|Not your grandfather’s tractor: The Big Bud 16V-747 is the world’s largest tractor, featuring 900 hp and weighing 100,000 pounds. It is owned by Robert and Randy Williams, Big Sandy, Mont. The John Deere at lower left was their grandfather’s tractor, with about 20 hp.|
If you’ve ever loaded a tractor or two on a trailer and hit the road, you know it’s no day at the beach. Any number of things can go wrong. But picture an operation that moves one tractor across five states with a nightmare trifecta: a load that’s over-height, over-width and over-weight.
That’s the scenario for a crew charged with hauling the world’s biggest tractor all the way from Havre, Mont., to Penfield, Ill., where it’ll be the belle of the ball at I&I Antique Tractor Club’s Historic Farm Days, July 9-12. The Big Bud 16V-747, also known as the “Montana Monster,” will be surrounded by other rare tractors at the show, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Classic Farm Tractors Calendar. All owners of tractors featured in the calendar during the past 20 years have been invited to attend the show and bring their tractors for a reunion of sorts.
Big Bud’s trek to Illinois will require planning, permits and patience, notes John Harvey, producer of the Classic Farm Tractors Calendar. He might have added persistence to this list, as the undertaking is devilishly complex. “A wide, heavy load of this kind is complicated to move on highways,” says Ron Harmon, the man in charge, “partly because every state has different rules and weight regulations to contend with. During construction season, roads can be closed with almost no warning. And weather’s always a factor too.” Because of the load’s size and weight, even a light rain causes a spray that can reduce visibility.
The route itself is hard to pin down. “We can have a route that works one day, and the next day they totally change it,” Ron says. “By the time we get on the road, we still won’t know the route. There are so many restrictions, and they won’t even tell you what those are until you’re within five days of the move. It’s all the unknowns … You do everything you can to plan, but it can change in a heartbeat.”
Further complicating the undertaking is the Fourth of July holiday. “A lot of states shut us down as early as Thursday for the holiday,” Ron says. The current route takes Big Bud through several major cities, including Minneapolis – and that means additional restrictions (for instance, most cities will only allow loads of this size to pass through in the wee hours of the morning).
Timing is everything. In theory the trip should take three days. But weather, route changes, weigh station stops and the holiday could wreak havoc with schedules, which become increasingly important as the show’s opening day approaches. The job is far from complete when the load arrives in Penfield. The tractor’s 8-feet tires and wheels have been removed and travel as a separate load: On arrival, those must be re-installed. And nothing that big happens in a hurry.
Big Bud rides on a special beam trailer that keeps it low. There are eight axles (five on the trailer and three on the truck) on the ground with total bridge length of 98 feet. When loaded on the trailer, the tractor measures 15 feet high, 13-1/2 feet wide and weighs 125,000 pounds.
“It’s not unlike moving a very large specialty piece of construction equipment,” Ron notes. “You just normally don’t do that over a holiday and during construction season.”
Historic Farm Days, July 9-12, I&I Club grounds on Hwy. 135 at Penfield, 35 minutes north of Champaign-Urbana.
Big Bud’s tires are 8 feet tall. The tractor measures 14 feet from the ground to the top of the cab (a five-step steel ladder is used to reach the cab). The fuel tank holds 1,000 gallons.
The tractor weighs 50 tons (with no fuel in the tank), measures 20 feet, 10 inches wide and is 28 feet, 6 inches long. It covers an acre a minute, pulling an 80-foot field cultivator. (“In baseball,” notes John Harvey, “it’s 90 feet between bases.”) Modern tractors nudge 600 hp; built 33 years ago, the Big Bud 747 generates 900 hp. [Back to the top]
If you go to Penfield, Ill., don’t miss the caravan of six Chamberlain tractors from Australia. The convoy will stop at the I&I show as part of the Aussies’ 5,000-mile “Trek Across America.” [Back to the top]