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World's Biggest Tractor in 1915 -- Aussie ingenuity at its best

Big enough to live on board and keep a few chickens!

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Hopper25/07/2020 01:50:32
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I know there are a few tractor aficionados on the forum so thought you might like this story: BIG LIZZIE

Over 30 foot long and weighing in at 45 tonnes, a fascinating tale of how the builder and his family lived on board this leviathan and took 2 years to drive it 300 miles across country from the factory in Melbourne to the farmlands it was used to clear in the mallee country.

And all powered by a 60hp single-cylinder oil engine.

More technical detail here: BIG BANGER

I'm not sure about their claim the builder invented the dreadnought style wheels -- sure I've seen them on old steam traction engine pictures. But he seems to have patented the idea for Australia at least.

Certainly was a monster though! Note the diminutive size of the bloke perched atop the main wheel.

lizzie.jpg

 

 

Edited By Hopper on 25/07/2020 01:55:13

Edited By Hopper on 25/07/2020 02:11:41

Daniel25/07/2020 05:39:47
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Interesting story, Hopper.

yes

ATB,

Daniel

colin brannigan25/07/2020 08:26:54
101 forum posts
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Very interesting indeed, thanks

Colin

Clive Foster25/07/2020 10:28:38
2540 forum posts
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Posted by Hopper on 25/07/2020 01:50:32:

I'm not sure about their claim the builder invented the dreadnought style wheels -- sure I've seen them on old steam traction engine pictures. But he seems to have patented the idea for Australia at least.

The original version of this style of wheel was designed and developed by James Boydell around 1850 and further developed in conjunction with Charles Burrell and Sons.

The primary difference between the Boydell "walking wheel" design and the Bottrill "dreadnaught" version is that Boydell used one row of flat board plates and Bottrill two overlapping rows of slighlty curved ones. Obviously some sort of overlap is needed if the device is to work as things will clearly just jam up as the wheel moves off the first board when the flat end of the next one spiles onto the surface.

For his "walking wheel" Boydell used a series of steps on the board ends, 3 or 4, to generate enough overlap to prevent jamming.

Bottrill used two rows of boards with considerable overlap.

Pedrail systems used many short pads arranged and sized so that at least two were always in contact with the ground so jamming could not occur. This required a mechanism to tilt the pads to the correct angles as they came into contact with the ground and move with the wheel as it rotated. This mechanism was heavily loaded, often over-complex and never really sorted out to any satisfactory level of reliability.

Due to the large size of the boards Boydell was able to use a simple pivot and offset link, assisted by gravity, to provide the necessary tilt on his walking wheel. With only 6 boards the ride was inevitably somewhat rough. The overlapping boards on the Bottrill version effectively doubled the number of flats giving a smoother ride but needed a more complex linkage to generate the correct angle between successive boards. Coming up with something sufficiently simple, strong and robust enough to survive in rough country is not as easy as it seems at first sight.

Clive

Edited By Clive Foster on 25/07/2020 10:29:15

Edited By Clive Foster on 25/07/2020 10:29:42

Plasma25/07/2020 10:32:38
443 forum posts
1 photos

Thanks for sharing this, I have reposted it to Red Square, the American website forum for Wheelhorse tractors And other agricultural kit.

Mick

Dave Halford25/07/2020 11:36:48
1156 forum posts
11 photos

Those wheels were also used on the heavy guns in WW1.

The full size version of John Haining's 16Hp single ploughing engine also came with the same wheels and was used for the same job. Only they (the pair) towed three scrap Lancashire boilers each behind as well.

5872 today.jpg

5873 front 2 today.jpg

5872 still has the log bumper fittings, but the rear wheels have been updated.

5873 has most of the Boydel wheels intact.

All of these were designed to push over decent size trees and crush anything smaller, hence the huge weight. The Fowlers having the advantage of producing their own fuel as well

Edited By Dave Halford on 25/07/2020 11:46:33

Edited By Dave Halford on 25/07/2020 11:51:20

not done it yet25/07/2020 11:45:09
5430 forum posts
20 photos

The oldest surviving tractor in the US is the Hart Parr No 3. 30HP from a twin cylinder engine, but weighing a mere 6 1/4 tonnes. It was one of 15, built in 1903.

By the time Big Lizzie was built, most tractors were much smaller - and more of them! Holt, Best and Cletrac - the first two later combined to form Caterpillar - were the main players at the time.

As a ‘one-off’ Big Lizzie is clearly unique. Had he waited until the end of WWI, he may well have considered surplus tracked military vehicles for land clearance, but that is all history and hindsight. It did the job it was meant for and very capably, according to the write up. It certainly warrants its place in history.

Thanks for posting.

Hopper25/07/2020 12:43:10
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5084 forum posts
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Glad you guys enjoyed it. And certainly some interesting history behind those wheels, Clive and Dave. And quite tickled, Plasma, that the American site would be interested. We usually think of the Yanks having "the biggest" of every thing. No doubt they were using multiple smaller tractors by then but Australia had strict limits on imports back then so had to make do with what they could. Tougher times than today for sure.

Edited By Hopper on 25/07/2020 12:47:12

Paul Lousick25/07/2020 13:51:10
1657 forum posts
614 photos

A more recent photo of Big Lizzie. On display at Red Cliffs, a small town in Victoria near the Murray River that borders with NSW.

Paul

big lizzie.jpg

Paul Lousick25/07/2020 13:58:51
1657 forum posts
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big lizzie 2.jpg

big lizzie 3.jpg

Neil Wyatt25/07/2020 15:28:07
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An ecodisaster on wheels!

Neil

Hopper26/07/2020 03:58:06
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Posted by Neil Wyatt on 25/07/2020 15:28:07:

An ecodisaster on wheels!

Neil

Absolutely. Some really poorly planned stuff happened back then clearing marginal soil in unreliable rain areas. Its a desolate part of the world in places, littered with abandoned old farm houses.

The fact Big Lizzie was designed to work on sand dunes says a lot.

Paul Lousick26/07/2020 04:28:48
1657 forum posts
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I would'nt call it a desolate part of the world. Today a massive irrigation project supplies over 400 megalitres to 5000 hectares of grapevines mainly grown for dried fruit.

The district also supports the largest winery in the southern hemisphere.

Paul

Hopper26/07/2020 06:50:47
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So that's where all the water from the Murray River went to. smiley

I was thinking more of further out in the Mallee country and where in the second link they mentioned Broken Hill. . Still pretty desolate out there today in places. Or it sure seems that way riding a motorcycle across the Barrier Highway and Hay Plain etc. as I have a few times over the years coming and going from the family homestead outside Adelaide.  Great ride though. A bloke has room to move out there.

Last did it about 10 years ago on my freshly restored 1977 Harley Sportster - the world's most unsuitable touring bike!

xmasrun08 168.jpg

xmasrun08 144.jpg

Just adds a whole new dimension to the meaning of scenic does it not?

ridehome 007.jpg

The view from the actual lookout:

ridehome 006.jpg

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 07:12:22

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 07:21:39

Paul Lousick26/07/2020 07:54:42
1657 forum posts
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Hopper, It's lonnnnng road out there !

I drove thru the Hay Plains a couple of years ago from Sydney via Wellington. Parkes and Mildura to crew an a steam paddle boat at Cobdobla, SA. Then a 5 day river trip to a paddle boat rally at Wentworth. Then a return drive all of the way back home.  A 15 hour drive each way.  Total distance 2700 km.

Paul.

Edited By Paul Lousick on 26/07/2020 07:59:38

Hopper26/07/2020 10:17:57
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Worth the drive by the sound of it. My dream job has always been engineer on a Murray River paddle steamer. I used to go and look at the PS Marion when she was drydocked as a museum at Mannum for years and years. Beautiful old boat and still had the original engine intact. If I still lived down there i'd be right into paddle rallies etc for sure.

I ended up as a steam engineer but on power stations etc so all that steaming and at the end of the day you re  still in the same place.

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 10:27:29

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 10:27:55

Neil Wyatt26/07/2020 19:21:10
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Posted by Hopper on 26/07/2020 06:50:47:Just adds a whole new dimension to the meaning of scenic does it not?

ridehome 007.jpg

The view from the actual lookout:

ridehome 006.jpg

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 07:12:22

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 07:21:39

Over here, folks would be asking for their money back...🤣

Neil

P.S. At least it's not a hardtail. You'd need a back end like walrus hide.

Neil Wyatt26/07/2020 19:27:26
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Posted by Hopper on 26/07/2020 10:17:57:

Worth the drive by the sound of it. My dream job has always been engineer on a Murray River paddle steamer. I used to go and look at the PS Marion when she was drydocked as a museum at Mannum for years and years. Beautiful old boat and still had the original engine intact. If I still lived down there i'd be right into paddle rallies etc for sure.

My dad's mate Ken Angel used to work in a garage a stone's throw from our house. Later in life he served as Chief Engineer on both the Waverly and Balmoral. www.waverleyandbalmoral.co.uk/waverley/articles07/jubilee/

Neil

Hopper26/07/2020 22:45:34
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Ha not far from a hardtail though with about 2 inches rear suspension travel. It was a long ride!

Those are some serious paddle steamers you linked there. The Murray River boats were a bit more like Big Lizzie, locally built from local timber and fitted with the biggest stationary engine they could find. **LINK**

They were side wheelers with shallow draft and a flat bottom so they could virtually crawl over mudflats and sandbars in time of drought etc. Would have been wild country out there if they got stuck - as sometimes happened.

Edited By Hopper on 26/07/2020 22:45:56

oldvelo26/07/2020 23:29:47
257 forum posts
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How this monster ever did any work at all other than downhill where the 45 tons would help it move.

The power to weight ratio on "Big Lizzie" is 1.3 hp per ton. Compared to the Fordson Model F first built 1917 that weighted in at just over 1 ton and rated at 20 hp.

Having the benefit of 20/20 vision in hindsight I offer nothing but respect for Ralph Falkiner.& Frank Bottrill for having an idea. Then have the courage to put into practice with this leviathen machine.

What little knowledge I have of the land that was developed for "Soldiers Settlements" was a government decission to utilise land that they had picked off a map with little or no knowledge of the true nature of the land or conditions in that area.

Eric

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