Early Road Construction with Pull-Type Graders

The need for improved road maintenance spurred development of the pull-type grader


| April 2013



Freshly Painted Grader

Christopher with the freshly painted Road King.

Photo By Ron McGinnis

In the early days, dirt, sand and gravel roads were leveled, shaped and planed with mostly wooden graders pulled by draft animals. With the bicycle craze of the late 1800s, improved road maintenance became necessary. Then, in the early 1900s, automobiles began racing down unpaved roads at nearly 20 miles per hour.

More than 40 manufacturers got involved, most producing pull-type graders of heavy iron. Early models were pulled by animals; as tractor design evolved, animals were phased out.

The grader’s weight determined how big a tractor or how many animals were needed to move as much material efficiently with the least amount of lost motion from the blade. Large graders were used for ditching, road construction, heavy grading and sloping. Small models served as road maintainers. Graders of any size were used to push snow and clear brush. The terracer was a single-axle offshoot of the pull-type road grader, designed to excavate ditches and berms for erosion control.

Many communities purchased light graders. In some areas, farmers worked off their taxes by hitching work teams to a grader and pulling it over country roads. One of the last uses of pull-type graders was by the U.S. Army’s Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion to make glider runways during World War II. In that application, Adams Leaning Wheel models much like the one Christopher Hodges restored were used. FC 

For Christopher Hodges’ grader story, read Adams Road King Pull Type Grader.

Source: Equipment Echoes magazine, Spring and Summer 2012 issues, published by the Historical Construction Equipment Assn., Bowling Green, Ohio.