A close look at a vintage Barber-Greene Company advertisement shows a familiar looking tractor working alongside a Barber-Greene model 550 windrow loader. Yes, that’s right, a specially modified John Deere model 50 was the tractor chosen by the Barber-Greene Company, a materials handling equipment company located in Aurora, Illinois, to be the power source for the company’s new windrow loader introduced in 1954.
The special order John Deere 50 tractors shipped to Barber-Greene to be paired with the Barber-Greene model 550 windrow loader differed from the regular model 50s in numerous ways. Special smaller diameter cast rear centers with 8 by 28 rims (fitted with 12.00 by 28 tires) were used to allow the windrow elevator to pass over the right rear tire. In addition, the smaller diameter rear tires allowed for reduced travel speeds. Given the reduced diameter of the rear wheels, the use of a special shorter yoke for the 10 inch single front wheel helped to level the tractor front to rear. Clearance issues between the tractor and the windrow loader required the tractor headlight supports to be bent upward, the left rockshaft to be shortened and the left brake assembly to be replaced by the shorter one previously used on the model “B.” The standard 17 inch model 50 steering wheel was replaced by a 19 inch unit to provide for easier steering since the tractors were not equipped with power steering. The windrow loader was powered off the tractor engine flywheel and not the PTO; therefore, the entire PTO assembly was deleted and a PTO delete cover was provided. Finally, the steering shaft was shortened four inches to allow additional standing room for the operator and the throttle control lever was rotated forward to compensate for this new steering wheel position.
The specially outfitted model 50 tractors left the John Deere factory at Waterloo, Iowa painted the usual John Deere green and yellow, but without decals (except for the service instruction decal on the air cleaner). Upon their arrival at Barber-Greene in Aurora, they were repainted in the trademark Barber-Greene shade of green (tractor and wheels, alike). They received no decals, but a Barber-Greene serial number plate and patent pending plate were affixed to the left side of the tractor frame just to the rear of the grille.
Recent research indicates that the first of the special order JD model 50 tractors were shipped to Aurora and the Barber-Greene Co. on April 1, 1954. How many of these tractors were built? Good question. Deere records show that a total of 140 model 50 tractors were shipped to Aurora (the first in November 1952 and the last in April 1956). However, there were two Deere sales branch codes used for model 50 tractors shipped to that destination. If we count only those tractors shipped under the sales branch code used for certain tractors (that evidence shows were actually shipped to the Barber-Greene Company), the total is 94.
There is more research to be done pertaining to the John Deere model 50 Barber-Greene. Nevertheless, it is a one-of-a-kind tractor that exemplifies the versatility and adaptability of the two cylinder John Deere. Rarely seen at shows or in private collections, the model 50 Barber-Greene ought to garner some additional respect from historians and collectors in the future.