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The Incredible Story of the US Army’s Earth-Shaking, Off-Road Land Trains

Working together, Canadian and American governments determined they would need about 500 tons of materials to construct all of these outposts. With no suitable runways or ports and heavy lift helicopters still in their infancy, it would all have to be hauled in over land. The task of figuring out how exactly to get that done fell to the same company that had been chosen to build the stations themselves—The Western Electric Company, a subsidiary of ATT.

Solving unsolvable logistics issues wasn’t exactly its forte. But with the help of TRADCOM (U.S. Army Transportation Research and Development Command), it found the one company—more accurately, the one man—that might be able to help.

That’s R. G. LeTourneau To You

Born in 1888, Robert Gilmore LeTourneau was an inventor of heavy machinery. In WWII, 70 percent of the Allies’ earthmoving equipment was created by LeTourneau Technologies, Inc. Having very little formal education, LeTourneau began his working career as an ironmonger. By the time he died in 1969 he was tremendously wealthy and personally held nearly 300 patents. He is buried on the campus of the University he founded in his name, where his gravestone reads “MOVER OF MEN AND MOUNTAINS.” Just a little character development for you.

LeTourneau had spent the early 1950s perfecting a sort of diesel-electric drivetrain for multi-wheeled heavy-machinery. The system—somewhat similar in concept to the sort used on many locomotives—used a combustion engine to spin an electric generator. This generator would send its power to hub motors mounted to each wheel of the vehicle, allowing for multi-wheel-drive without differentials, driveshafts, or the drivetrain losses associated with them. 

This powertrain setup will sound familiar to anyone who read our story on the doomed Antarctic Snow Cruiser earlier this month. But LeTourneau’s design was clearly a generation ahead of Thomas Poulter’s hub motors, which weren’t geared properly to handle anything beyond a gentle incline.

Article source: https://www.thedrive.com/news/33645/the-incredible-story-of-the-us-armys-earth-shaking-off-road-land-trains

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Posted by on May 26 2020. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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