Monday, December 14, 2015

Allis-Chalmers Model L 15-25

They call him "Big Charley". Don't ask me why, only his owner can say for sure. I never have understood how you determine the gender of an inanimate object. Why not "Big Charleen"? Oh well, in this vile era of "celebrity" transformers you can be whatever you want, tractors too.

Allis-Chalmers introduced an all new 3 plow tractor in 1921 that they designated as the Model L 12-20 powered by a 4 cylinder Midwest truck and tractor engine that was state of the art for an automotive engine of it's day. Following test number 82 at Nebraska in September of that year A-C rerated the tractor as the L 15-25. At 1,100 rpm the 280 cubic inch vertical four produced 21.42 hp at the drawbar and 33.18 on the belt. Two forward speeds of 2.3 mph and 3.1 mph and 3.1 mph in reverse were provided.

Slow sales at the time due mainly to a glut of tractors competing for a limited market has made the L tractors highly collectible items today. During the entire production run from 1921 to 1927 only 1705 were produced. Those designated 12 - 20 may be the rarest of all. Beginning at sn. 20001 in 1921 by sn. 20134 the rating had been changed to 15 - 25. In 1924 an orchard and a road maintenance version were added to the line. These models also command a premium today. The L model was discontinued in 1927 at sn. 21705. Charley at sn. 21208 is one of only 374 produced in 1925.


Illustrated Buyers Guide Allis-Chalmers Tractors and Crawlers by Terry Dean

The Allis-Chalmers Story by C.H. Wendel

Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors by C.H. Wendel

And special thanks to Roger Weinhold for bringing Charley to the WNC Fall Harvest Days 29th Antique Engine & Tractor Show. For info. about the 2016 show visit:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Adams Pull Grader

If you've ever wondered why the wheels on a road grader look like they're broken and might fall off at any moment you need to turn back the clock to a time when a road trip really was an adventure. In the last half of the 19th century roads were little more than muddy ruts that needed constant attention just to keep them passable. Some jurisdictions hired or contracted with individuals to maintain the public roads in a particular area. J.D. Adams was working as one such road inspector about 1885 when he had a better idea. Being well acquainted with the shortcomings of grading equipment of the period he began to look for a way to improve the performance. Just as a workman leans into a load he is trying to push, Adams reasoned that a grader's ability to excavate and move earth could be improved by shifting the weight of the machine onto the blade by adjusting the angle of the wheels. His design for adjustable angled wheels combined with an angled blade is the basis for road graders still produced today.

Although Adams had no formal training as an engineer he designed the first pull grader to employ the leaning wheel principle and was granted a patent for his invention. He started his business as a salesman visiting local governments while contracting the production with established manufacturing firms. By 1897 his business had grown to the point where he owned his own factory located in Indianapolis, Ind. In the years that followed J.D. Adams Co. expanded it's market into Canada and built marketing arrangements with Acme Road Machinery Co., Baker Manufacturing and Smith Trailer Corp. Adams Road Machinery was bought out by Letouneau - Westinghouse in 1953 who continued production using the Adams trade name until 1960.

The grader shown in these photos is owned by the Kissimmee Auction Company, a dealer in heavy construction equipment located near Spartanburg, SC. It's parked along the road front of their business on Wingo Heights Road along with another Adams grader, a Caterpillar pull grader and an Oliver crawler tractor.

Adams Road Machinery eventually produced self propelled graders but the early models lacked any power source being intended to be pulled behind draft animals, steam traction engines or whatever could be put into service.

By the same token the operator riding on the grader made all adjustments to the wheels and blade angle by hand.

The data plate on this unit has been severely damaged, it almost looks as if the model number has been ground off. The serial number is still readable ( 1026 ).

I've not been able to find an online resource that provides information about Adams road grader model and serial numbers. There are a number of photos posted on that closely resemble this grader but no reliable information about the model or date of manufacture. If you can contribute any information please leave a comment.

Sources: The Leaning-Wheel Grader by Tom Berry. J.D. Adams & Company, 1905-1961 and N.D. by Thomas Berry. Adams leaning wheel graders.