The students studying mechanics and small engines at PECI are getting a unique opportunity to work on a vintage tractor thanks to a local farmer.
Local secondary school machine shop educator Ted Shepherd invited the Gazette to the school Tuesday to view the start of a multi-class project that will see students learn much in the way their agricultural ancestors did.
With some minimal guidance and by doing.
A 1953 International Farmall Super M owned by local farmer Brian Kingsley and Kingsley Farms just north of Picton is now in the hands of PECI students.
Purchased from a farm in North Gower, ON more than a decade ago, the four cylinder, gasoline powered tractor was in pretty rough shape although Kingsley was able to drive it to the school under its own power.
“This is going to take us all semester to get it back into rolling form but there is so much learning here,” Shepherd told the Gazette as PECI students started the process of removing the wiring and light fixtures. “The kids get invested because it’s a community project and there’s a lot of interest because Prince Edward County is a place with such a great history of agriculture.”
Kingsley will cover the costs of the parts and materials for refurbishment while students will put in the “Grunt work” according to Shepherd.
“It needs just about everything including new tires and rims and a new clutch and we are going to do sleeves and pistons as well,” Shepherd added. “When it’s done and we’ve finished sandblasting and reassembling it will be something every student can take pride in and this project will really promote our program.”
The history of technological studies at PECI is long and distinguished as the school was among the best in the province through the 1960’s and 70’s, winning many provincial awards and promoting successful students directly into mechanical manufacturing careers.
The tech wing did suffer somewhat due to a diminished profile in more recent years but a new focus on trades training has led to a resurgence.
“It’s amazing how some people wrongly assume we don’t have shops here anymore,” Shepherd said with a laugh.
The school offers summer and winter tire changes and regular maintenance for passenger vehicles that PECI staff typically take advantage of but is open to members of the public as well.
Shepherd pointed to numerous stacks of tires and said the students were in the process of changing rims from summer to winter tires.
In total, Shepherd figures between 10 and 15 per cent of students will explore the automotive repair trades as a post-secondary study which is likely a far cry from the school’s hey day when it produced scores of promising mechanics every year.
But the courses are invaluable to virtually everyone on the basis that all will have an interaction with cars and trucks and other mechanical engines at some point in their lives.
“Everyone is going to own a lawn mower, have change a tire or have to change a battery at some point in their life,” Shepherd said.