July 26, 2011 North Platte, NE to Grand Island, NE

Do you like combines? I mean giantly big and agriculturally awesome farm machines?

Well, have I got a tour for you!

John booked a tour for us at Case/IH. (Case/International Harvester and New Holland farm equipment.) It is perhaps the best tour I have ever taken. And, perhaps, the worst.

Farmer John

We drive all morning to Grand Island, Nebraska and find lunch at the Chicken Coop in downtown Grand Island where I eat a hamburger (only the second one since the first of the year). We present ourselves at Case. This is a personal tour just for the two of us. We don protective glasses, reflective vests and headsets. It is so noisy in the plant that we wouldn’t be able to hear the explanations otherwise. Dick is our tour guide and he does an incredible job. We see the combine assembly line from the beginning to the end. We talk to the workers as we walk down the line. It is repetitious work that they do with grace and humor. There is nothing hidden here. If there are mistakes along the way, Dick points them out. He has been retired since 1996 and yet you can still feel the pride in his voice as he describes the equipment. And that is why it is the best tour we’ve ever taken.

Mary with Dick, our tour guide, after the tour

Then why also the worst? This tour takes three hours. Three hours without sitting down in an enormous, incredibly noisy plant that does not have air conditioning. The temperature today is over 90 and it is humid. By the time we finish we are awash in sweat and almost numb from the noise. It’s why we look shellshocked in the photos.

With a combine after the tour

Afterward we stop at the HyVee, a supermarket, and buy some vittles and beverage for supper. We are too exhausted to go out tonight.

Here are some pictures from the factory.

Laser cutting steel for parts

Machines bending the just cut part blanks into usable pieces

Welding robot

Welding human

Corn stripper

Big tires

Last tests and ready to go

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