Keith Haddock reports on the spectacular classic earth-movers working at the Historical Construction Equipment Association’s convention.
The 2021 Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) International Convention and Old Equipment Exposition was held at Concordia, Kansas, USA. The popular event was postponed in 2020, due to the Covid pandemic. Located in the middle of America’s heartland, Concordia was not the easiest of places to visit, especially from Canada. With certain Covid restrictions still in play, I had to fly from Edmonton, via Vancouver, to Denver, then drive some 500 miles to Concordia. But with about 500 antique machines occupying some 200 acres, the show was well worth the effort.
The event was hosted by local organisation Prairie Plowing Days on the Kurt Kocher Farm at a district known as Glasco, some nine miles south of Concordia. With this year’s addition of the HCEA, the show was locally advertised as ‘The Big Dig’. That’s because working events included construction of two pond dams and a new road within the property. Other working activities included rock quarried on site and moved to a crusher powered by a steam engine, and a 1950s concrete batch plant to serve concrete placing operations.
Planning for the event began in 2018 for a show supposed to be held in 2020, but due to Covid, travel was off that year, giving organisers an extra year to prepare for 2021. The extra planning certainly paid off as everything went well. Machines started arriving several days before show opening and each was allocated its own section: steam traction engines, ploughing, stationery engines, antique trucks, farm tractors, static displays, etc. Static earthmoving machines such as scrapers, crawler tractors, dump trucks, excavators, and earth wagons were organised for display in lines including some very rare items. In the active construction area, two crawler draglines joined a significant fleet of crawler tractors, some pulling scrapers and others equipped with dozer blades.
The HCEA was allocated its own building near the show entrance where many items such as books, hats, belt buckles, clothing, videos and surplus historical equipment literature was on sale. Scale models were displayed, and HCEA memberships could be purchased.
For crawler tractor enthusiasts, the Concordia event must have been heaven! Over 140 crawlers could be viewed ranging from very small to the largest. Small models included a mini Agricat and a Clark Airborne CA-1 from World War II. At the top end of the tractor roster stood a 385hp Caterpillar D9G and a vintage 1960 Euclid TC-12 with its twin engines putting out 425 horsepower. In between these extremes could be seen a vast array of models from well-known manufacturers Allis-Chalmers, Case, Caterpillar, Cletrac, International, and John Deere, as well as predecessor makers such as Monarch, Lindeman, Holt and Best. British tractors were not forgotten with a Bristol and a 1952 Fowler VF single-cylinder machine making an appearance.
Notable rare crawler tractor models included a 175hp Allis-Chalmers HD-20, built only from 1951 to 1954, a 1932 Caterpillar Sixty Five, a Lindeman model BO, a 1925 Monarch 6-ton, a US Tractor model 10, and a National tractor built by the National Brake & Electric Company of Milwaukee.
Kurt Kocher’s own collection of tractors was simply amazing. Some 80 crawler tractors were stored in buildings or partly covered areas around his property. In addition, his extensive earthmoving equipment collection included, rollers, crawler loaders, Euclid off-road trucks, motor graders and pull-type graders.
Most notable to this author was an Eimco model 136-RO crawler loader designed for steel mill operation. This machine features a 218hp GM 6V-71 engine and an operator’s seat some eight feet above ground! Bucket capacity at full lift is 18,000 pounds, and overall weight is 26 tons which places this machine size-wise between a Caterpillar 977 and 983.
Kurt’s collection also includes two large Caterpillar crawler loaders: a 150hp 977H with 2½-yard bucket and a 275hp 983 with 5-yard bucket. A rare find was a trio of Peltier pull-type graders built locally in Concordia dating from about 1903.
Motor scrapers at the show included single-engined Euclid S-7 and S-24 models (7 and 34 struck cubic yards), a Caterpillar 621 and two rare Clark 290Ms built specially for the military and said to have worked in Vietnam. These are articulated, four-wheel drive tractors with Cummins engine rated at 350 flywheel horsepower. The 290M tractors were joined to different Euclid scrapers, one a model 21SH and the other a 58SH, of 15.5 and 18 cubic yards struck capacity respectively. These scrapers were also built specially for the military in the mid 1960s by Euclid.
There was also a 115hp Caterpillar DW10 pulling a W-10 bottom dump wagon of 15 tons capacity. Pull-type scrapers included a 4½-yard heaped capacity Caterpillar No.40 pulled by a D4 tractor, and a selection of smaller models including a LaPlant-Choate 1½-yard, an early Reynolds model 5C, and a Gar Wood 35. A manually-operated Baker-Maney scraper pulled by an International TD-6 tractor worked hard in the dam-building area.
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