Caterpillar Tractors and Dozers on the Prowl

Caterpillar tractors work hard at the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show in Portland, Ind.


| January 2011



A link belt Speeder backhoe on the job.

A link belt Speeder backhoe on the job.

These big cats did not slink toward their target stealthily as do the big cats in the wilds of Africa. No, these arrived chained down to prime movers. Then, when they reached their destination, they were unchained and unleashed. They came to life in earth-shaking roars. They crawled down off their mighty trailers, pivoted and began to move away from the crowd. Proud, powerful and ready for action, these big Caterpillar bulldozers, graders and pan tractors aligned themselves in neat rows like beauty pageant contestants. 

Others came attired in their work clothes. They were big, powerful machines ready for any task. Like coal miners and construction workers, they were ready to go.

The 2010 Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Ind., featured two major tractor lines: Massey-Harris and Caterpillar. And what a turnout they had! On Saturday of the show weekend, there were nearly 300 feature tractors on site. The club did not keep a separate account of exhibits, but they did display the two features in separate areas. Massey-Harris stood proud on the fairgrounds; Caterpillar occupied the recently purchased show grounds just to the east.

Diverse Massey feature
There were probably more Massey-Harris pieces on display than Caterpillar, but not by many. With a bright red finish and yellow wheels, tractors in the Massey feature made for a colorful exhibit. The display included many tractor models as well as a varied line-up of farm equipment. Among the highlights: a self-propelled 2-row corn picker that looked better than new.

There was also a good showing of combines, both pull-type and self-propelled, including a rare 48-inch-cut pull-type. David Hudson, Portland, saved it from demolition at a scrap yard. It was indeed fencerow material, but it had been reclaimed. You might often see a 42-inch-cut Allis-Chalmers or International Harvester, but you almost never see a small-cut Massey-Harris.

Merger spawns powerhouse
Back to Caterpillar. The Caterpillar Tractor Co. was formed by the consolidation of two track-laying tractor companies, Holt Mfg. Co. and C.L. Best Gas Tractor Co. Benjamin Holt built a factory in Stockton, Calif., to build tractors for the fertile soils there. His first track-laying tractor was a steam-powered unit introduced in 1890. Other models were designed and sold during the following years.