Use of steam-powered traction engines and rollers for construction and road projects dates back to 1906, but it wasn't possible to use these substantial machines for all applications. In some areas, steam engines were too big or too heavy, or it was difficult to supply water and fuel to run them.
To remedy the situation, the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. marketed in 1912 what would become a long line of gas-powered tractors for road maintenance and construction, material handling and many other uses. Over the years, they would be known as "industrial tractors," "municipal tractors," and "road tractors." The first models, the Case 60 and Case 40, were widely used to pull graders and dump wagons on rural roads and highways. The Case 25 was introduced in 1914. In some areas, the counties would contract with farmers to grade and maintain the roads.
By the early 1920s, Case was selling its tractor models 12–20, 15–27, 18–32, 22–40 and 25–45 for industrial and municipal use. Typical jobs included road grading, excavating and cutting ditches.
"We have used this tractor to haul the largest size Jumbo Climax road grader for the past two years to scrape 81 miles of road in this township," wrote Ira Davis, highways superintendent in Freemont, New York, in a 1926 testimonial. "The tractor at all times has reserve power and uses not over 15 gallons of fuel in eight hours of work."
In 1929, Case introduced its Model LI industrial tractor, and the smaller and more maneuverable Model CI. Both models could be equipped with steel wheels for traction on rough and difficult ground. The more-powerful Model LI was better suited for road projects and industrial applications. It also delivered good balance and higher travel speeds. The Model CI came in a narrow tread version that was only 48 inches wide and could turn within a 9-foot radius, giving it the ability to maneuver around the corner of a 5 foot-10 inch warehouse aisle. The CI also came as a Golf Course Special, equipped with extra-wide steel wheels and special golf-course spud lugs.
To further add versatility, Case industrial tractors could be fitted with many options, including bumpers, lift trucks, couplers, rotary brooms, mower blades, electric lights, enclosed cabs and front-mounted cranes. For operations in slippery clay or deep mud, they also could be fitted with crawler tracks such as those available from Trackson.
Eventually, Case tractors were used in all types of applications by contractors, municipalities, county governments and businesses. During World War II, Case produced 105-mm howitzer shells and sold its industrial tractors to the government. The Case DI tractor had armor plating to protect the operator. Model VAI was a special warehouse tractor with pintle hitches and headlights. Case also produced low-slung naval tractors for moving aircraft on the decks of U.S. aircraft carriers.
|Information supplied by Case Construction Equipment. If you are interested in historical equipment, consider a membership in the Historical Construction Equipment Association. Visit its website at www.hcea.net.