Letters to the Editor

Cat bulldozer down but not out

CaterpillarD7Bulldozer.jpg

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In a recent issue (Farm Collector, July 2005), a letter to the editor asked for more articles on track-style tractors. Here's a story about my experience with a Caterpillar D-7 bulldozer that I helped operate back in 1950.

Fortunately, I wasn't the one operating this tractor when it got mired. We were working downstream from a dam that had partially washed out near Quinter, Kan. A road bridge had washed out, and there were some large, like-new bridge timbers they wanted to salvage. The tractor operator (the unit's owner) was going to move dirt from the far side of a large timber, and then push the timber out of its original location so it could be retrieved.

The soil on the far side, however, turned out to be silt that had washed in, and would not support the tractor. Attempts to drive it out just mired it deeper. With the tractor mired and helpless, the boss was going to send a winch tractor to help retrieve the stuck unit. The engine was still running, and it would have taken much help to pull the machine out. The winch tractor didn't come, however, so around midnight, I shut down the stuck tractor's engine and went to the motel. Before I left, I placed a can over the exhaust pipe, just in case it rained.

During the night there was heavy rain upstream, causing a rise in the river's level. These pictures are what I saw when I arrived on the scene the next morning. The water level had dropped a foot by the time I snapped the pictures.

With the help of a Caterpillar D-8 on a long cable, and a Caterpillar D-6 winch machine, we were able to retrieve the stuck machine. It took every bit of the power of both machines to move the dead tractor out of the silt. It was a real experience, cleaning up that tractor. Dirty water and silt had entered everything except the fuel system. All gear cases and the engine crankcase were flushed with diesel fuel, and the oil was replaced. By pull starting, the diesel engine came easily to life. The starting engine was a different story. The carburetor and magneto had to come off for cleaning. A few days later, the tractor was back on the job.

Ralph R. Look
8006 Watson
Wichita, KS 67207