Seeing red; Lehman High CTE students restore tractor

Several months ago, Lehman High senior Ray Heiser’s family tractor sat rotting, rusting and collecting moss on his grandfather’s property in Seguin.

That same tractor is now alive and restored, ready to take on the world for another half-century thanks to the efforts of Heiser and students in Lehman High’s manufacturing class.

The project to restore the tractor was a tedious process for the students, but they were up to the task. With a little bit of grit, sweat, dirt and some engineering skills, the tractor is almost completely restored. 

Heiser, who will join the United States Navy as a construction electrician, or a “Seabee,” made the project his priority.

“This was more of a mechanical and engineering project, which was different than what I’ve done,” Heiser said. “I loved this project. It was for my family and I might end up getting the tractor at some point down the line too, so it was just really special to work on. I think my Grandpa is going to be really happy when he sees it.” 

Once the tractor was transported from Seguin to Kyle, the students went to work. First, the body of the tractor needed to be restored before any work on the internal parts could be done. The rust and moss were removed and three coats of paint were added to give the tractor its pristine red finish back.

After its first phase, the students fixed the tires, radiator, generator and engine. 

The goal was to keep the integrity of the original tractor intact, said Joseph Henderson, manufacturing teacher at Lehman High. Most of the internal components from the original tractor have been restored. 

“The next step is getting the tractor to run,” Heiser said. “We have to see if it’s the crankshaft gummed up somewhere, or if there is too much compression in the engine. We still have some work to do.” 

Once the restoration is complete, the tractor will return to Heiser’s grandfather’s property in Seguin, where Henderson estimates it can last for another 50 to 60 years. 

“It’s special because we got to restore a family tractor that will go right back to them,” Henderson said. “The students still had to do a bit of welding just like they would with any other project, but they also learned to use a different skillset. It’s good for them to try something fresh through these projects.” 

For Heiser, the Hays CISD’s career & technology education program (CTE) has equipped him with the tools to start a career in the Navy after graduation. 

But until then, Heiser and his peers will focus their efforts on finishing the tractor.  

“I think we have swung to this notion that everyone has to attend college or be college ready, but in reality, 60 percent of the jobs in the United States don’t require a 4-year degree,” Henderson said. “A lot of these jobs require some post-high school certification and training, or CTE. A lot of schools are starting to invest heavily in CTE, including Hays. There is something here for everyone, whether it’s for career or to simply learn a new skill.”

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