larger sales organizations and could afford the increasingly expensive research and development costs associated with new farm machinery.

Sawyer Massey exited the farm machinery business in the mid-1920s and concentrated on road machinery. After the Second World War, the Sawyer Massey Company was wound down, liquidated and entered history.

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