Grand old station chaff cutter back

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Just one of the steps in the project to produce chaff by horse power was when John French operated the binder and Murray Oakley the tractor, to cut the oats. 

By Maureen Bishop
The chaff cutter may have done many years’ service in Marlborough but since its working life ended it has travelled up and down New Zealand waiting to be brought back to life.

Now, 10 years later, the horse-powered chaff cutter is up and running and will show its capabilities at the Mayfield Show this month.

It has taken an immense effort from lots of people to reach this stage.

Brian Smith, of Winchester, can be praised – or blamed – for the idea.

He is in charge of the vintage machinery section at the show and after rescuing the Reid and Gray chaff cutter from Camden Station in the Awatere Valley, decided to restore it and demonstrate it at the show.

He estimates it has taken him 10 years to get to this point and because of moves through his employment, the machine has been to Hari Hari, Napier, put into storage while he worked in Australia, and finally brought to his home in Winchester.

Andrew Donaldson grew the oats, both black and white varieties, at Valetta, which will be used in the demonstration.

Then a vintage binder and tractor were used to harvest the crop. This became a frustrating exercise when the twine kept breaking.

The oats produced an excellent crop – all four trailers of it.

The horse-powered whim to drive the chaff cutter came from the Plains Museum.

And then there were the horses. John Booth and Gaye Day of Dayboo Stud, near Ashburton have trained their show horses Sam and Anja to drive the whim, walking round in constant circles.

Training began in October and has involved many hours since. Because the horses are not used to the work and are not fit, it means they can not be used for long spells.

It’s hard on the people too. Attached chains catch the legs and shins and can leave nasty bruises. And then there is all the walking.

Power became an issue too – too much of it. The horses were so powerful they were pulling the whim out of the ground. A couple of large concrete sleepers solved that problem.

Brothers Bill and Les Andrews from Timaru lent a hand, too.

They had seen a horse-powered chaff cutting operating many years ago and have a lifetime involvement with horses.

Mr Smith paid tribute to the contribution of John French from the Plains Museum, too.

The final piece in the operation was the chaff cutter.

It is now operating and a demonstration and practise run on Sunday, saw chaff filling the attached sacks.

A traction engine from Seadown is being trucked up to the show and will also be used to cut chaff.

The bags of chaff will be sold for $46 a bag.

A tin mill from the Methven Vintage Machinery Club will come across country to process seed.

None of it would be possible if it wasn’t for those who have a love of vintage machinery and the dedication to see it in working order.