Tractors don’t quite pull their weight in Fonda for flood relief

The tractors’ big tires were spinning and the engines smoking as these machines were pushed to the l

The tractors’ big tires were spinning and the engines smoking as these machines were pushed to the limit.

That’s what the crowd at the Fonda Fairgrounds came to see — “blowing smoke and diesel and watching mud fly,” said Chuck Knoblauch of Stone Arabia Trucking.

“The more smoke you blow the more they like it,” Knoblauch said.

These tractors were not used for plowing fields, but purely for show and to benefit a good cause as part of The Big Iron Charity Pull to help families and farmers who lost everything from Tropical Storm Irene flooding. About 400 spectators attended the two-day event, according to Charlie Claburn, event coordinator. He said turnout was somewhat depressed by the weekend winter storm. Some truckers from Massachusetts were not able to come to the competition because of the weather.

The gate receipts brought in about $3,000, but much of that money is needed to cover costs of the event, according to Claburn. He hoped that additional donations would come in. People can send contributions to Convoy for the Kids Inc. P.O. Box 16, Hudson Falls, NY 12839. For $20, people can get a tractor pull T-shirt.

Claburn said the charity is working with the Schoharie County Cooperative Extension to find people who are in need.

About 24 pickup trucks and almost 30 tractors were part of the event and put to work pulling concrete blocks and lead bars stacked on a sled.

Claburn said people do not see these high-quality tractors anywhere else.

A typical farm tractor has one turbo engine, runs on diesel fuel and generates about 130 horsepower. These modified tractors, which run on either diesel or methanol, have four turbo engines and put out 2,300 horsepower, according to Mark Hayes of Johnstown, who works in an agricultural parts business and for Material Handling Products, a Rotterdam-based Nissan forklift dealership.

It takes trial and error to modify the machines, Hayes said. “You have to drive them to figure out what they’re doing,” he said.

The modified tractors also burn a lot more fuel — about five gallons per haul compared with three for a traditional tractor, according to Hayes. Getting parts is difficult, he added.

But pushing these machines to the limit is part of the appeal, Hayes said.

“There was nobody that manufactured a farm tractor engine who figured we would be pushing over 2,000 horsepower on them.”

Hayes tries to participate in one or two tractor pulls a year, but it is getting harder to find events.

“Because of the horsepower we put out, they won’t let us hook up,” he said.

Members of the Belfance family came all the way from Alabama to participate in the event. John Belfance, who runs a plastics company, splits his time between the Capital Region and Alabama. His 10-year-old son Jacob got involved and rode a small tractor. He said he likes the feeling of going down the track.

Belfance’s wife said he has been involved with these events since he was 3 years old because his father used to help.

John Belfance said he usually just helps out but for the first time did some pulls in a pickup truck.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It’s so much horsepower and those big tires are spinning.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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