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Ward County Historical Society: Donated 1965 Gleaner combine leads to reminiscing

Submitted Photo A 1965 Gleaner “E” model combine was donated to the Ward County Historical Society by Bob and Val Bahm of Burlington.

BURLINGTON – The Ward County Historical Society recently had a Gleaner “E” model self-propelled combine donated by Bob and Val Bahm of Burlington. Here is a little history of the Gleaner combine, in general, and the Gleaner “E” that Bob Bahm ran in the 1980s-1990s.

In the 1920s the Baldwin brothers of Nickerson, Kansas, created a high-quality and reliable self-propelled combine harvester. The name chosen for these combines was Gleaner, which came from gleaning – meaning the act of cleaning up fields or left over crops that were not economically profitable to harvest. The Gleaner combine was not going to leave grain behind. The Baldwins felt the combines would sit outside on most farms, so they decided to not paint the zinc-colored sheet metal to avoid paint fading.

The brand name was Gleaner-Baldwin and, in 1955, Allis Chalmers bought the company and rebranded the combines just Gleaner. The combines became popular in the Midwest. Caterpillar (Butler Machinery, Minot) currently sells new Gleaner combines.

Bob Bahm’s dad, Chuck, started an implement dealership in New Salem in the early 1960s. He sold three major lines of equipment: Allis Chalmers, New Holland and Farmhand. Bob Bahm’s 1965 Gleaner “E” that now makes its home with the Ward County Historical Society was sold new by his dad to a New Salem farmer, Bob Engelter.

This combine has an Allis Chalmers 4-cylinder, 50 HP gas rear mounted engine, which also may have been the same engine in an Allis Chalmers WD tractor at the time, Bahm said. It had a 12-volt positive ground system run by a generator. It came with a 3-speed transmission with a variable-speed belt drive. A straw spreader attachment was another feature. Bahm believed it to have a 13-foot header, though the owner’s manual states it would cut a 12-foot swath. The reel could be removed and a pickup attachment bolted on for harvesting grain already in a swathed row. Its production years were from 1962-1968, cost approximately $6,863 new and weighed in at 6,905 pounds.

Engelter eventually traded this model “E” in for a larger machine, and Bahm purchased it to combine small, variety crops on plotted land south of Minot, rented from Chip and Jeff Drawz. Bahm tested small plots to see how different rates of fertilizer affected yields and did herbicide studies to name a few of his data-driven trials.

It was engineered to be easy to adjust settings for different crops. Ninety-nine percent of all bearings were mounted on either ¾-inch or 1-inch pulley shafts throughout the combine. The main cylinder sat in the “neck” of the combine, and loosening bolts on either side lowered the 26-inch diameter rasp bar cylinder onto the concave. The farmer would use the built-in gauges to lift the cylinder to a desired opening for threshing. There were two sets of sieves that could be adjusted in the back of the combine. Wind speed could be adjusted to blow the right amount of chaff off kernels. It had a 4-inch return auger that moved up to 50-bushel yields efficiently to the combine’s 45-bushel, grain-holding tank.

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