After a brief history, different vehicle systems more or less original are reviewed.


Mr. d’Herman Sleigh patent

1 - Mr. d’Herman filed in 1713 the first patent of track at the Royal Academy of Sciences. It was a series of interconnected rollers. Pict from book of Jean Noulin : 'Histoire des tracteurs à chenilles en France', ETAI, 92100 Boulogne , 1997.

Chenittes inspired by Richard Lowell Edgeworth

2 - Richard Lowell Edgeworth, English writer and inventor  (1744-1817) patented in 1770 a steam engine that could travel on ‘a rail system without end '. It’s Edgeworth himself, seeking possible prior to his invention, which discovered the Memory of  d’Herman.
It can be seen on the picture the scaled model of wood and copper 'Chenittes' from the late 18th century, i.e. contemporary of Edgeworth.
Others as George Cayley in 1828, Joseph Maria Hoene-Wronski in 1830 and  Dimitry Zagryazhsky in  1837 also filed patents.

Many patents of caterpillars

3 - Many patents of caterpillars were  filed again in the major industrial countries. Among them : Lewis Bompers, André Dunlop, Clarke, Catley, Welch, Heathcoat and Stewart in 1892. This highly sought displacement mechanism stimulated imaginations. Pict. from Internet

Clement Ader invented an ‘endless rail’

4 - Clement Ader, the father of aviation, also invented an ‘endless rail’, whose patent date of 1866. Practically, it was fitted to a trolley for children two bands in braided camel hair reducing rolling resistance and pulled by only two goats instead of twelve in the sand at the Jardin des Tuileries.

 Pict from book of Jean Noulin : 'Histoire des tracteurs à chenilles en France', ETAI, 92100 Boulogne , 1997.


Precursor Minnis tractor

5 - Many caterpillars began to be built : the precursor Minnis exposed that steam chain tractor in Ames, Iowa in 1869.

 Pict from book of Jean Noulin : 'Histoire des tracteurs à chenilles en France', ETAI, 92100 Boulogne, 1997.

Henry  T. Stith invented this caterpillar

6 - In 1873, Henry T. Stith, Ottawa, Kansas invented this caterpillar he did make but the lack of engine did not allow him to take full advantage.
He however outfitted horse-drawn carriage he exhibited at the fair in Kansas City in 1879. He also turned a bicycle for his son but high rolling resistance required a strength certainly too high. Pict from Popular Science June 1944.

Diplock Pedrial Tractor and Trailer

7 - Stratton realized a steam chains tractor  in 1893. Others build  Diplock Pedrial Tractor and Trailer in 1913 (photo), Cropton Overgrown Pedrial Landship Chassis in 1915, Bullock Creeping Grip circa 1914,  Killen-Strait in 1915. Pict from Journal of Terramechanics, Vol 1, N°1, 1964, by C.J.Nuttal Jr, edited by A. R. Reece, University of New Casttle, GB  for International Society for Terrain Vehicle System (ISTVS).

Blinov tractor in Nizhny Novgorod

8 - Fyodor Blinov Abramovich (1827-1902) took 10 years to build his tractor and presented it in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 1896. It had two steam engines, one per track, thus removing the steering wheel. No one was interested in his invention during 10 years after his death. Pict Internet.

James Boydell wheel

9 - Waiting for the boom crawler, James Boydell had patented in England in 1846 a ‘to add to cart system to facilitate movement’, which was applied to the wheels of a steam tractor built by Birmingham Bach's Works and used between 1856 and 1858 for plowing in Thetford, England. This system of articulated plates was called 'Dreadnouht wheel' or also 'Pedrial wheel'. The machine of 7 t travelled at 8 km / h on a good road. This system

could be found  on the wheels of artillery during the Crimean War (photo), but proved unreliable : the hinged plates slowed the vehicle and broke on hard ground, cornering became more difficult.

Frank Bottrill Big Lizzie

10 - Frank Bottrill (1871-1953), Richmond, Melbourne improved the Boydell system. It took a patent in 1906, ‘improved vehicle wheel, especially for steam engines traction machines, the 'Bottrill Dreadnought'. He doubled the mobile skid row, staggered  and restrained them by cables to move more regularly. He made several trucks but the most famous, which he drove, called 'Big Lizzie' in 1915, the biggest of his time with Blackstone oil engine of 60 hp and a total mass of 45 tons unload and a total of 80 tons  with two trailers. The larger wheels were 2.2 m in diameter and length of the vehicle alone was 10.2 m for a turning radius of 60 m and a maximum speed of 4 km / h. With 19,000 liters of fuel, Bottrill could run for three years. He cleaned intensively the sandy soil of Red Cliff, Australia, until 1928, and Big Lizzie was abandoned until 1971. In 1988, it was exposed to the public after restoration at Red Cliff.

crown wheel on tractor and Jeep

11 - Even after the rise of the track, some thought to further improve the wheel with simpler means. On the left, a crown wheel on forestry tractor, simple way to increase the bearing surface and traction. David Hansen Technologies Iguana, Ilwaco, Washington, also built by a band fitted around the tires of the Jeep. and

Dystred Caterpillar

12 - Caterpillar resumed the idea of the crown wheel he named Dystred and marketed it in May 1971 on a CAT 988. The drive torus (the inner tire) was a special design. Improved protection against punctures, traction and stability did not prevent the chains (for example Erlau, Aalen), more economical, to take over. Pict from review 'Equipement Mécanique, Carrières et Matériaux' December 1972.

Hultdins wheels  of Olofsfors AB

13 - The steel envelopes of wheels Hultdins of Olofsfors AB, Sweden and Brantford, Ontario, took the same idea by mounting a kind of plates on the wheels of a skidder equipped with a stump device Donaren H 870 Mounder. This supplier manufactures enclosures wheel Eco-wheels and forestry tracks Eco-tracks.


Weiherhammer used the Koppisch system

14 - Weiherhammer used the Koppisch system in the early 50 on two compactors including the largest, weighing 25 t to 70 hp, represented an alternative to the roller ‘sheep foot ' : it can be indeed seen the protuberances on each pad. Pict from 'History of Road Building Equipment' by Francis Pierre and Heinz-Herbert Cohrs, KLH International Ltd, 1998.


Erlau steel belt

15 - Erlau steel belt in 1972, based on a similar system, wrapped around the tire. It allowed to help a stuck vehicle. From review 'Revue du Matériel d'Entreprise', January 1972.



Lombard Steam Log Hauler


16 - But it was in 1901 that everything started really ! Alvin O. Lombard (1856-1937) built in series and sold this year the first traction engine equipped with crawler at Waterville Iron Works in Waterville, Maine. It was the 20 t Lombard Steam Log Hauler able to take 300 tons (double 22 sleds) at 7 km / h maximum. In all, 83 Log Haulers were constructed from 1901 to 1917 of which two are now in the Lumberman's Museum in Patten, Maine. Phoenix Centipede Company built them under license. In 1911-12, the Traction Engine Company Lombard Log Hauler developed a 6-cylinder petrol engine with 100 hp less heavy than the previous model.

Lynn truck at Heidrick Museum in Woodland

17 - Manufacturing Company Linn, Morris, New York, created by Holman Harry Linn, made 2500 suspended flexible steel crawler half-tracks, between 1917 and 1952. It was an expert of snow removal, working in forests and mining, dams and even in Arctic exploration. He helped maintain the Panama Canal. Here is an elevated rear view of the Lynn truck at Heidrick Museum in Woodland near Sacramento (California) in June 2001. Pict J M Maclou.

Hornsby tractor

18 - In 1903, Benjamin Holt bought $ 60,000 to Alvin Lombard right to produce caterpillars in Stockton, California.
Meanwhile, in England at Grantham, David Roberts (1859-1928) chief engineer at R. Hornsby & Sons had patented a track in 1905 and built a very elaborate caterpillar tractor (picture) he failed in selling either the civil or the British Army. Benjamin Holt of Holt Manufacturing Company, Stockton, California, already well-established in the USA, saw all the profit he could extract and bought the patent in 1914. He equipped his own tractor with Hornsby brakes steering system, very good progress thus removing the tiller steering wheel. The British Army, bought more than 40 next year. Holt sold so well his tractors that he teamed with his best competitor C. L. Best of the Best Tractor Co., San Leandro, California, to create in 1925 the Caterpillar Tractor Company.
Therefore, the development of crawlers, associated with the dozer blade, made a dazzling leap in all industrialized countries that produced crawlers of very numerous forms and brand , especially after the Second World War. Caterpillar introduced even in 1977 the elevated sprocket witch, combined with roller supports on balance, allowed to increase traction and facilitate repairs while protecting the final drive. Picture taken at Bovington Museum by J M M in September 1994.

Snowmobile Ford conversion

19 - Virgil D. White, Ossipee, New-Hampshire, Ford dealer, built his first Ford conversion, the 'Snowmobile' in 1913, patented in 1917 and produced in 70 copies in 1923. The conversion of the Ford Model T was sold only at Ford dealers. The front wheels were used in the muddy and sandy terrains but in snow, skis replaced them. The Farm Specialty Manufacturing Company of New Holstein, Wisconsin, bought the rights in 1925 and manufactured 3300 Snowmobiles per year until its closure in 1929. Pict Internet.

Lefevre trator

20 - Edmond François Lefevre, France, created a three-wheeled tractor of 2.2 t in 1913 for plowing. It presented a particular feature : they could lower two additional tracks in case of loss of traction.

 Pict from book of Jean Noulin : 'Histoire des tracteurs à chenilles en France', ETAI, 92100 Boulogne, 1997.


this Kégresse comes from Schlumpf Museum

21 - In 1913, A. Kegresse, director of the garages of the Czar of Russia, had already proposed its rapid flexible strip (first leather then rubber) developed for travel in snow and roads. Back in France, the famous expeditions on

semi-tracked Citroën Kégresse made him known worldwide. Picture of J M M at Schlumpf Museum in Mulhouse, in February 2004.

White Staff Observation Car  of Roadless Traction Limited

22 - Lieutenant Colonel Philips Johnson created in 1919 the ‘Roadless Traction Limited’. He made many Track Conversions on Ford tractors but, about 1920, studied and built in his Department of Tank Design and experiment the White Staff Observation Car (picture) with tracks and complex cable suspension for the U.S. Army. This company lasted until 1983. Pict from the book Roadless from Stuart Gibbard, Farming Press 1996.

Renault HI at Rétromobile

23 - This Renault HI tractor constructed from 1920 to 1927 included articulated links crawler frames. Picture taken by J M Maclou at Rétromobile, Paris, February 2004.

Sno-Motor' of Ted P. Flynn

24 - Ted P. Flynn worked between 1923 and 1950 at the Forest Service in Portland, Oregon where he directed the Laboratory of Equipment of this service from 1936. Very fruitful, he invented and built numerous facilities for the forest : winches, small transport vehicles on forest trails, wheelbarrow saw, dozer blade angle on small tractor Clark adopted during the Second World War by the U.S. Army.  These 'small' materials should be able to move on narrow forest tracks, especially in case of fire.

For transport on snow in the mountains, which also depended on the Forest Service, Ted Flynn studied with Raymond E. Neils the 'Sno-Motor' in 1938, the first truly efficient vehicle on snow, directed by articulation with a sled in the back (photo). The sled could carry 25 skiers on the slopes of  Mount Hood and another was planned for the winters of Sun Valley as a ski lift or rescue. In 1948-49, this model was used to rescue herds in Cedar Valley after a storm. Based on a patent of Davidson filed in 1935, that probably also inspired Ted Flynn, another contemporary embodiment built by T. H. Brunius resumed the same principle of one (or two) tracks surrounding the engine.

In 1944, 36 of these vehicles, this time without sleds and many changes, called 'Iron Man T36 Fire Snow Tractors', made in Portland, Oregon, were purchased in 1944 by the U.S. Army and some sent in Alaska.

There are still wrecks of these vehicles to Cedar City, Utah, where their shape was familiar, but none of these typical vehicles of the region seems unfortunately restored or preserved. Pict from the book :

'Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon' of Sarah Baker Munro.

Hanomag Z 25 tractor

25 - The company was founded in 1835 : Georg Egestorff Hanomag Iron and Mechanical Engineering Works in Linden, near Hanover. This Hanomag Z 25 tractor dates from 1924. The company changed hands several times before becoming Komatsu Hanomag Ag in 1995.

  Pict  from the book of  Richard H. Robinson : ‘ Crawler Tractor Scrapbook’, Part Three, Country Life Ltd, New Zealand, 2001.


Raupenstock Maurice Dufresne Museum

26 - Stock Raupe RA (1912-1940), Berlin, released in 1928 the Raupenstock of 26/28 hp. This one was pictured at the Maurice Dufresne Museum , Azay-le-Rideau, France, by J M M in 2004.

Wotan-Werke  Type A Tractor

27 - Wotan-Werke  Type A Tractor, Leipzig, Germany, whose studies were performed with Daimler-Benz Berlin-Mareinfelde in 1926.

 Pict from book of Walter Spielberger ‘Die Rad –und volketten-zugmashinen des Deutschen Heeres’, 1871-1945, Part 10, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, 1989.


Hurliman, MS 70

28 - The Swiss Hurliman, MS 70 hp model in 1938.

  Pict  from the book of  Richard H. Robinson : ‘ Crawler Tractor Scrapbook’ Part Three, Country Life Ltd, New Zealand, 2001.


St Chamond Uranus Faure winemaker tractor, type UT 125

29 - Uranus Tractoren AG, Switzerland, produced in the late 30s a 40 hp tractor with sealed rigid caterpillar of a new kind and used by other manufacturers after the Second World War. The manufacturers argued that this system, sealed and impervious to dust made it possible to increase the speed of 16 km / h and the life of caterpillars. The photo shows a St Chamond Uranus Faure winemaker tractor, type UT 125 in 1947-49.

 Pict from book of Jean Noulin : 'Histoire des tracteurs à chenilles en France', ETAI, 92100 Boulogne, 1997.



Varlet tank  of Delahaye

30 - Amadeus Varlet, Head of Research and Developments for Delahaye in 1918, conceived in 1937 that original Varlet tank  9 m long and 2.4 m wide to a height of 2.7 m. Nevertheless, only this scaled model was built. Its propulsion system and chassis in two parts gave flexibility to the whole. From



Foremost Nodwell-240

31 - Bruce Nodwell from Calgary, Alberta, the great pioneer, worked on North King in 1952 with small removable tracks around the tires. With the Nodwell 110, his first success, the flexible tracks were inspired by those of Bombardier snowmobile (see chapter on Nodwell). On this picture is a Foremost Nodwell-240. Pict Internet.

Model 30T Juggernautof Thiokol

32 - Very impressive Thiokol, Logan, Utah, model 30T Juggernaut in 1966, studied in fact by Foremost, Calgary. With a payload of 30 tons, he rolled up 28 km / h with a GM engine 8 cylinder 215 hp. Pict from brochure on sales on ebay in 2006.

RAT of Canadair-Flextrac

33 - Only 36 RAT (Remote Articulated Track) were built by Canadair-Flextrac from 1956. Note the tracks across the whole width of the vehicle. (See chapter on Nodwell).

CL-91 Dynatrac of Canadair-Flextrac

34 - Canadair-Flextrac built in 1963 a small series of CL-91 Dynatrac prefiguring modern articulated vehicles. It can be seen here a test version of three units. (See chapter on Nodwell).

Pict J M M collection (from Bombardier, Quebec).

Muskeg of Bombardier

35 - The snowmobile, invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier after many tests on movement on snow, was built in series from 1936 in Valcourt, Quebec. It had wide tracks made of reinforced rubber strips of carriers connected by metal bars on which meshed a rubber coated sprocket. It sold well until 1949, when the Public Authorities began to shovel snow from streets. To shore up its finances, J. A. Bombardier then presented in 1953 a wide tracks forestry tractor : the 'Muskeg'. This photo, taken in by J M Maclou in February 2008 at Aviation Bruxells Museum, represents a Muskeg used since 1957 by members of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition. In 1967 it was assigned to the Firemen Corps of Eupen and Malmedy into the 80s before joining the Army Museum in Brussels in 2000. Other tractors as lighter JF5 followed. Today, Bombardier, one of the largest industrial groups of Canada, no longer manufactures tracked vehicle since the sale of BRP (Bombardier Recreation Product) to Camoplast in 2004 which yielded in turn to Leitner / Prinoth in 2009.

Quadtrac Scorpio of Arctic Cat Enterprises

36 - Arctic Cat Arctic Enterprises, Crosby, Minnesota, produced many models of Snowmobiles from 1961 and especially in 1979-80 the Quadtrac Scorpio, a small articulated track tamper powered by a 500cc Spirit that could move at 40 km / h. Today, others like Litetrax or Russian Pelec look like it although not articulated.

Prinoth P15

37 - The 'Space Link Track' has been patented by G. Bekker in July 1950. He states that in snow, the calculation requires a cross bars optimum spacing. Since then, every track tampers are equipped with this kind of caterpillars. One of the first tamping of Ernst Prinoth, Sterzing, Italy, to sell well in the early 60s is Prinoth P15 (photo) made of two articulated parts width and tied by chains and rubber components. It had two Fiat engines and two Variomatic transmissions (one per side).

Snow Flex of Meili

38 - In the early 60s, the first Snow Flex vehicle of the brand Meili, Schaffousen then Schübelbach, Switzerland, were tracked over the entire width. Hydraulic system and hydraulic cylinders allowed active pitch control, as Meili 6x6 wheeled Flex-Trac of 1958. Price limited the distribution.

 Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin ‘From Autotractor to modern special vehicles’ from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004.





Carrier of Westland Equipment Co

39 - Caterpillars of vehicles for marshes surround two watertight compartments. Westland Equipment Co, Thibodaux, Louisiana, built this ‘Carrier’ of 18 tons and moves at about 5 km / h on land and water. This company, present in 50 countries, exists for 50 years. A patented system allows to rotate 360 ° without maneuver and to move out of banks without the help of a bucket. The tension of transmission chains is adjustable. http://www.wetland

Big Float of REMU Company

40 - The  new generation of marshes excavators  Big Float of REMU Company,  Ähtäri, Finland, can bring their pontoons for a less width on roads or, as on the photo, keep the base horizontal regardless of the field. Available in two sizes : 14 and 21 t, Cummins diesel engines and Hyundai excavators.

Arktos Evacuation Craft of Arktos Development Ltd

41 - Arktos Evacuation Craft of Arktos Development Ltd, Surrey, BC, since 1982 produces an  very impressive rescue  articulated amphibious vehicle,  capacity 52 passengers or five tons of payload (on leveled field, the load is doubled) through the roughest terrain and water, as it’s often the case in Alaska and in coastal regions. Several vehicles operate around the world.



 Marcel Grooming tracks on Ford tractor

42 - Semi-tracked tractors for agriculture and forestry were first built by Joseph-Armand Bombardier on an idea of his brother Gérard : a light caterpillar surrounded the rear wheel of a tractor and placed on a smaller wheel , the front wheels remaining for steering. The towing capacity of tractors had increased in the muddy and swampy and this device, affordable, will be sold thousands. Many brands are still using this system. Pictured here are the tracks Marcel Grooming surrounding all the wheels of the tractor including the front wheels. http://www.marcel 

Rotaped on renault tractor

43 - The Fordson tractors were often converted into semi-tracked, especially the 'Rotaped', invented in 1941 by O. Singer from London, which was originally built by George Monroe Limited, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. The first public demonstration of Rotaped took place in April 1942 near Harlow, Essex. G. Monroe claimed that the traction increased by 100% while decreasing the ground pressure to 0.5 kgf/cm2. But Singer went in 1946 to embark on rubber tracks.
From 1950, Leeford Limited, London, takes back the factory and introduced a system of rigid rail to keep fit of the track but they returned to the traditional chain to maintain the whole. Manufacturing continued until 1967.
Photo taken in 1997 of a Renault tractor fitted with Rotaped in the 50s. Pict J M M at La Locomotion en fête, La Ferté Alais, 1997-06.

Semi-tracked DG of Roadless on Massey-Harris 744

44 - Semi-tracked DG of Roadless adapted to a Massey-Harris 744 in 1949. Cuthbertson manufactured similar tracks in rubber in 1951.

 Pict from book 'Roadless County' of Allan Condie, Allan Condie Publications, 1993.


45 - MAN 4R3 very popular in the 50s. Pict from review 'Schlepper Post', 1999-5

Hovertrack truck

46 - Hovertrack built since 2005 in Loosdrecht, Holland, a half-tracked truck based on a 6x6 Iveco, used for public works, agriculture, construction, asparagus harvesting, removal of wood chips and as a mixer.


47 - John B. Lansberry, Woodland, Pennsylvania, took the patent of wheeled tractor and caterpillar that currently operates itself to agriculture and construction. He says his tractor exceeds the limitations imposed by other tractors. Made to measure for powers from 10 to 500 hp. http://www.lansberry



'300 Ton' Crawler Crusher

 48 - In 1967, the '300 Ton' Crawler Crusher, 6.82 m high and 18 m long cleaned the forests of central Florida behind the Rodman Dam for the Company Gregg, Gibson & Gregg, Inc., Leesburg, Florida. Two diesel engines of 270 hp activated each a caterpillar 3.6 m wide, allowing it to move at 0.8 km / h. The operator was located above the gear next to a storage space. The tracks surrounding sealed chambers, this amphibious vehicle moved in water with 13 cm high strips of caterpillars. The front top bar pushed the trees and caterpillars buried them in soil soft enough. In addition to fuel tanks, ballast tanks allowed to ballast gear. An engineer took care of the engines in the engine room. Pict from Popular Science, 1968 05.

 Valmet 882 KK Feller Bruncher

 49 - In the 60s, Valmet developed the 882 KK Feller Skidder.

 Pict from the book ‘Tracks in the Forest’ of Ken Drushka and Hannu Konttinen, published by Timberjack Group Oy, 1997.


 Terri 2020 at Lambesc, France

 50 - The Farmi Trac of Normet Oy, Peltosalmi then Iisalmi, Finland, manufactured articulated tracked forestry fowarders in the 80s. This Terri 2020 still current and FH 4000 Logbear are part of the same category as the Farmi Trac. Picture taken by J M M at Lambesc, France in August 1993.

 Skogis 2000  

51 - Small original vehicle for forestry work, the Skogis 2000, Krokum, Sweden, dating from 2001 is 6m long and 2.2m wide with a 20 hp engine allowing 20 km / h. Note the single track at the front.


 Timbear AB Lightlogg C

 2 - Timbear AB, Strömsund, Sweden has introduced its new concept of the forest forwarder Lightlogg C at Elmia Wood Fair in 2009.

 Nokka-Tume Oy

 53 - Nokka-Tume Oy, Muurane, Finland, realized in 1985 this forest tractor equipped with 16 driven wheels and reduced height caterpillars. and


BMC Nuffield 245


54 - The BMC Nuffield 245 in 1967.