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Trucks, Trailers and Hauling for Shows

Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?


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  #1  
Old 02-22-2011, 05:39 PM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I got to wondering about this the other day... if you look at the early Macks, say for example, they were straight trucks. Now we have 18-wheelers.

Where and when did the road-tractor-and-semi-trailer combination start? Who built the first one?

I'm sure somebody here must know. Thanks in advance...
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Old 02-22-2011, 05:46 PM
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ListerDiesel ListerDiesel is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

We had them in the UK in the very early years of trucks like the chain-drive Scammell and so on, must be early 1900's or so, I don't think that there were any heavy haulage truck makers much before then?

Peter
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Old 02-22-2011, 06:26 PM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

Well, here's a pic of a 1930s-era Scammel Mechanical Horse, sporting its rough-and-ready 1,125-cc side-valve gas engine:



According to Wikipedia, Scammel produced its first articulated truck design in 1921, and it was presented at the Olympia Motor Show. The tricycle-wheeled Scammel Scarab wouldn't come along until the late 1940s:



---------- Post added at 05:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:23 PM ----------

Oops, sorry about the second pic. Here it is:

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Old 02-22-2011, 07:02 PM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I have seen some old pictures of Ford Model TTs with fifth wheel trailers. Mostly they were about 25' flatbeds. It looked like you could really overload the truck with that setup, but I guess it was better than a horse and wagon.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:02 PM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

Thank you. A little poking around on the web produced the following image, but with no story:



That puts the existence of the semi-trailer in the US back to before 1928, but no earlier with any degree of certainty, and as we've seen, Scammel had one in the UK in 1921.

---------- Post added at 06:54 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:48 PM ----------

I will continue digging...

Say, when you say 'overloaded,' do you mean something like this?



---------- Post added at 07:02 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:54 PM ----------

And here are some more pics I found:





I also found the following quote on the Model T forum: "They had a '14 Model T tractor/trailer with a Smith-form-a-kit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mi."
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:22 PM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

You did a better job Googling than my first attempt, where I only found the modern picture.

How would you like to be heading down a hill with that load of logs behind your head? If you survived the downhill, I assume with a 2 speed axle and an auxiliary 3 speed transmission behind the Model T transmission that you could make it back up again. However, it would probably be at about 1/2 mph.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:40 PM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I was looking at that photo and thinking "Mechanical brakes... three-inch-wide tires... those are braver men than me."

---------- Post added at 07:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:38 PM ----------

...and we've pushed the existence of the semi-trailer back to 1914, probably.
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:56 AM
Bill Feasal Bill Feasal is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I think that the first commercial one was built by Fruehauf
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:35 AM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I think Bill nailed it. Thought it was John Fruehauf??

---------- Post added at 07:35 AM ---------- Previous post was at 07:33 AM ----------

Sorry, August Charles Fruehauf .
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:45 AM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

So it looks to me like one of those things that really was invented in a couple of different places and times in the early 19-teens, but the Fruehaufs get the credit for combining the semi-trailer with the trucking industry.

So who made the first commercial road tractor? I wouldn't count the Ford conversions; they (like so many other useful applications) were the product of someone tinkering with a chassis.
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Old 02-24-2011, 02:18 PM
Casemaker Casemaker is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I'm gonna go out on a limb here....and say that Al Gore had a hand in it....
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:16 PM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

All the early truck tractors were converted straight trucks, so it depends on your definition. Most likely it would have been Mack or I. H. C. but I'm not certain.


















i
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Old 02-25-2011, 10:30 AM
Oberon67 Oberon67 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I'd say that what I'm asking is, who made the first factory-built road tractor?

There were some odd units doing road service back in the day. I remember sitting at my father-in-law's kitchen table with an old friend of his, a truck driver, talking about driving a road tractor powered by a very large displacement (500-some-odd cubic inches) straight six gas engine. He also talked about moving trailers around the country in the 1950's with no more than 150 horsepower, which goes to show that you can do a lot with a little if you're patient and smart.
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Old 03-02-2011, 02:32 AM
ken karrow ken karrow is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

Before WWII my dad worked as mechanic for freight line in WI. They had very tight total length laws. Pulled trailers with COE Fords 239 cu. in, Chev 216 cu in, Dodges 219 cu in. I've driven trucks with 235 cu in Chev up 12% to 15% grades with 25,000 # gross, very slowly and down even slower. I've seen pics of logging and mining loads in the mountains that makes that look easy. Watched an old boy with a D-8 Cat on a lowboy pulling it with a GMC 6 (gas). His foreman pulled up behind him in a pick-up, parked and walked up to the cab, steped up on the running board, steped down walked all the way around the rig, checked the tie down, steped back up on the running board, and steped off and went back to his pick up. Through all of this the driver had kept is foot on the floor and let that Jimmy roar. Lots of gears, I would estimate his speed at 1 1/2 MPH.
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Old 03-02-2011, 03:31 AM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

foden in the u.k. made steam wagons with fifth-wheels and trailers pretty early.
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Old 02-03-2012, 07:48 AM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

I remember steel haulers with A tandem axle flatbed truck pulling A trailer, 2 axles , one fore, one aft, with A pintle hook type connection. The truck was A White Mustang, gas engine. This arrangement was common in Cleveland , Ohio in the 50s. There were brokers with an Autocar or Diamond T tractor, Cummins power as evidenced by the logo on the Autocar butterfly hood. Trailers were relatively short, 40 or 42 ft. flatbeds. The change was underway , gas to diesel, straight trucks to articulated semis. The general consensus was that WWII had provided the impetus for going to A single axle trailer on A tractor, eliminating the need for A full trailer with 2 axles. Tires, rubber, material were conserved, longer beds with increased payloads were made practical via the articulation feature of the semi arrangement. The Mack gas Magnadyne engine faded away , the Thermodyne Diesel , 180 hp naturally aspirated , or about 210 hp tubocharged burgeoned. If you wanted more hp Cummins would be the powerplant. Mack got their Diesel from Scania Vabis in exchange for transit bus technology. Mack at one time made their own trailers and had A line of pickup trucks in the late 30s. My first truck was A Mack B67 Tandem dump , 180 HP , Triplex Transmission. It never seemed lacking in power, but at A top speed of about 52 MPH it sounded like it was going to go into orbit. Wish I had it now. So , although anecdotal information , there were literally many who linked the mass evolution to semi after WWII to the war itself. Sleeve
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Old 02-03-2012, 09:14 PM
Tencubed Tencubed is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

Don't know who built the first of the semi rigs but I knew an old guy that drove truck up and down the west coast for many years prior to WWII. He related stories of "The old trucks." that had team drivers. The guy behind the wheel would do the usual stuff, throttle, clutch and two gearboxes, keep it on the road and operate the truck brakes. The guy in the right hand seat had a rope that ran to a big lever on the back axles of the semi or both axles of a four wheel trailer. This lever activated the brakes on the trailer. Big heavy cotton rope that had to be fed out and pulled in as the truck navigated the twisting roads of the time. He said it was a toss-up who did the most work, the guy changing gears and hauling that big old wheel around or the guy handling the rope. Down hills were, as mentioned, as slow as the uphill stretches. A lot of the old trucks you about had to get out and drive stakes to see if you were moving. Common practice, in warm weather, was to open the bat-wing hoods to allow the engine to run a little cooler. He said when air brakes came along it got lonesome in the cab. Not unusual for a man to drive 18 out of 24 hours in those days. Most slept in the cab.

By the time I got my license and graduated from single axle farm trucks to driving a semi, 1955, my Dad had a brand new International L-180 with the powerful BD 308 gas engine. It had a Clark five speed, Brownlee 3 speed mid ship and two speed rear axle. You spent a lot of time shifting gears. Pulled various trailers but the one that put on a lot of miles was the 35' flatbed I used to haul hay to the dairy farmers on the Oregon Coast. Round trip was about 420 miles. A trip would start around 2 AM and I'd get home about ten at night. Drive to the coast, unload the truck and drive home. Next day work on the farm and load the truck. Made three trips a week from early summer till I had to quit to go to school in the fall.

That truck had really great brakes. Hydraulic with vacuum boost on the truck and straight vacuum on the trailer. No spring brakes in those days, you lost the vacuum the only thing you had was the hydraulics on the tractor.

Pulling over the Coast Range between Portland, Or and the coast there were a lot of hills that would pull it down to four or five MPH. You learned to be patient and not try to over-rev the engine. On good, level, pavement you could hit 55 when loaded and just over 60 empty.

Oh! Did I mention I was 14 when I started doing this? We had Ag Permit licenses in those days. Mine allowed me to drive any legal rig for farm purposes on public roads. Got some mighty strange looks from State weigh masters till they go to know me. Most of them would wave me on through after the first few trips.

Sorry for the long post.

Mike
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:07 AM
Jan Mostek Jan Mostek is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

It is interesting reading about first semitrailers, but how it was concerning semitrailr coupling, or so called fifth wheel?
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:00 AM
uglyblue66 uglyblue66 is offline
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

What is at the Henry Ford is a 1914 Ford Model T with a Smith FormaTruck Conversion which put a chain drive system and chassis exstention on the car frame.The first 1 ton T or TT as it is called,was 1917.The Fruhauf "spelling" company is the first credited with the 5 th wheel design from my understanding.
When I went to the Henry Ford in 2003 or 4,cant remember now,I saw the rig and it is sweet.
There were several companys that made the chassis conversions for the T cars at that time.I have some pictures of 1 that was made and used in England and it is a big bulky thing.Dont know how the heck 20 hp ever moved it.
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Old 03-23-2013, 03:20 PM
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Default Re: Who Invented the Semi-Trailer?

The Thorneycroft company of England built semi-trailer trucks in 1901. Not too successful commecially, as the demand was not there for the flexible use of separate trailers. Ther were still many horses in use for short trips and the railways looked after longer journeys.
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