Thousands of people around the world take their tiny garden and lawn tractors, hook onto a heavy sleds and take runs down dirt tracks - usually in local fairs. Welcome to the world of Truck and Tractor Pulls. Besides the small grass cutting vehicles, the pulling often takes place with horses, farm tractors, pickup trucks and even big semi trucks driven by small children of all ages. They tried to use push mowers at first, but the slow pace put most fans to sleep! So they decided to use motorize vehicles and kept adding engines to some of the classes.
Wheels in the air
Special pulling sleds move a weight forward as the sled is pulled. As the weight moves it adds a downward force on the front axles that increases the pulling friction, making it harder to pull the further the sled is moved. If you make it past a certain point it becomes a full pull. The winner pulls the sled the longest distance and take home some big cash prizes (not)! In most cases it's all about the glory of victory. This sled is named the 'Humiliator'.
Getting ready to pull - driving up to the sled
The smoke blots out the midway
Heavy diesel pulling classes typically generate large volumes of billowing, black smoke and if the wind blows toward the crowd it leaves a bitter rush of dirty air over everything. Add the excitement of professional caliber competition, millions of dollars in cash prizes and you have an event that exceeds the giddy excitement of the Super Bowl. Looking sideways to the track from a distance reminds me of an old steam train pulling into the station and with people wearing so many cowboy hats in the rural fairs, it does seem like we have stepped back in time.
We visited the Orangeville Fall Fair for a Central Ontario Tractor Pullers' Association (COTPA) and Ontario Truck and Tractor Pulling Association (OTTPA) event on Friday, September 4, 2015. The track is full of construction vehicles which shape and restore the dirt track after every pull of the long sled, run by dedicated volunteers, engaging announcers and the able drivers. The pulling started at 7pm so the lights were cranked up as the sunset over the GTA town just a little northwest of Toronto.
Friday night visitors weren't filling the colourful and loud midway on the late summer opening night of the fair, no the majority were in bleachers and sitting on the grass slopes that looked down on the pulling track. Locked in place for hours while the smell of deep fried mars bars, the lure of beer tents and cries of 'do you want to go faster' filled the air in between the high pitched whine of engines that strained to pull the sled down the track. At the beginning and ending of the pull, front wheels tend to lift off the ground as the weight of the sled holds the tractor in place before the tractor gains momentum and and later when the long run brings the weight forward and finally brings the run to a painful end. On small tractors the drivers lean back over the tires, hoping to keep the rear tires from spinning as they dig large divots into the track. As they struggle to keep moving the tractor creates clouds of dust while the tractor settles and finally surrenders due to the lack of forward progress.