John C. Delavigne had a great idea for making a stationary steam engine portable, and using it as a track-layer to plow and cultivate, as far back as 1868.
It was an idea whose time had not yet come, and the name of the inventor is seldom mentioned in histories of development of steam for farm power.
We assume his name was Delavigne. In the article which appeared in Vol. 1, No. 2, of Iron Men Album (Spring 1947) it was also spelled Delavigue. The picture and story first appeared in Scientific American, Nov. 4, 1868. Here is the original article:
We are pleased to present two Montana photos from the Belt Valley History published in 1979. Photo shows turning sod with plows weighted down with rocks, outfit owner unknown. Photo is owned by James Dawson, who farms south of Belt and is an avid steam enthusiast.
We are pleased to present two Montana photos from the Belt Valley History published in 1979. photo is the John F. Sweeney outfit with a steam traction engine, separator, cook wagon and trap wagon. Photo is property of Mrs. Alma Sweeney, widow of the former owner. The book was compiled by Ethel Castner Kennedy, Box 23, Belt, Montana 59412, and Eva Stober, in two and one-half years of research. Prints courtesy of Advanced Litho Printing.
Many attempts were made to plow with the steam traction engine both in England and in this country before any satisfactory method was found. Some would work under certain conditions but a good all-around method was not found until much later.
One difficulty was that the early traction was unwieldly and not adapted to loose soil. In the accompanying illustration is one that forms its own roadway, which it always travels in successive operations in plowing, harrowing and cultivating. It has a platform 26 feet long by 15 wide, supported mainly on two wheels, 9 feet in diameter by a lever or hand wheel. The platform supports an ordinary engine and boiler, connected by suitable gearing to the propelling wheels. The gearing is so calculated to give the machine a speed of 150 feet per minute, which can be changed by the change of a pinion. It is designed that the machine shall always travel on the same track in all the operations so as always to have a firm road for the traction wheels.
Patented March 31, 1868 by John C. Delavigue of New Orleans, Louisiana.