Tocal’s first tractor

The arrival of the first tractor onto a farm was an important turning point in the history of any property. On a family farm it was the passing of an era involving the farm’s usually much-loved draft horses being set aside for a machine.  On some small farms it was only once the draft horse died that a tractor would be purchased. In many farms the decision to purchase a tractor was preceded by much discussion both within the family and neighbourhood. When the Twin City model 17-28 arrived on Tocal in the late 1920s it was one of the first tractors in the district and locals could describe its arrival in detail 50 years later.

The Tocal locality is on the traditional lands of the Wonnarua Aboriginal people whose custodianship was destroyed on the arrival of European settlers in the 1820s.

The name Tocal is anglicised from an Aboriginal word meaning plentiful or bountiful so it is not surprising the Europeans who took up this land prospered. Tocal produced tobacco, wine, and many crops but eventually became a leading horse and cattle stud property. A change of ownership in 1926 saw mechanisation come including the Twin City tractor. It is unclear as to how useful this cumbersome machine was – we believe it did not get much use but it stayed at Tocal until the death of its owner, Charles Boyd Alexander in 1947.

Twin City tractors were built by the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company until 1929 when it merged with the Moline Implement Company of Illinois and the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company of Hopkins, Minnesota. This created the Minneapolis Moline company which went onto produce many tractors until its merger with White Motor Company in 1963. Manufacturing of model 17-28 went from 1926 to 1935. It is understood the Tocal tractor arrived in the late 1920s.

Charles Alexander, a bachelor, and his three unmarried siblings had recently moved to Tocal which had been a high profile stud farm employing many people but definitely still within the horse drawn era. Alexander was the youngest of what had been a family of eight and it seems he took on the role of leading the way into 20th century technology by having a series of Rolls Royce cars replaced every five years and also installing a 120-volt generation plant in a stable to power the homestead.

How much debate was had on purchasing this tractor will never be known but it is suspected that Charles led the way with technology within his family. Charles was the last of his family to die and he left a bequest which enabled Tocal to become an agricultural college. The tractor then passed to a family friend of the late Mr Alexander who ultimately donated it back to Tocal. By then the property was the site of the CB Alexander Agricultural College and the original homestead complex of buildings an important heritage site.

In 1990 restoration of the tractor was completed by the College’s mechanic, Roy Moran, and it now takes pride of place as an important element of Tocal’s agricultural history.

The Twin City is powered by a 17hp four-cylinder petrol start kerosene running engine. Top forward speed is 2.9 mph (4.66 km/hr). It is regularly started and driven around the site by volunteers who care for it and undertake necessary maintenance.

Since the College opened in 1965 many tractors have come and gone but the Twin City will not be going anywhere.

Author: Cameron Archer, Former Principal, Tocal College, Paterson NSW Australia