Fire In The Hole: Check Out How To Start A Field Marshall Tractor Using A Twelve-Gauge Shotgun Shell!


Fire In The Hole: Check Out How To Start A Field Marshall Tractor Using A Twelve-Gauge Shotgun Shell!

Starting an engine…not so hard, is it? Hit the key and go. You learned that when you started to drive, or if you were “lucky” enough to have a riding mower when you were growing up as a kid. If you had a manual transmission-equipped vehicle and a starter that was just about shot, you probably learned about bump-starting as well. And there’s Ye Olde crank-starter, which was never a completely appealing process, considering that breaking a wrist or arm was in the cards if you screwed up. Ignoring the methods I’ve learned from my time working on airfields, that should be it, right? Well, here’s a new one in my book: a shotgun shell.

The tractor you are seeing is a British-built Field Marshall, a brand that existed between 1945-1957. Normally, the operator crank-started the single-cylinder engine to life, but for colder mornings, there was a second option: a blank shotgun shell. Here’s how this works: a smoldering piece of paper that contains saltpeter is placed inside of the cylinder head and the shell is placed into a breech that is tapped into the intake. One quick blow with a hammer to the firing pin and the force from the shotgun shell is enough to push the piston through it’s stroke, on the way to lighting off.

Neat, isn’t it? The last time I used a twelve-gauge on anything automotive, there was a lot of little holes in the door of a junker heading to the yard…


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3 thoughts on “Fire In The Hole: Check Out How To Start A Field Marshall Tractor Using A Twelve-Gauge Shotgun Shell!

  1. Mark Panos

    Go back and watch the original movie, Flight of the Phoenix, with Jimmy Stewart. This aircraft was started with essentially shotgun cartridges. Also, seems like some early jets, like maybe the B57 Canberra, used a black powder starting system when a start cart was unavailable.

    Reply
  2. Piston Pete

    A B-52H uses an electrically charged (big) blast cartridge on #4 engine for hot starts. The blast discharge passage is cleaned with a donkey dick.

    Reply
  3. Bill Greenwood

    IIRC, a Field Marshall had a design quirk that allowed the engine to run in reverse rotation. This could happen if you failed to crank the piston past TDC before hitting the shell. This sounds humorous, and usually was. But, it could also have very tragic consequences.

    Reply

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