Classic MachinesForgotten companies

Forgotten companies: Heil

Heil, whose head office and main production plant was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, was at one stage on the ‘cutting edge’ of earthmoving technology when it introduced its ‘Heiliner’ series of motor scrapers and bottom dump wagons.

Heil got its start in 1901 and was one of the pioneers of electric arc welding as applied to earthmoving equipment.

It manufactured garbage collection and dump truck bodies, and then diversified into rudimentary bulldozer blades and towed scrapers.

Heil also built a lot of the truck bodies fitted to the early Mack AC trucks, many of which were used in the construction of the Hoover dam (Arizona / Nevada border, 1931-36).

A separate Road Machinery division was set up to develop and manufacture earthmoving equipment. This caught the attention of International Harvester who entered into a manufacturing agreement in which Heil became a preferred supplier to International to produce blades and scrapers to be used with IH’s range of track type tractors.

This was common practice in the 30s, 40s and early 50s with all the major tractor manufacturers having other companies supply the attachments.

Heil also supplied bulldozer blades to Monarch (Allis-Chalmers), Cletrac and even the odd Caterpillar tractor can be seen with one.

Heil’s bulldozer blades were, however, fairly crude compared to International Harvester’s other major equipment supplier, Bucyrus-Erie, and consequently, Bucyrus blades could be more commonly found fitted to International tractors.

Where Heil had the advantage in earthmoving equipment was in scrapers where its ideas were quite forward thinking.

The scrapers loaded well, and part of the secret of their loadability was a low centre of gravity and Heil’s curved bowl floor that imparted a natural boiling action to incoming earth, thus reducing the amount of tractor power required to load it.

Heil’s Towed Scrapers

Heil began manufacturing towed scrapers in 1932 and produced hydraulic and cable operated models, almost all being four-wheel types.

The hydraulic “RS” series was produced up until WWII when they were discontinued due to material rationing.

Not especially successful, they were interesting machines none-the-less in that the very early models, the “Dig-N-Carry”, were supplied with their own engine mounted on the rear to power a hydraulic pump. This means the pump was not reliant on the tractor to power the setup (very few track tractors of the period had hydraulic pumps on them, let alone having the necessary flow to operate a scraper).

Doubtless any mishaps on the part of a wayward push tractor operator must have been quite expensive to repair on a Dig-N-Carry scraper!

On the other hand, the cable operated “C” and “4C” series were very successful and widely produced, the bowl of the C-14 being used as the basis for the 2H700 motor scraper while the C-12 was used for the 2H500

The ‘4C’ line of towed scrapers was renamed the “OC” range and carried on in production unchanged until Oliver took over production in 1955.

Heil’s Motor Scrapers

Spurred on by LeTourneau’s successful Tournapull, Heil tried its hand at manufacturing a three-axle motor scraper and in 1940 introduced the 10 cubic yard Truc-Trailer Scoop. It was powered by a 10 litre 6-cylinder Waukesha gasoline engine.

A larger version known as the High Speed Scoop was introduced in 1941, featuring the same tractor unit but now powered with a 150 horsepower Cummins diesel and pulling a 15 cubic yard scraper.

Production of this machine was short-lived as the USA entered WWII and all non-essential production was cancelled.

It wasn’t until 1947 that the first of the new ‘Heiliner’ motor scrapers, the 16 cubic yard capacity model 2H700, appeared.

A two-axle overhung machine powered by a 150 horsepower Cummins HBIS600 diesel, the 2H700, had a Fuller manual transmission and featured hydraulic steering.

In 1948 another smaller Heiliner joined the range, being the 13 cubic yard 2H500 that later became the model 2T-55 in International-Harvester’s catalogue.

A modification was made to the 2H700 in 1951, creating the 2H800.

This had a slightly higher capacity than the former 2H700 at 18 cubic yards and the horsepower increased to 200.

When International-Harvester took over production, the 2H800 became the 2T-75.

Bad Habits

Heil’s Heiliners had a tendency to nose dive in a turn and the steering geometry, although hydraulic, was not designed for 90 degree turns, limiting the machine to about xx either side of centre.

It was also easy to lift the rear wheels clear of the ground when push loading due to the location of the bowl’s draft arm pivots, and the scraper’s push block was hard on dozer blades due to its shape.

All these criticisms aside, the Heiliners appear to have been well-liked by operators and were certainly an improvement over what had gone before.

A Convoluted Train of Events and an Interesting New Zealand Connection

Heil’s Road Machinery division was sold to International-Harvester in December 1953.

International was very keen to get its hands on Heil’s two motor scrapers to fill out its own product range and save many, many thousands of dollars in research and development (R&D) costs in the process.

International had also bought Bucyrus-Erie’s construction equipment division to secure once and for all the blades, buckets, rippers and compaction equipment it manufactured and of course this also included Bucyrus-Erie’s towed scrapers as well.

International didn’t need two similar and competing lines of towed scrapers in its product catalogue, so the decision was made to sell off the Heil designs and patents and recoup some money.

Oliver Corporation snapped up the range, going on to manufacture and market them under the Oliver name.

Subsequently, Oliver allowed Britstand (British Standard Machinery Company) of Australia to manufacture the Heil range under the Britstand trademark.

Britstand in turn sub-licensed Hewco (Huntly Engineering & Welding Co) of Huntly, New Zealand to manufacture the OC-6 model, eight of which were used as the basis for Hewco’s “Twin-Six” motor scraper, New Zealand’s only indigenous motor scraper.

Today, the commercial division of Heil still exists, manufacturing specialist garbage collection units and dump truck bodies just as they did when the company was set up.

These are rarely seen in New Zealand.

The occasional Heil or Britstand scraper can, however, still be found operating in New Zealand, almost all of them converted to hydraulic operation, a conversion to which the type was ideally suited due to its overall layout.

Genuine Heil motor scrapers (Heiliners) are non-existent but there are a few preserved examples of the type from when International-Harvester manufactured them.

For the Model Collector

Surprisingly, there is a model of one of Heil’s Heiliners available in model form.

Not surprisingly, it is a limited edition model and is very expensive!.

Manufactured by EMD Models, it is to 1:50th scale and represents the 16 cubic yard 2H700.

It has also been issued in International-Harvester’s markings and with the optional 18 cubic yard bottom dump.

Although beautifully made you will need to save up if you want one.


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