Antique Caterpillar Machinery Playing in the Dirt

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Above: It took four hand-wheels to manage the Cat Model No. 10 Motor Patrol’s grading functions.
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Below: David Wintermute wowed the crowd with his beautifully restored 1931 Cat Model No. 10 Motor Patrol grader – and the fact that he knew how to use it.
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Below: Ken Avery’s 1922 Best 30 tractor was a real showstopper.
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Right: This beautifully restored Cat Model No. 11 Auto Patrol was part of Dennis and Karen Marone’s display.
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Below: In its day, a double-winch-equipped Cat like this was often seen doing oil field work.
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Left: Chris Landeck (driving the crawler) and Chris Withington made quite a soil-smoothing team along with their 1945 Model D4 and Cat Twenty-Two grader.
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Right: Gary Risk demonstrates the finer points of moving dirt with a Sears Roebuck tumble-pan-type scraper behind his 1929 Cat Fifteen crawler.

Engines growled as cleated grousers gripped the
ground in tractor demonstrations that literally moved the earth at
the 2004 Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club’s (ACMOC)
National Summer Show last August. Yellow, grey and black
track-laying machines crawled all over the Rough and Tumble
Engineers Historical Association’s (RTEHA) Kinzers, Pa., show
grounds with demonstrations of grading, bull-dozing, plowing and
digging.

“We were glad to be hosted by Rough and Tumble during their
annual Threshermen’s Reunion,” explains Bill Rudicill, ACMOC
president. “We move our summer show around because it is easier to
do that than move the equipment around.” While it is true that
Caterpillar made a number of smaller tractors from the beginning in
1925 to about 1960 (the year at which the organization draws its
“vintage” line), even small crawlers can tip the scales at close to
10,000 pounds. “Weight like that is difficult, or at least
expensive, to haul over great distances, so the show moves around,”
Bill says. “And we get to see all kinds of other machines when we
are hosted by another group.”

ACMOC (headquartered in Peoria, Ill., with about 3,000 members
worldwide) originated in Oregon in the early 1990s with 10
committed enthusiasts. “Several of us would bring our Cats to the
annual show in Brooks (Ore.),” Harry Cruchelow recalls, in
explaining the club’s origins. “In 1990, there were 10 of us, which
was the right number to incorporate as a non-profit in Oregon.”

The group’s purpose is to encourage and support restoration of
Caterpillar machinery, and preserve the company’s history. “We also
included Holt and Best machinery,” Harry adds. “When they got
together, that was really the beginning of Caterpillar.”

Cats to work the land

Today, Caterpillar equipment is most readily associated with
large, diesel-powered, heavy-duty construction equipment – machines
that build dams and interstate highways. In the beginning, however,
the company’s founders built machines that could work the Western
landscape: massive combine harvesters first pulled by 26 horses,
and later by Holt or Best steam-powered traction engines.

The steam engines were heavy, and it was difficult to achieve
the traction required to pull the monstrous harvesters, and other
super-sized tillage tools, while maintaining enough flotation to
keep the machines from bogging down in soft loam. The solution was
found in replacing cleated steel wheels with tracks. Eventually
steam gave way to gasoline engines, and gasoline engines later gave
way to diesel engines.

By the time Benjamin Holt and Daniel Best joined forces in 1908,
both were supplying large farms with enough pulling power that road
builders, loggers, freighters and others looking for a versatile
prime mover took note. The combination of brute strength and
flotation made the track-laying machines excellent for pulling long
trains of lumber wagons, skidding logs or pulling road graders and
other earth moving equipment.

In 1910, C.L. Best (Daniel’s son) went into business building
tractors. By 1912 his Best Tracklayers competed directly with
Holt’s machines in most markets. The Caterpillar Tractor Co. was
formed when they joined forces in 1925.

Eventually, the crawlers were fitted with front blades evolving
into self-contained dozers. Although Caterpillar equipment is still
used on many large farms to pull multi-shank, deep-ripping subsoil
plows, articulated four-wheel-drive machines, or new rubber-tracked
agricultural tractors, have for the most part replaced the slower
crawlers in the field.

Several interesting, agriculturally oriented Caterpillar
tractors were at the 2004 summer show, including a 1956 Model D4
orchard crawler owned by Larry Maasdam of Clarion, Iowa. According
to Larry, the D4 is just one of the many unusual high-crop and
orchard-style agricultural tractors (of all brands) in his
collection, but it is one of his favorite Cats. Orchard tractors
were built low and streamlined to slip between rows of trees and
beneath fruit-bearing branches. As useful as this style of tractor
was for grove management, it was of little value to truck farmers
who needed something with a lot of ground clearance. Caterpillar’s
solution to that problem was the high-clearance crawler.

Alex and Pat Sosik brought their beautifully restored 1930
high-clearance Cat Model Ten crawler to the show and were met with
smiles and nods of appreciation. “I redid the works, and painted
her up nice,” Alex says. “Now it makes me nervous hauling because
if she ever got hit, I might never get ‘er back.” Alex is
rightfully anxious: The Cat high-clearance tractor is a rare
crawler. “I believe there were about 300 total high-clear models
built by Cat,” Alex says. “Of course, others were modified into
high-clear by their owners.” Alex found his high-crop tractor in
New York, where it may have been used on a truck farm. Other
high-clearance Caterpillars, custom modified for nursery and truck
farm work in New Jersey, were in attendance at the show, along with
Tim Durkin’s 1932 Model Ten High-Clearance.

The Hewitt Bros. Logging Co. brought several beautifully
restored Caterpillar crawlers to Kinzers from Uncasville, Conn.,
including a pair with two different but striking cabs. “Both (cabs)
were Cat products,” William Hewitt explains. “One was built onto
the tractor, and the other was sold as an attachment.” The logging
company’s 1934 Model Thirty-Five crawler was equipped with a
completely enclosed wooden cab to keep the operator out of the
weather, while the 1929 Model Thirty’s top was more reminiscent of
what might be installed on a horse-drawn buggy.

The Hewitt brothers’ collection included several other
winch-equipped tractors that would have been very comfortable
grubbing logs out of the forest, were they ever to see real work
again. “We spent quite a bit of time and money on the
restorations,” William explains as he wipes a late August rain from
the beautifully varnished wood on the Model Thirty-Five’s cab.
“Their working days are over.”

David Wintermute, Annandale, N.J., also had several machines at
the event. His soil-shattering demonstrations with an
original-condition 1940 Cat Model R-5 and subsoil plow were truly
amazing. This 64 hp, 4-cylinder, gasoline engine-powered tractor
had no problem pulling the unnamed plow’s single 2-foot-long shank
through the Lancaster County subsoil. The plow raised and lowered
with a rope-trip mechanism, and as the shank plunged through the
top-soil, the tractor only growled a little louder.

Tools such as these were used to shatter the hardpan that
developed up to 3 feet below the soil’s surface, particularly in
California’s vast Central Valley, where flood irrigation was
practiced. As recently as the late 1970s, huge farming operations
in California’s Central Valley used D9 Cats to pull 15-foot-wide
subsoil plows with four or five shanks.

It wasn’t all about farm or forest Cats at the 2004 ACMOC summer
show, however. There was plenty of Caterpillar construction
equipment on hand to wow show-goers with beautiful restorations and
dirty demonstrations.

Prime movers and dirt pushers

A number of Cats and Cat-pulled implements were put to the test
at the Rough and Tumble dirt pile located at the northeast corner
of the grounds. For example, Chris Landeck used his 1945 Model D4
to pull friend Chris Withington’s Cat Twenty-Two grader. The
Connecticut-based pair worked feverishly to keep the surface of the
giant-sized sandbox smooth, but it was a lost cause when Gary Risk
hooked his 1944 D2 with ice tracks to a small Henry Model G1
scraper and started digging 4-foot wide trenches. Gary has a few
Cat tractors, but he really enjoys playing with the scrapers. “Most
people have never seen scrapers this small,” Gary says. “It is
amazing how much dirt you can move with them.” Gary also
demonstrated a Sears Roebuck tumble-pan-type scraper behind his
1929 Cat Fifteen.

Dozer enthusiasts found a plentiful supply of the front-bladed
beasts, including several that demonstrated their capabilities in
the dirt pile. For example, Rueben Brubaker had his 1954 hydraulic
dozer-equipped Cat D4 on hand, and Alan Smith displayed his 1958
Model 955 track loader. But none of the dozers pleased the crowds
as much as Bill Glenn’s D2 with hydraulic blade. Bill worked his
little Cat hard to maintain some order in the demonstration area,
and he always had an audience.

Ken Avery’s meticulously restored 1922 Best 30 crawler was also
a crowd favorite. The well-aged piece of iron looked better than
brand new, from the beautifully polished brass and copper fuel
system to the bright red grousers on the machine’s like-new tracks.
Even the varnished wood seat frame was unmarred. When folks refer
to a piece of machinery as a work of art, Ken’s Best crawler would
have to set the standard. It is hard to believe that this machine
once served duty as a prime mover – and survived.

Several vintage self-propelled road graders were shown,
including a 1952 Model No. 212 motor grader owned by Norm Schuldts,
and a beautifully restored 1935 Cat Model No. 11 Auto Patrol motor
grader. David Wintermute’s 1931 Cat Model No. 10 Motor Patrol
grader – part crawler and part wheel-grader – drew quite a crowd.
This machine consists of a Caterpillar Ten crawler with the
grader’s superstructure and chassis bolted to the front, complete
with steereable front wheels. In spite of the nearly perfect
restoration, David used the machine to smooth the parade grounds to
a fine finish once all of the cleated machines had passed. In
addition to the self-propelled graders, early pull-type graders and
terracers of all conditions were on display.

Crawling ahead

According to Bill Rudicill, ACMOC is a growing concern. He
attributes that in part to Caterpillar’s nearly universal brand
recognition, and in part to the sandbox appeal of the equipment.
“When we were kids, we played with toy Cats,” Bill says with a
confident smile. “As we got older, our toys got a little bigger.”
Bill should know: He’s made a business of playing with Cats. His
Petersburg, Ky., sand and gravel business uses Cat equipment almost
exclusively.

This year’s ACMOC Summer Show will be held in conjunction
with the Carstens 1880 Farmstead 23rd Annual Show in Shelby, Iowa,
Sept. 9-11. For more information: Antique Caterpillar Machinery
Owners Club, P.O. Box 2220, East Peoria, IL 61611; online at
www.acmoc.org.

Oscar “Hank” Will III is an old-iron collector and freelance
writer and photographer who retired from farming in 1999. He splits
his time between his home in Gettysburg, Pa., and his farm in East
Andover, N.H. Contact him at 243 W. Broadway, Gettysburg, PA 17325;
(717) 337-6068; e-mail willo@gettysburg.edu

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