When big makes you feel tiny…


Do you have a need to move huge amounts of cargo across artic plains? You do? Fant­astic. I have just the vehicles for you…

Wiki­Pe­dia states that “In the 1950s the Le Tourneau com­pany developed sev­eral over­land trains, essen­tially over­sized semi-trailer trucks that could travel over almost any terrain.”

Designed ini­tially to aid in log­ging and later to con­quer the artic, unres­trained from rail and road links, these metal mam­moths with wheels 10 Ft. high were shunted along by elec­tric motors at the wheels which were in turn powered by one or more diesel engines — usu­ally of the Cum­mins preference.

Sadly, these seem­ingly unreal vehicu­lar icons are a minor­ity won­der for­got­ten by the major­ity. Most now sit silently in scrapyards, wait­ing for either Mother Nature or an angle grinder to put them out of their misery.

One train donated four of its wheels to Big­foot #5, which now holds the titles of the First mon­ster truck solely designed to use 10′ tall tires (1986) and the “Guin­ness Book of Records — World’s biggest pickup truck” (2002).

I’m not sure there were ‘over­land train review­ers’ in ’62, but all reports seem to lean towards the trains being pretty easy to drive, surprisingly.

Focus­ing on the MII model, they are said to have lumbered along at a steady 20 Mph thanks to four 873 kW gas tur­bine gen­er­ator sets.

No men­tion of the brak­ing dis­tance though — I’d move the car though, just to be safe.

The last hur­rah for LeTourneau, the six-wheel TC-497, Mk 2, was powered by four gas-turbine engines with put­ting out a com­bined 4,680 Hp.

That was then shared by 54 indi­vidual elec­tric motors — one per wheel.

Two of the twelve trail­ers were pro­vi­sioned solely for the car­riage of tur­bines and generators.

Horse and car­riages com­bined, any­thing in your rear view mir­ror was a good 572 Ft. away.

Ed Bur­rows, whom I assume was a former driver — based on a quote from roadtransport.com — has this to say: “The track­ing was so per­fect that when driven over sand, even around a curve, the whole 54-wheel out­fit left the tread impres­sions of only two tyre tracks.”

The over­land trains were short-lived though, due –prob­ably solely — to the arrival of the Sikor­sky S-60, which made the move­ment of heavy freight easier, cheaper and faster.

Addi­tional sources: LIFE, via Google;
aviastar.org; Hem­mings


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