~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Heavy Metal

I've rolled up 700 or 800 miles on the Kawasaki 900 now, about half that just noodling around the local area and about 300 miles on a ride with friends up to Roosevelt Lake a week or so ago. The 900 Kaw does a nice job of getting me around and is generally a solid ride which is what I expected. If it had another 10 hp, a slightly softer ride, and less wind buffeting from the bottom of the windscreen it would be a fine bike for a long trip.

On a jaunt south down Interstate 10 a week or two back I spied off to the west what I took to be an old steam powered tractor. Since I was moving about 75 mph on the Interstate and in traffic I only got a quick look. I'd been down that way countless times but had never noticed the old tractor before. I made a mental note to take my camera and go back soon for another look. Like most guys that love motorcycles I find all sorts of other noisy mechanical stuff of interest too and the old machinery from yesteryear, especially the steam powered heavy equipment, is always an attention getter.

Today after lunch I grabbed my camera and headed off back down I-10, jogged off to the side road about where I thought I'd seen the tractor, and motored along with the freeway on my left and an older, more run down or run out area of roadside businesses on the right. I finally came to the tractor not far from Picacho Peak and pulled up by the wobbly chain link fence and gate separating me from my goal. The area is a bit rough looking and there was an emphatic "No Trespassing" sign on the fence so I didn't try to get closer than the zoom lens would let me.

The tractor turned out to be a steamroller of some vintage which I'd take to be maybe the 1920s. The steam part seemed to not be steam though, there was an in-line internal combustion engine where I'd expect to have seen the firebox for a boiler but the rest of the tractor fit the lines of a steam engine.

A close look at the gingerbread trim around the top of the "smoke stack" and elaborate but badly faded painted and heavy painted trim indicated that this tractor was clearly a stylish and impressive machine at one time. In our utilitarian society there is no budget or inclination to make heavy equipment also a thing of beauty. Even sitting and fading away in the desert in Arizona the old steamroller still had a strong presence the way only eight or nine tons of vintage cast iron and steel can.

I'm not sure about the maker of the tractor, I didn't get close enough to see a data plate or be able to get zoomed in on one with the camera. Since I'm not real knowledgeable about antique heavy equipment I thought maybe one of you Harley guys out there would know who made the great yellow beast by the roadside. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)


Anonymous said...

Haven't a clue about the tractor but as a motorcyclist I fully agree with your sentiments.
Love the photography - happened upon your site a couple of weeks ago - now you're in my favorites.
I ride a Falco so we've got a bit in common.
Keep up the good work.

Webster World said...

Have no idea. More than Cat were yellow back in the day. Pettibone, Moline a lot. Must have been hard to drive. The stearing is with chains.

FLHX_Dave said...

I always dig finding stuff like this when I am out and about. I was wondering about the chain. I thought to myself, "There ain't no way that chain is there to steer that beast!" Then I read Webster comment...no sh@t!

Glad you are enjoying the latest squeeze yah' bike pimp.

Doug Klassen said...

Anon: Always nice to have a fellow Aprilia fan show up. If I was a rich guy there'd be several Aprilias in the garage. I wish I'd have been young enough, limber enough, and wise enough to ride the Falco longer.

Webster, sounds like you have some heavy equipment experience. From what I've seen/read the chain steering wasn't uncommon on the big steam powered stuff that was more aimed than driven. At 1 - 5 mph I suppose the operator had plenty of time to adjust for correct corner entry. I'll bet too that operating those old iron monsters wasn't for the weak or timid.

Dave, I'm not a bike pimp, I'm just ADD about motorcycles. I was going to seek help but heck, why change now? I looked at my list, the 900 Kaw is bike number 45.



antoniomerinero said...

interesting blog, i will be back soon.

Webster World said...

Doug I do have a little. There are pictures here of the family farm I now own and in them are some of those old steam tractors with chain steering. Hell I had a hard time as a 119 lb 13 yr old driving a Moline U and turning that. It had to take one hellva man to turn those things. Even at 1 mile an hour.

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