Early Trenchers



Man posing with a Buckeye No. 5 trencher
James B. Hill built the first trencher in 1893, and in 1906 formed the Buckeye Traction Ditcher Co. to produce them. This circa 1914 No. 5, with vertical engine and 17-horsepower boiler, was typical of the early models; it could dig 20 to 28 inches wide by 66 inches deep.

Four examples of trencher technology from the early and mid-20th century. All images are from the HCEA Archives.

The Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the construction, dredging and surface mining equipment industries. With over 3,800 members in 25 countries, our activities include publication of a quarterly educational magazine, Equipment Echoes, from which this article is adapted; operation of National Construction Equipment Museum and archives in Bowling Green, Ohio; and hosting an annual working exhibition of restored construction equipment. Our 2020 show will be August 28-30 in Concordia, Kansas. Individual memberships within the U.S. are $35 for one year, $65.95 for two years and $99.95 for three years. We seek to develop relationships in the equipment manufacturing industry, and we offer a college scholarship for engineering and construction management students. Information is available at www.hcea.net, or by calling 419.352.5616 or e-mailing [email protected]