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Miniature thresher a labour of love

Bob Fehrenbach of Maryhill can finally sit back and marvel, alongside the rest of the community, at the creation which took him more than five years to build: the smallest working steam thresher in Ontario.

Now finished building the working model, Fehrenbach reflects on the effort that went into the one-of-a-kind creation, noting that perhaps the most difficult aspect of the project was not the actual assembly of the thresher, but the effort it took to find the right piece of metal, coil or pulley.

Maryhill’s Bob Fehrenbach recently built the smallest working steam thresher in Ontario, a painstaking project that took him more than five years to complete. Just tracking down the parts was an adventure in itself.
Maryhill’s Bob Fehrenbach recently built the smallest working steam thresher in Ontario, a painstaking project that took him more than five years to complete. Just tracking down the parts was an adventure in itself.

“This was most definitely a labour of love. I drove many a mile to find some of these parts!”

Fehrenbach retired in 1993 from his job as a ready-mix driver and followed his passion for this type of project by volunteering for a colleague at an antique shop. This side project continued for 10 years before he decided to create his own masterpiece, the thresher which he began in 2003.

Not only has he built or restored all four pieces of the machinery – the Waterloo Champion Threshing Machine, a Waterloo Steam Engine with a 12-volt motor, a Waterloo Steam Engine with the electric motor, and his Witte ½- horsepower engine – he has also built the wagon on which they sit, using recycled parts. The wagons wheels were taken from a train station baggage car, and the body of the wagon was made from pieces of lumber from a hayrack.

“I just found a piece of this and a piece of that and put it all together, and here it is now.”

Since the completion of the project last year, he has taken it out on display to venues such as farm shows in the area.

One of the key developments in the agriculture industry, the thresher was invented in 1784 by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years prior, grain was separated by hand with flails, a very laborious and time consuming process. The mechanization of this task took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

The thresher he built  is tagged with the date 1925 – the date Fehrenbach thinks the original machine would have been in operation.

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