Meet the College’s Oldest Work Horse

Venture into the grounds department’s garage on the lower end of campus and you’ll see a piece of Holy Cross history, lovingly maintained and painted bright orange: an old Allis-Chalmers Model B tractor. Campus lore says that the tractor is among the first pieces of mechanized equipment purchased by the College, probably in the early 1940s. 

 “The 20 horsepower tractor was designed to replace a horse or a mule typically used on a farm less than 100 acres,” says Ted Heywood, superintendent of grounds. “It is a very simple and versatile machine—the motor is started by a hand crank and can run on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol. My guess is that it was used for mowing and pulling wagons on campus.

“Today’s tractors are complex,” Heywood continues. “A separate license is required to operate them and repairs take lots of time and require specialized tools and knowledge. Electronics govern much of the operation. It is amazing to see such a simple, easy to operate machine that could be maintained and repaired quickly.”

To this day, the Model B, manufactured by the Wisconsin-based Allis-Chalmers company from 1937 to 1957, enjoys a reputation among devotees of farm equipment. Its creator, Brooks Stevens, also designed the 1949 Hydra-Glide Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the Miller brewing logo and the Oscar-Meyer Weinermobile. 

HCM was thrilled that the grounds crew moved the Model B up to the walkway in front of Fenwick so we could get a good look—and a great photo. “We keep it for its historical and sentimental value,” Heywood says.   ■