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Blast from the past: How the Flinchbaugh Wagon Unloader worked

Do you remember our “Flinchbaugh Wagon Unloaders” ad from this August post?

Well, that sparked some fun discussion, including a conversation with Richard Staub, who came to meet me at this year’s York Fair and who you might remember from our downtown stores-of-the-past map.

He also sent me a note about Flinchbaugh’s, saying, “About the Flinchbaugh Co. My father and I worked there in the 50’s and 60’s. Of course, he worked the 50’s; I worked there after graduating in 1963. The company built a gear reduction box which was used on many applications, one being the wagon unloader. It was built for farm wagons. Canvas was rolled on a shaft and was munted at the rear of the wagon; this was then rolled to the front of the wagon. The wagon was then loaded, pulled to where it was to be unloaded, the reduction gear box attached to the shaft with an electric motor or gas engine, and the canvas was rolled back up on the shaft, thus unloading what was on the wagon. This product did not sell too well but the gear box was also used to propel dumbwaiters up and down shafts at a number of business through York: York Bank and Trust at E. Market and Sherman St., also at Avalong restaurant and many other places around the East Coast.”

That matched another note I received, this one from Steve Wagner, who writes, “These are basically a speed reduction unit (that) pulled a ‘false endgate’ to the back of a wagon, making it a self unloading wagon. A pipe was mounted on the back of the wagon to which cables were attached. The other end of the cables hooked to the endgate. The ‘unloader’ was keyed onto the end of the pipe and slowly turned it wrapping the cables around the pipe. This action slowly pulled the endgate to the back of the wagon, unloading whatever was on the wagon. In our case it was ear corn. It unloaded corn into the elevator hopper to be elevated into the corn crib. I did this as a teenager on dad’s farm. I believe if a canvas floor was installed on a wagon they could also be used for silage and possibly other small grain. But for us they were used as an easy way to unload ear corn. It sure beat the shovel!!! I don’t believe they would have been used for baled hay or straw, but possibly could have been used for loose hay or straw.”

And another family used the unloader; I received a note signed by Bill Kilgore of the Airville area, who writes, “When farming in the 1950s, my brother and I used the Flinchbaugh unloader.” He described the mechanism almost identically to the description Steve gave, which was really interesting and detailed. Bill said, “The self-unloading wagon came next and this method of unloading was no longer used. Agriculture methods of getting farm products to storage or markets have come a long way. My dad started with a one-bottom plow with a mule as he walked behind. Later in his life, he used a tractor with a 6-bottom plow. Now the plow sits in the fencerow as no-till farming is used.”

Thank you all so much for explaining more about this neat piece of past machinery made in York.

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