A Tractor that Walks?

The Fageol 9-12 “Walking” Tractor, 3500lbs, 1919. Heidrick Ag History Center.

Our collection here at the Heidrick Ag History Center includes this little tractor.  Nestled in a line of other comparably sized tractors, you might first notice its because of its brown color.  But what really makes this tractor distinctive are its back wheels.  These back wheels are oddly shaped with grousers that look like spikes, and differ from the wheels of any other tractor that we have in our collection.

Notice the spiked or wedged legs on the Fageol Walking Tractor. These kept the wheel rims from touching the ground, and made the tractor seem like it was "walking" on it. Heidrick Ag History Center Archives.

When farmers began working the fields in California, they quickly realized that the tractors they had been using on the East coast and in the mid-West were not suited for the soft California soil.  The rims of the wheels of many of these tractors sunk into the ground, and were difficult to get out once stuck.  First manufactured by the Fageol Motor Company in 1917, the Fageol 9-12 was an early attempt at trying to prevent tractors from sinking into the soft California soil.  The spiked grousers, or legs, prevented the tractor from sinking into the soil, and in fact made it seem like the tractor almost floated above the soil.  The wedged grousers ensured that the wheel rims never even touched the ground.  The way that the tractor moved above the ground made some people think that the tractor was actually “walking” on the soil, thus earning the Fageol 9-12 the nickname as the “walking tractor.”

Fageol Walking Tractor in use at a home orchard. No date. Heidrick Ag History Center Archives.

The Fageol 9-12 “Walking” Tractor design was unique not only because of its “walking” wheels, but it was also small enough to navigate small orchards and vineyards.  Advertisements for the tractor celebrated its “Tom Thumb” size, and marveled that at 3500 pounds it weighed only as much as a few horses.  The wheel design and size worked well on California’s orchards and vineyards, but its price tag of $1575 was too expensive for small farmers for the tractor to really catch on.  Even though the “walking” tractor design was discontinued by 1938, this unusual tractor is a great piece of California’s agricultural history!

Come learn more and see a Fageol 9-12 Walking Tractor in person at the Heidrick Ag History Center!

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