Grand-daddy of all the scrapers (apart from the horse-drawn, wheel-less Fresno type), the single axle scraper has a niche in the history of earthmoving and this type of scraper has seen a resurgence within the last decade. By RICHARD CAMPBELL
Developed from the early drag scrapers and designed as a utility land leveling tool, the single axle scraper owns a special spot in earthmoving history as it was from this type of machine that all of the larger scraper types evolved.
The Drag Scraper
Drag scrapers are just what the name implies – they drag earth from point A to point B.
They had no wheels and moved on steel skids which needed constant replacement.
Limited in capacity, they required a fair bit of horsepower to carry out their job and featured all manner of trip mechanisms to eject their load.
The smallest of these were known colloquially as “tumble bugs”, for that is how they dumped their load.
When a latch was tripped they simply rolled over 180° and out spilled the load.
Spreading smoothly was a hit and miss affair and usually required additional human intervention.
As they remained in constant ground contact, maintenance was high and economic haul distance was low.
The earliest proponents of this type of scraper were Killefer, Schmieser and Sauerman who continued with this type of scraper well into the late 1930s.
Then along came Robert LeTourneau.
He had been working as a land leveling contractor and could see that improvements needed to be made to get better utilization out of the equipment he was using (which at the time was made by Schmieser).
He thought he could build a better scraper himself and indeed he did.
The first LeTourneau semi-drag scraper was the Model R-5 which was reeved with cable sheaves to raise the bowl of the scraper off the ground creating a semi-drag scraper.
This allowed for longer haul distances, controlled spreading depths and far less maintenance.
LeTourneau’s original R-5 had steel wheels but later versions were equipped with pneumatic tyres.
Other companies also followed suit with this idea including Be-Ge, Ateco, Henry, Eversman and Gilroy.
The weight of the machine was usually enough to provide penetration for the scraper’s cutting edge – these things were heavy – but they were still not ideal for hauls over 300’
The agricultural land plane of today owes much of its origins to the semi-drag scraper.
LeTourneau did not persist with development of single axle scrapers.
He was more concerned with volume and high productivity.
The single axle scraper did not allow for large enough quantities of earth to be moved and so LeTourneau moved on to design and build his massively successful range of two axle Carryalls.
Progression – Pick it up and carry it
The next logical step in the types development was made by the Continental Scraper Company who first introduced for different load and carry single axle scrapers in the late 1920s – the CS4A, CS5B, CS7A and CS10A
Following close on Continentals heels was LaPlant-Choate whose C-41, C-61 and C-71 single axle ‘Carrimor’ scrapers came out in 1937.
Next into the picture were Bucyrus-Erie who offered a range of three different sized scrapers, the G-28, G-38 and G-58
Bucyrus did very well in promoting their scraper line, selling extensively into counties, councils, landfills and small communities who could not justify the purchase of larger scrapers.
The single axle scraper was an ideal tool for a small landfill operation as it could excavate a cell and then cover it up again at the end of the day.
Other manufacturers also entered the single axle scraper market with versions of their own, notably Heil with their model CR and Ateco with their model H-22, so the market was becoming a little overcrowded.
GarWood bought out the cash-strapped Continental company around 1938 and subsequently marketed their new acquisitions as their own.
GarWood also went on to introduce three single axle scrapers of their own design, the models 25, 26 and 28.
Following World War 2, there was quite a rearrangement of the earthmoving industries’ manufacturers as they settled into peace time.
This period was marked with a number of takeovers and buyouts which saw some established manufacturers disappear completely.
GarWood had already acquired Continental and the next manufacturer to go was LaPlant-Choate who became part of Allis-Chalmers in 1953.
In a rather sad twist of fate, Allis-Chalmers were already buying their single axle scrapers for their track type tractors from GarWood and did not need another competing design, so all the LaPlant-Choate single axle types were immediately discontinued and consigned to history.
This was very unfortunate as the LaPlant scraper was arguably the best designed of all that were available.
Heil’s earthmoving division was sold to International-Harvester and I-H did not continue production of the small 3½ cubic yard CR scraper so it also went the way of the Dodo!
Bucyrus-Erie succumbed in 1953 when International-Harvester finally absorbed Bucyrus-Erie’s civil construction line into their own product range – “the big red team”.
International deemed that it no longer required single axle scrapers so these too disappeared leaving only GarWood as a primary supplier of this type of scraper.
By the middle 1950s GarWood’s scrapers had gone too.
Demand for the single axle scraper fell away during the late 1950s but has made a resurgence in the last decade with a whole new slew of manufacturers offering this kind of scraper, albeit in a somewhat revised form.
Nowadays, the towing tractor is most often a modified 4-wheel drive agricultural tractor equipped to handle tandem or even triple scraper hookups.
These are best used in non-rocky conditions and often seen on land improvement and irrigation schemes with GPS equipment attached.
The New Zealand Connection
Examples of all three of the major manufacturers of single axle scraper, LaPlant-Choate, GarWood and Bucyrus-Erie were imported into New Zealand.
Exact numbers are unknown, as unfortunately, there are no remaining records
Very special mention must be made at this point of Wellington contractor Ray Ordish (R.T.Ordish Ltd) who designed and built at least three single axle scrapers of his own, all of differing capacities.
These roughly followed the GarWood pattern but were totally Kiwi in origin.
Ray had his designs manufactured by Patton Engineering of Lower Hutt and he used all three on his various contracts around the Wellington area, many in conjunction with Feast & McJorrow.
They were efficient and effective, with each new scraper being bigger and better than the previous one due to Ray’s diligent fine tuning. Kiwi ingenuity at its best.
The author last saw one of these scrapers at work in Johnsonville in 1972 and would welcome any information on surviving examples of Ray’s handiwork.
For The Model Collector
Regrettably nothing exists in any scale of the single axle scrapers built by Continental/GarWood, LaPlant-Choate, Heil, Ateco or Bucyrus-Erie.
It will be a scratch build if you want to add one to your collection.