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Three-point linkage system

revolutionising agriculture Northern Ireland,

Black-and-white photograph of a tractor on display in the Museum, with a plough mounted on the tractor’s back and attached directly to it.
Harry Ferguson’s first mounted plough, 1935. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library.

Brought up on his father’s farm in County Down, Northern Ireland, Harry Ferguson (1884-1960) had first-hand experience of the hardships of agricultural work. In the early 20th century many farms were still using the horse and plough. Ferguson sought to develop a tractor best suited for small farms, using interchangeable implements.

Traditionally, implements such as ploughs were attached to a tractor using chains, meaning that if the plough hit an obstruction the tractor would be tipped over backwards, injuring the driver. Over 15 years Ferguson developed a three-point linkage where the plough became an integral part of the tractor. This overcame the problem of stability and revolutionised modern farming, with the operating depth of the plough controlled hydraulically and the forces generated in the ground transferred to the back wheels.

Ferguson went on to design a bespoke tractor for his new system called the ‘black tractor’ after its colour. In 1938 he demonstrated his design to the pioneer of mass production, the American Henry Ford (1863-1947). With Ford’s backing Ferguson’s tractor and hydraulic control system quickly became the market leader: 306,000 were built by 1947, and 85% of modern tractors use Ferguson’s linkage system. Ferguson’s innovations revolutionised modern farming.

Science Museum

Decade
Type
Engineering,
Region
Northern Ireland
Location
County Down, Northern Ireland
Key Individuals
Harry Ferguson, Henry Ford,