(This picture is
one of the hay trolleys that hangs from the perimeter of our porch-GN)
Most of my collections are farm related, and fairly unique. If I were
an unsupervised single man, I would probably have a collection of
bull chips in the shape of famous people or something equally odd.
Fortunately, I am supervised (that would be Lisa,) and as such censor my own quirky
interests to reflect my farming background and keep the “uniqueness”
down to a dull roar. One of my collections is hay trolleys, and it’s
this week’s topic.
Hay trolleys are the little sled that rides a steel or wooden rail in
the peak of a barn roof. I used to help my dad put up loose hay so my youthful memories include holding the rope to keep the trolley straight while dad pulled it up to the peak of the barn with the old Farmall tractor. The trolley is like a block and tackle that allowed farmers to pull a load of hay from a rack to the overhead
peak of a barn roof, and then transport it far back into the hay mow. The
hay trolley is basically a series of pulleys through which a heavy
rope is threaded. In between the mechanism of pulleys is a latch or
“register” which is mounted to another pulley that rides the rope and can be
lowered to the hay load. There it is connected to a net filled with hay, and then pulled by the
rope to the trolley where it locks into the frame so the trolley can take it for
a ride down the rail. Eventually a trip rope is pulled manually to
release the load of hay to the floor of the mow. Hay trolleys began
to disappear from farms, along with hay stacks, when good square balers appeared
in the 1940’s. There were some farmers who continued to use the
trolleys with a grab fork to lift small square bale into their hay
mows, however that mostly ended in the late sixties or early
Hay trolleys have now become something of a family heirloom. Many
ended up as scrap iron but some folks pulled them out of the barns
and saved them as a reminder of simpler times. When I look ay my
collection of trolleys, I see a mirror of those times in the simple, tough
construction. Hay trolleys were made to be installed then ignored for
their service life. Still, there is the occasional graceful arch, a decorative
maker’s emblem or even an angle cast to strengthen the mechanism
disguised as industrial art. Some older trolleys were designed to follow
a less expensive wooden rail down the center of a roof’s peak while
those created later followed a steel rail when steel got a little cheaper.
Most of my trolleys are from the steel rail era and
they are unrestored, rusty and dignified; I do not wish to make them
I like a world ran by computers, servos and unseen gizmos less these
days and I love the honest, transparent workings of a hay trolley.
The workings of a trolley are at one time simple enough for a young
person to understand yet can make an engineer pause and appreciate
their genius. The trolley is homage to mechanical advantage; each
time the rope wraps around a pulley the force required to move its
given load is divided in half. Its incredible strength is further revealed
in the gangs of steel wheels that carry both trolley and hay;
some larger trolleys were rated at nearly two ton capacity. I guess you could
say a hay trolley is both strong and beautiful.
A hay trolley, seen rightly oriented, appears almost as an upside-down steam locomotive. This might be appropriate as it too can be a mode of transport. When I look at my collection of hay trolleys, they take me back to the days when I helped dad load loose hay into the barn. Perhaps it’s the simplicity and strength I see in a hay trolley that reminds me of the simplicity which brings strength from growing up on the farm. Maybe, I just like hay trolleys
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