This week in 1915: The motor plough

Following a visit to a Cheshire farm, The Engineer reported on one of the first motorised ploughs — a forerunner to the GPS-enabled equipment featured here.

Clearly impressed by what it saw, the magazine reported that the plough, developed by Leeds firm Wyles Motor Ploughs, ‘is a really praiseworthy attempt to provide the farmer with a simple and effective tool capable of doing the work of several horses.’

Describing its operation, The Engineer explained that the plough was ‘propelled by a single cylinder, four-cycle petrol engine of 8.5bhp. This is built up with a two-speed gearbox to form one unit, which is carried upon a channel steel frame.’

As today, agricultural engineers had to find novel solutions to the challenges of operating in a farm environment: ‘In order to enable one wheel to run in the furrow and the other on top of the land when ploughing, each wheel is mounted on a radial arm capable of movement around the pinion, thus giving vertical movement while retaining any correct gear centres,’ the magazine reported.

Summarising the machine’s performance, the article concluded: ‘The machine we saw at work had a two-furrow plough, which was hauled at an average ploughing speed through land of moderate “strength”. The depth of cut was between six and seven inches and the consumption of petrol two gallons per acre. When working in the low gear in heavy land it will probably average from 2.5 to 3 acres per day of eight hours.’

The plough’s inventor, Alfred Wyles, later entered into an agreement with Leeds firm John Fowler, which built over 200 of the machines.