Sometimes persistence really does pay off. Even more rewarding when it was someone else’s idea. Getting stuck in and ironing out the bugs can be a good thing. Such was the case with the Allis-Chalmers TS-260, whose basic layout owes it’s origins to long gone Company, LaPlant-Choate. By RICHARD CAMPBELL
We last too a good look at the Allis-Chalmers TS-260 motor scraper back in July of 2005.
Since that time a considerable amount of new information has surfaced, and of course, I have a little more room now to tell the story!
Rather than being an original Allis-Chalmers design, the first Allis-Chalmers TS-260s, which were introduced in 1956, were basically the old LaPlant-Choate TS-200 with a re-styled tractor unit, re-engineered steering and a slightly more powerful engine.
The actual bowl assembly was virtually unchanged from the former TS-200 and still featured LaPlant-Choate’s curved ‘bell-mouth’ cutting edge.
Allis-Chalmers fitted small side extensions to the bowl sides raising the heaped capacity from 13 to 14 cubic yards.
Powered by a 176 flywheel horsepower Allis-Chalmers badged, Buda TD844 diesel engine (Allis-Chalmers had acquired the Buda Engine Company in a buy out in 1953), the ‘new’ TS-260 could haul 14 cubic yards along at 20 miles per hour with its Fuller four speed manual transmission.
This was a successful machine for Allis-Chalmers who built over 2400 of them before upgrading the model.
In 1960, Allis-Chalmers raised the horsepower rating of the engine (which had now become the 15000 series) from 176 to 220 flywheel horsepower.
Although still retaining a manual transmission, it had gained an extra 5th gear which lifted the top speed from 20 to 27 miles per hour.
A redesign of the scraper’s bowl finally did away with the curved cutting edge and widened the bowl’s width, raising the heaped capacity from 14 cubic yards to 18 cubic yards.
All these improvements and upgrades also increased the empty weight of the machine.
While the initial production version of the TS-260 weighed 20 tons empty, the revised version tipped the scales at 22 tons.
This particular version of the TS-260 was only produced for around two years before being replaced by a newer model.
Another engine change was made in 1964 when the TS-260 received the Allis-Chalmers model 16000 engine.
Unfortunately for Allis-Chalmers, this update to the TS-260 proved to be a disaster, as units in the field began experiencing major engine failures all across the country.
The cause of the problem was engine overstress, and Allis-Chalmers must have regretted ever contemplating installing the model 16000 engine into this particular machine
Allis-Chalmers were facing a raft of warranty claims so some changes needed to be made fairly quickly to cure the problem.
The decision was made to install the higher displacement Allis-Chalmers model 19000, a 296 flywheel horsepower, turbocharged six-cylinder diesel in place of the troublesome model 16000.
Along with this engine change, other much needed alterations were made including the installation of a Twin-Disc five-speed, full powershift transmission, (although the Fuller five-speed manual was still offered as an option for those customers who preferred it).
The manual transmission option was not removed from the sales catalogue until 1966.
Changes were once again made to the bowl, increasing the heaped yardage from 18 to 20 cubic yards by raising the height of the bowl’s side sheets and the installation of an all new fully hydraulically operated apron.
The previous apron design was hydraulically actuated cable, and dated right back to LaPlant-Choate’s days.
These improvements required quite a bit of reinforcing to be added – the original LaPlant-Choate bowl had only been designed to carry 14 cubic yards at most.
Accordingly, empty weight of the machine rose to 24 tons.
Allis-Chalmers also took the opportunity to reconfigure some of the exterior panelwork on the tractor unit giving it a “cosmetic upgrade”.
This version of the TS-260 remained in production until 1968, when once again, Allis-Chalmers overhauled the design, this time quite radically.
The ‘new’ version of the TS-260 (now the 5th in the series) was known as the 260 series A, Allis-Chalmers electing to drop the “TS” from the machines designation.
Apart from the bowl (which remained pretty much the same as the previous version and retained the 15 cubic yard struck, 20 cubic yard heaped capacity), the 260 series A featured an entirely redesigned tractor unit with very modern styling.
Along with the new styling was an all new engine, the Allis-Chalmers model 21000 Mk.II which was a six-cylinder, turbocharged diesel putting out 300 flywheel horsepower.
The transmission was also changed to a nine-speed full powershift type manufactured by Twin-Disc.
Allis-Chalmers’ own design Kon-Tork torque proportioning differential was standard equipment.
The only thing that remained the same throughout all of these versions of the 260 was the final drives which were still bull gear & pinion.
Allis-Chalmers wouldn’t address this oversight until 1973.
Sales of the 260A were solid and operators and users alike spoke highly of the machine.
The Last of the 260’s
In order to remain competitive in a rapidly changing market, Allis-Chalmers once again redesigned the 260, debuting the new 260-B in 1974.
This time Allis-Chalmers had gone all out – the new machine bore no resemblance to any previous 260 and was in fact a totally new design from the ground up and a 260 in name only.
Based on a modular concept and maximising parts commonality, the 260-B tractor was also the power unit for three other Allis-Chalmers motor scrapers introduced at the same time – the 261-B, 262-B and 263-B.
These were all good looking machines with a bright future.
However, dark clouds were on the horizon for Allis-Chalmers as the company had entered into a partnership with Italian company Fiat.
Very regrettably, Fiat had ended up with a controlling interest in Allis-Chalmers and in 1974, bought the entire company.
That pretty much ruined the Allis-Chalmers’s earthmoving division forever.
Production of the new 260-B/261-B/262-B/263-B models continued as Fiat-Allis until 1988 when the entire scraper line was discontinued except for one model, the small 161 elevating scraper, which lasted until 1994 when it too, got the chop.
And there endeth the lesson, so they say, a sorry end to a great, innovative company.
The New Zealand Connection
Several of the earlier (pre-fully hydraulic apron) versions of the TS-260 were imported into New Zealand and at least two of the later style with the hydraulic apron.
There were no 260-As or 260-Bs brought into the country, however, quite a few made it into Australia.
Principal users of the type were Downer & Co and Herron Contracting (who purchased the two later production types with the hydraulic apron).
The author is unsure if any still exist, and if they do, they are very rare machines indeed and worth preserving.
For the Model Collector
While scale models of the Allis-Chalmers TS-260 do exist, unfortunately none of them are very good.
There are four that the author is aware of as follows:
1:87 made by Espewe of France, a very basic model at worst and a curio at best.
1:48 manufactured by Lionel Trains, USA. Not bad for the era it was produced (1950s) but like the Espewe model, very basic and lacking in detail. This model can be had in yellow and orange versions, and also as part of a railroad flatcar load. Warning – Expensive!
1:65 made by Matchbox. This is probably the best of all of the TS-260s available and it is a great pity it is such an oddball scale. It was #K6 in Matchbox’s King Size range and was designed to fit a box size rather than be a stand alone representation. Expect to pay over $100 for a good example in a box.
1:160 by Fun-Ho New Zealand. Issued in the early 1970s, this is a very crude little model but an Allis-Chalmers TS-260 none the less. It was based on the Matchbox model and pantographed down to 1:160 scale, once again to fit a standard marketing box size.
These little scrapers can be quite pricey if you want one as they were not made for very long before Fun-Ho went out of business.
Brief Specifications – Allis-Chalmers TS-260
(1st production version, 1956)
Engine: Allis-Chalmers TD-844, inline 6-cylinder. naturally aspirated diesel rated at 176 flywheel horsepower @ 2,000 rpm
Clutch: Lipe-Rollway 15½” twin plate
Transmission: Fuller 4-speed, constant mesh manual
Top Speed: 20 mph
Brakes: Full air, expanding shoe type
Tyres: 21.00×25, 20-ply E3
Steering: Full Hydraulic with torque multiplier linkage
Turning Circle: 30’
Capacity: 11 cubic yards struck, 14 cubic yards heaped
Length: 34’ 1”
Width: 10’ 11”
Height: 9’ 11”
Operating Weight: 20 tons (empty), 34 tons (loaded)