RETIRED mechanic Geoff Bert had faith in his work.

After more than six months of painstaking work restoring Lawrence's first tractor, made in 1919, it was time to turn it over.

With a small crowd gathered, he inserted the handle, and with a fierce pull turned the crank.

Nothing.

 

He tried again. And again. Still nothing.

After a few adjustments, another crank. It turns over! Just once though, and then falls back to silence.

Geoff Bert celebrates with the crowd at Lawrence Museum after he successfully restored Lawrence's first tractor.
Geoff Bert celebrates with the crowd at Lawrence Museum after he successfully restored Lawrence's first tractor. Adam Hourigan

The crowd is satisfied. How could the parts of two motors left out in paddocks rusty and wet for 30 years help start a tractor that hasn't worked for 50 years?

Geoff isn't giving up. He cranks and cranks. Each pull releases a puff of smoke from the exhaust, but no ignition.

Others try, but realise the crank is hard work, and give in.

Geoff keeps working. Minor adjustments. Five pulls. Another few adjustments. Another five pulls.

He backs away from the tractor, exhausted.

A few voices offer support, some suggestions. Maybe more choke, maybe less?

Geoff stands tall, and inserts the crank again. A few turns then one more mighty heave. It starts. And it keeps going with a bellowing roar.

After 50 years, the 1919 Fordson tractor is running again out the front of its new permanent home, the Lawrence Museum.

 

Charley Child brings the first tractor to Lawrence in 1921.
Charley Child brings the first tractor to Lawrence in 1921.

"Oh it's good to hear the noise - after 50 years it's good to hear the first fire," Geoff said.

"I expected her to go on the third pull. I was running out of steam there."

Geoff said once he heard the first start, he had faith his work wasn't going to waste.

"It didn't kick back on that first fire, so I knew the timing had to be right. I was a bit wary I'd advanced it a bit much, and it can break your arm on the way back if it's wrong," he said.

And with many handshakes and back-pats from the crowd, it was his wife Sue who was first to hug him and celebrate his work.

"It's just absolute relief," she said. "Because it's consumed our life, but he's been so passionate about doing it for the museum, and it all came down to today."

"I wasn't going to cheat," Geoff said. "I could've started it up before but I just wanted to persevere. "But I'd gone over it any my head half a dozen times and I knew it'd be right."

Geoff said his passion for the restoration came from his first car.

"My grandfather gave me a 1928 Willys Whippet when I was 12 with no pistons or rings and he said if I could get it going I could have it," he said.

"And I did that at 12 - I think I was just born to be a mechanic."

 

Geoff Bert gets a hug from his wife Sue after the historic tractor at the Lawrence Museum started for the first time in 50 years.
Geoff Bert gets a hug from his wife Sue after the historic tractor at the Lawrence Museum started for the first time in 50 years. Adam Hourigan


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