For four decades, Len Schilg has kept people of all ages mesmerised with the majestic noise and smoke from his vintage Lanz Bulldog tractor.
The tractor is always a crowd favourite at the Henty and District Antique Farm Machinery Club’s site at the Henty Machinery Field Days.
Mr Schilg, 86, of West Albury, was recently honoured by the club with a life membership for his dedication and volunteer efforts over the past 40 years.
He has also been a mainstay HMFD volunteer manning the entry gates for many years and chairing the Henty Machine of the Year Award, missing just two field days since 1961.
On a visit to the Wodonga tip in the mid 1970s, Mr Schilg was dismayed to see three vintage tractors being dismantled.
“I told the chap to stop as I was trying to create a collection of old machinery,’’ he said.
“I bought my observations back to the HMFD Co-operative meeting and suggested we look into forming an antique machinery club within the HMFD committee.’’
Once the Henty and District Antique Farm Machinery Club was formed, Mr Schilg contributed a Lanz Bulldog tractor to the initial display in 1977.
He was busy at the time chairing the Henty Machine of the Year Award committee.
Once his term as chairman ended, he was able to follow his passion and volunteer on the vintage display site each year.
“One of my favourite pieces is the 1906 Hornsby 5hp single cylinder engine – that tractor had been standing in a paddock at Osborne for more than 50 years,’’ Mr Schilg said.
“That was a real jewel – it was originally shipped to Australia in July, 1907.
“I have completely restored it and it was on display once at Henty.’’
Len is one of the club’s most senior members but travels out to a Brocklesby farm most days to tinker on his big collection of tractors, strippers and implements.
“It keeps my mind working all the time and it’s my hobby,’’ he said.
“The crowds at Henty love the Bulldog, the noise it makes and the puff of smoke making o-rings in the sky.
“Many of the kids have never seen those tractors before.
“I also enjoy meeting up with the guys as we all have a common interest.’’
The old tractors take a bit of maintaining with the rubber tyred machines resting on jacks, while shafts and steel work are polished and sealed.
Len’s first tractor, a 1937 John Deere, is joined in his collection by a rare May Brothers wheat stripper, dating from 1898.
He began farming full-time at 14 and retired at age 72.
“People ask me what am I going to do with all this old stuff but if it goes to the scrap heap, our younger generation won’t even know what machines were used,’’ he said.
“The first tractor Dad bought was second hand in 1948 – it was a 1937 Lanz Bulldog imported from Germany before the war.
“It came out on steel wheels as you couldn’t buy rubber tyres after the war.’’
Mr Schilg displayed a KL Bulldog and baler at this year’s Henty and District Antique Farm Machinery Club site at the field days.