Lost graders of the road

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GENERATION APART: A ‘King Road Drag’ scraper and a motor-grader minus the motor!

GENERATION APART: A ‘King Road Drag’ scraper and a motor-grader minus the motor!

Scrapers, trenchers and manual graders. Roadbuilding machinery won't look like this again...

The newest roadbuilding machines can zoom over unmade ground in no time, with modern motor graders being particularly speedy.

It wasn't always this way of course. At one time split logs were used to grade roads, and devices thal loosely resembled horse-drawn trenchers were used for larger highway projects in some parts of the world. In fact, the very first continous excavators were most popular for building roads. According to Giant Earthmovers, most of the early grader manufacturers, such as Russell (who became Caterpillar)Austin-Western and Adams produced these machines.

Originally elevating graders were pulled by packs of horses and later by steam traction engines or crawler tractor. The elevating conveyor was powered by a chain or gear drive. The discharged material would then be loaded into wagons running alongside, or formed into ‘windrows' to make up the road base.

Again, according to Giant Earthmovers, the first continuous excavators were built by the New Era Manufacturing Company in 1866. This early machine was built from wood, though in later years it was built from metal following a takeover by Austin Manufacturing.

By the mid 1940s most manufacturers had abandoned elevating graders in favour of the more modern motor-graders and scrapers. Although the technology is outmoded today, the process was efficient as dirt was moved directly from the road surface to the embankment.

The King Road Drag was a grader implement for grading dirt roads that revolutionized the maintenance of the dirt roads in the early 1900s. It was invented by David Ward King who was a farmer whose farm was in Holt Township, near Maitland, Missouri.

It started out as two parallel logs with the cut side facing the front separated three feet by rigid separators and pulled by a team of two horses. Variations of the two-plank drag design but pulled by trucks or tractors are still used today to smooth the dirt infields of baseball diamonds.

In this simple design, the first log would remove clods and the second log would smooth the road. The logs were staggered so that dirt would be pushed to the center to create a crown so that water would rush off.

This replaced the old practice of dragging a road with a single log which left the surface unrepaired and rut filled. It also made it possible for farmers to improve roads near their homes without having to wait for government graders in the United States.

An important component of the grading process was that it had to occur when the road was wet.

This invention was the horse drawn forerunner of the modern day road grader. It was a sensation in its day. States passed laws requiring its use. The design was so simple that King did not enforce his patent rights. However he did tour the country explaining to how to use it.

All this happened years before the Gulf started to build modern highways. In fact, Abu Dhabi's first paved road was not completed until 1961. By this time, a full range of hydraulic machines were available, allowing the great stretches of highway se needed during the oil boom to be built in record time.

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