Some heavy haulage operators may be familiar with the name GarWood as a premier manufacturer of heavy duty towing winches used on transporter-equipped trucks. However, it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that GarWood was once a major producer of blades, scrapers, cable controls and rippers for the earthmoving industry.
The founder of GarWood was Garfield Arthur Wood (1880-1971), a famous inventor and speedboat racer of the 1920s & 30s who held many racing titles and also manufactured high quality speedboats and yachts. Examples of his surviving handiwork fetch very high prices in the USA. Of particular note is the fact that Garfield Wood invented the first practical hydraulic hoist for truck bodies, an item taken for granted these days.
GarWood also competed head on with Heil in the manufacture of garbage and refuse disposal truck bodies. Along with its on-road business, GarWood was also a prolific manufacturer of tractor equipment and had substantial manufacturing facilities in Detroit, Michigan and at itsearthmoving equipment headquarters in Findlay, Ohio.
Securing a preferred supplier agreement with tractor manufacturer Allis-Chalmers allowed GarWood enormous access into the construction marketplace. The agreement, which lasted until 1956, also gave Allis-Chalmers the flexibility to offer either GarWood cable-controlled, or Baker hydraulically-controlled attachments to suit customers’ tractor requirements.
GarWood also acquired the Buckeye Chain Trencher Co in 1942 and produced it as the GarWood-Buckeye trencher up until 1955 when it was discontinued. Most of the cable-control equipped Allis-Chalmers tractors imported into New Zealand were fitted with GarWood blades and cable controls (PCU’s), the Model 241 PCU being a particularly rugged and reliable unit, and a contemporary of the similar-sized Caterpillar No 25 PCU.
The agreement with Allis-Chalmers allowed GarWood to sell parts & service for its products through the extensive Allis-Chalmers dealer network. Unfortunately, when this deal was terminated, GarWood lost most of its distributor outlets.
All was not quite doom and gloom however, as GarWood had also managed to secure an attachment supplier agreement with Euclid, manufacturing the semi-U blades and cable controls that were fitted to the TC-12 and C-6 track type tractors. This arrangement lasted for around 10 years until Euclid (later known as Terex) began building its own allied equipment in 1965.
By this stage, most of the GarWood earthmoving equipment line was in need of a serious revamp but because of the enormous amount of capital required to do so, the Construction Equipment Division decided to call it quits. The division in Findlay, Ohio was closed down in 1966 and its products consigned to history.
GarWood Industries still exists however, manufacturing truck equipment, pleasure craft and the US Air Force’s latest airborne gatling gun!
GarWood Tractor Equipment
There were three basic types of bulldozer that GarWood produced for fitting to track-type tractors – the Bulldozer, which was basically just a standard straight blade, the Tipdozer, a straight blade which had the ability to be manually tilted for ditching or fill shaping, and the Dozecaster which was an angling blade.
These could be fitted to any brand of track type tractor but were principally supplied to Allis-Chalmers as standard equipment. The majority of these blades were cable controlled from front or rear-mounted PCU’s.
Garwood also manufactured pull type rippers and a range of compaction equipment along with producing it’s own cable-controlled units.
GarWood began making four-wheel hydraulic and cable operated scrapers in the mid-1930s and acquired the Continental Wagon Scraper Company in 1936.
Continental built a fairly popular two-wheel hydraulic trailer scraper and this complimented GarWood’s existing product range well.
Two-axle trailer scrapers were very popular in the 30s, 40s & 50s and almost all scraper manufacturers of the period had at least one or more of them in their product range.
GarWood tweaked Continental’s design and the end result was one of the best of this type of scraper available at the time, probably second only to LaPlant-Choate.
As mentioned earlier, the company also produced some four-axle hydraulic scrapers but these were not very popular, or reliable, but it has to be remembered that hydraulic systems, as applied to larger earthmoving equipment, were still in their infancy in the 1930s.
Examples of their four-wheel hydraulic scrapers included the 8½ cubic yard model L-10, 9½ cubic yard L-12 and 11½ cubic yard L-15.
GarWood also manufactured a very large machine, the T-20 that was capable of carrying 20 cubic yards heaped, but very few of these were made before WWII put a halt to production.
GarWood’s four-wheel cable scrapers on the other hand were very good designs.
In the course of its history the company produced nine different models of cable-operated scraper ranging in size from the seven cubic yard model 508-S through to the 25 cubic yard model 625, covering a period from 1931 through to 1955.
The later model scrapers had a distinctive spotting feature in the form of the large, enclosed sheave tower that was placed on top of the gooseneck.
This kept quite a bit of cable out of the dirt but also made them a bit more difficult to reeve.
GarWood never ventured into the motor scraper market.
New Zealand Examples
Vuksich & Borich at one time had a model 615 and there was also a model 612 in Taranaki, owned by D F Foster.
Aside from these examples the GarWood scraper population appears to have been a bit thin on the ground in New Zealand and your author would be keen to know of any others that may have been imported, especially those still in operational condition.
For the Diecast Model Collector
Surprisingly, there are 1:50th scale models available of a couple of GarWood’s products.
Unfortunately these inhabit the excessively expensive sector of the collecting hobby!
Firstly the bulldozer blades.
EMD Models also manufactures a very good replica of the GarWood type 625 towed scraper which comes with its own type 241 cable control to attach to the back of the tractor of your choice.
Regrettably this is also expensive at around US$250 and can be hard to find as it was a limited run item.
However, if 1950s earthmoving gear is your passion it is well worth acquiring.