Forgotten companiesLaPlant-Choate

The LaPlant-Choate TS-300 motor scraper

LaPlant-Choate’s TS-300 owes its origins to a design formulated prior to World War 2.

The TS-300 was LaPlant-Choate’s first motor scraper and despite being taken over by Allis-Chalmers in late 1952, the machine served as the subsequent building block of a whole range of other scrapers to follow.  By Richard Campbell

The LaPlant-Choate Manufacturing Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was a prolific manufacturer of bulldozer blades, rippers, towed scrapers and compaction equipment. Established in 1911, LaPlant-Choate originally started out building house moving equipment and gradually expanded to the manufacture of rudimentary bulldozer blades and other forms of earthmoving equipment.

By the 1930s, LaPlant-Choate had further expanded its operation and was in the very enviable position of being a “preferred supplier” to Caterpillar (along with LeTourneau). Noting the success that LeTourneau had gathered with its self-propelled Tournapull motor scraper, LaPlant-Choate was very keen to capture some of this business itself and began design of its own motor scraper which would ultimately become the model TS-300

Unfortunately, WWII put a halt on proceedings until late 1944 when LaPlant-Choate were once again allowed to recommence non-war essential works. LaPlant-Choate engineers had a fully operational prototype ready for testing by July 1945 and after a few bugs were ironed out, this machine was put into full scale production in 1947 as the model TS-300 ‘Moto-Scraper’ (sic).

LaPlant-Choate was a pioneer in the field of hydraulics as applied to earthmoving equipment, and it is not a very well-known fact that a good deal of the hydraulically operated dozers and scrapers of today are based on experience gained by LaPlant-Choate going back as far as 1927!

The TS-300 was fairly well received when it was introduced considering it was quite a ‘new-fangled gizmo”.

Chosen power for the machines was a Buda 6DCS-844 supercharged diesel rated at 225 flywheel horsepower. This in turn was connected to a 4-speed manual Fuller transmission by a 17” Lipe-Rollway dry clutch, allowing a top speed of around 18 miles per hour. The differential was supplied by Spicer and directed power to the double reduction bull gear and pinion final drives.

Steering was positive hydraulic, provided by two double acting cylinders and allowed the TS-300 a steering arc of approximately 60 degrees to either side of centre. The hydraulic pump was a model HU40 of LaPlant-Choate’s own design and driven off the engine’s front crankshaft pulley. It had a respectable output of 40 gallons per minute at rated engine speed and provided hydraulic power for steering and the bowl’s single acting apron cylinder.

Full expanding shoe air brakes were provided with a Bendix compressor providing the necessary air supply.

At the time of its introduction, the TS-300 was supplied on 21.00 x 20 tyres with no other options. This was, however to change as the machine was further developed.

Carrying 14 cubic yards struck and 17½ cubic yards heaped, the all-cable controlled scraper was of relatively conventional construction and featured a curved cutting edge, a LaPlant-Choate feature, which was supposed to allow easier loading with less effort on the part of the machine.

Another feature of the bowl was the apron which was activated by a single acting hydraulic cylinder (mentioned previously) but was also mechanically linked to the ejector on either side of the bowl, so as it moved forward, it lifted the apron high out of the way to eject sticky or bulky loads. The apron was then lowered by gravity as the ejector moved to the back of the bowl for the next load. This unusual design was carried over well after Allis-Chalmers took over LaPlant-Choate and was not discontinued until 1968!

LaPlant-Choate also manufactured the cable control unit for the TS-300.  This was a two-drum affair, mechanically driven, with air operated controls, and mounted to the rear of the tractor’s main case.                   A respectably sized push block finished off the rear of the scraper and presented an easy target for push tractor operators.

Commencing 1950, LaPlant-Choate offered prospective purchasers a choice of two engines: the 275 horsepower naturally aspirated Cummins NHS600 or an upgraded 280 horsepower supercharged Buda 6DAS-844. Judging from photographic evidence from the period, the Buda engine seems to have been by far the favoured choice. Also, further tyre options were added with the 24.00 x 29 now becoming the standard tyre.

Operator comforts in the late 1940s-early 1950s were scarce. For a start there was no suspension of any sort on the seat apart from the bottom cushion. The engine was partially exposed to the operator’s right, so in the summertime it must have been an uncomfortably hot and noisy operating environment.

Adding to the discomfort was the fact that the cables which raised and lowered the bowl passed disturbingly close to the back of his head along the scraper’s draft yoke. A cable breakage at this point could potentially result in a whiplash effect that could easily decapitate an operator!  However, all was not quite doom and gloom as LaPlant-Choate did manufacture a reasonable half cab, and the air boosted cable controls and hydraulic steering would have been well appreciated by operators, especially those transitioning from LeTourneau’s older Tournapulls.

Another option offered by LaPlant-Choate was a 19 cubic yard hydraulically operated bottom dump wagon known as the TW-300. These proved to be quite popular and most of the manufacturers of the time also offered some kind of bottom dump for their respective scraper tractor units.

LaPlant-Choate built approximately 866 TS-300 units prior to its takeover by Allis-Chalmers.

Enter Allis-Chalmers

LaPlant-Choate’s biggest handicap was the very limited size of its dealer network compared to other machinery brands. Caterpillar had proposed a buyout of LaPlant-Choate as early as 1944 but the deal could not be agreed to for whatever reason. Caterpillar, intent on making everything for its tractors “in-house” subsequently terminated the preferred supplier agreement with LaPlant-Choate and also that of R,G.LeTourneau.

LeTourneau already had a huge dealer network outside of Caterpillar and were not too impacted by this decision but it affected LaPlant-Choate considerably. Allis-Chalmers, who were looking to become a full line supplier but not spend the millions of dollars in R&D costs approached LaPlant-Choate in 1952 with a suitable proposal and by the end of 1952 LaPlant-Choate were no more. Allis-Chalmers took over the Cedar Rapids manufacturing facility and all pre-existing stock was repainted in Allis-Chalmers ‘Persian Orange’

The following year Allis-Chalmers also bought the Buda Engine Co. and promptly discontinued the Cummins engine option in the TS-300.  Although the TS-300 remained in Allis-Chalmers catalogue from 1952 until 1955, very few changes were made to the machine other than a cosmetic upgrade of the radiator cowl and a small increase in heaped capacity (which was achieved by sideboarding).

The TS-300 soldiered on until it was replaced by the model Allis-Chalmers TS-360 in late 1955.                          Interestingly, the TS-360, apart from a redesigned tractor unit, used an almost unchanged TS-300 bowl!

Total production (including LaPlant-Choate manufactured units) was 1070 machines.


The New Zealand Connection

Downer & Company were the only fleet users of the TS-300 in New Zealand and all of its machines were from Allis-Chalmers production as LaPlant-Choate did not have representation in New Zealand. There were a few private sales also.  Although initially imported with scrapers the machines were ultimately used as prime movers for Yuba Manufacturing Co’s Movall forced-ejection body dumpers at the Kimihia and latterly Weavers Crossing opencast mines before their retirement.

Regrettably, it appears that none have survived.

For the model collector

You are in luck as an outstandingly good and accurate model of an Allis-Chalmers liveried TS-300 was produced by First Gear Models to 1:50 scale in the early 2000s. This is still generally available on Ebay and will set you back between US$150-US$175.


Brief Specifications – LaPlant-Choate TS-300

Engine (pre-1950):     Buda 6DCS-844, 6-cylinder supercharged diesel rated at 225 flywheel horsepower at 2100 rpm.

Engine (post 1950):    Buda 6DAS-844, 6-cylinder supercharged diesel rated at 280 flywheel horsepower at 2100 rpm.

Clutch:                        Lipe-Rollway 17”, single dry plate

Transmission:             Fuller, 4-speed, constant mesh

Top Speed (pre-1950): 18 mph

Top Speed (post 1950): 23 mph

Brakes:                        Shoe type, air operated

Steering:                      Hydraulic, utilizing 2 x identical double acting cylinders

Turning Circle:           30’

Tyres:                          21.00 x 29 24-ply E3, later machines 24.00 x 29 24-ply E3

Capacity:                     14 cubic yards struck, 17½ cubic yards heaped

Operation:                   All cable, including hydraulically boosted apron.

Length:                        37’

Width:                         11’ 7”

Height:                         9’ 4”

Operating Weight:      22½ tons empty, 46½ tons loaded


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