Russ' Vintage Iron

Accessories for Vintage Tractors

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Last winter I wrote about heat housers after seeing a Twitter conversation in which one farmer posted a photo of his John Deere 10 or 20 series tractor with a heat houser on it. Another farmer, if you remember the column, had never seen one before and this led to a discussion about them. (…)

I had many responses after that column ran, since readers had a lot of memories of operating tractors with heat housers. That was probably the most responses I have ever had to something I wrote -- they were all positive reactions as well. In a second column I wrote, I included some of the feedback about the heat housers. (…)

This got me thinking about other accessories vintage tractors can be fitted with. The list is pretty long if you stop and think about it, from something big like various kinds of weights, to small items like seat-cushions.

I have written about this before, but one of my first chores involving a tractor was to bring round bales of alfalfa hay back to the farmyard from the field with our John Deere 4010 and a three-point bale mover. Being fair-skinned, I was lucky to have a bright, yellow umbrella to keep the sun off me and a fender-mounted radio to play songs.

Mind you, it wasn't a perfect setup. The umbrella really didn't cooperate very well on really windy days and I could only get one radio station to come in well enough to hear over the engine.

On the plus side I know most of the words to a number of 1960s/1970s songs because the one radio station was an oldies station. On the down side, oldies stations today now play modern music from 1980s, which I couldn't listen to back then. That kind of makes me feel old.

All things considered, it was a good tractor/implement for a teenager to learn how to do tractor chores.

The other interesting tractor accessories I can remember from my childhood was on the John Deere 620 we had. Again, I'm sure you all know this was my late-grandfather's last tractor, something I have written about several times. (See…,… and…)

He had a white, metal, step-on style tool box mounted on the backside of the back axle on that tractor. While I know it's probably not very safe, that was my spot I stood on whenever my dad used that tractor and I was present.

This was our utility tractor so it was used for various tasks, from raking hay to running the auger at harvest to checking/fixing fences in the pasture. The toolbox used to have a lot of junk in it, but among the hand tools was a metal-handled hammer -- not the tool of choice to check and see if the electric fence is working.

The toolbox was on there for decades before the bottom rusted out and we had to take it off. The plan was to rebuild it, but my dad went to a farm equipment auction and bought the same kind of toolbox. This one was painted John Deere green and was in good shape and it's still on the tractor today.

That tractor also features another interesting accessory. Those of you familiar with John Deere two-cylinder tractors know the two brake pedals are held on by a flat piece of metal. To release the brake, you need to reach down, press the brake and flip the metal piece over to allow the pedal to fully disengage.

The 620 has what I would call automatic brake release mechanisms. When you step on the brake pedal, there was a weight on the backside that flips up the front of it so you don't have to reach down there and flip it over by hand.

They were always on there, so I just assumed all two-cylinder Deeres had these until we restored the tractor and starting taking it to shows. People would stop all the time and would want to know where we got them. We even let someone (who we knew) take one off so he could make his own set.

According to my dad, my grandpa bought them and put them on the tractor sometime after he bought the tractor slightly used in 1960. He owned other Deere tractors, but they didn't have these devices, he said.

If you know anything about these automatic brake release devices, please contact me. I tried to Google them, but I couldn't find anything.

Do you have a vintage tractor with an interesting accessory on it? Let me know about it. I look forward to your Vintage Iron stories.

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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