By Ralph Hughes
In the early 1900s, the automobile began to influence the design and development of John Deere projects. John Deere buggies and surreys by 1909 were sporting deeply upholstered “twin auto seats.” “Auto steering” soon was incorporated in the design of John Deere manure spreaders and steel wagons. Even traditional wood wagons were made available with an “auto track” wheel tread.
As automobiles replaced horse-drawn vehicles and rural roads were improved and better maintained, a demand developed for two-wheel trailers. John Deere dealers wanted trailers to speed the delivery of new tractors and farm implements. Farmer customers wanted trailers for pulling behind the family automobile or pickup truck. The John Deere Wagon Works quickly responded to both of these sales opportunities.
In 1935, the two-wheel John Deere No. 10 freight trailer was introduced “for quick, economical delivery of farm machinery.” Although initially intended for sale to John Deere implement dealers, the availability of sideboards and a stock rack made the No. 10 trailer attractive to farmers who had livestock and produce to haul to market. The No. 10 trailer had a bed that was 6 feet wide, 10 feet long, and made of steel-reinforced two-inch wooden planks. It could accommodate a pair of horses or two large cows or a half dozen hogs or a few milk cans or several sacks of grain or feed.
Because the bed was placed between the two wheels, it was only 18 inches off the ground. One man could load a model “A” or “B” tractor easily, using two short ramp boards. Hitched behind a pickup truck, the No. 10 trailer eliminated the need for a more expensive truck and no loading dock was needed at either the dealership for loading or at the farm where the tractor was to be delivered. The bed was set on a steel frame made of four-inch I-beams. The trailer was equipped with 7.00×20 eight-ply tires mounted on disk wheels with Timken tapered roller bearings. The axle was a steel bar 2-1/2 inches in diameter. The wheel track was 84-1/2 inches. The total length, including hitch, was 15 feet, 4 inches; the total width measured from one wheel hub to the other was 95-3/4 inches. The frame was painted green and the wheels yellow. The total weight of the No. 10 freight trailer was 1,275 pounds; the rated hauling capacity was three tons. Extra equipment included a six-foot high stock rack and 14 inch high sideboards.
In the summer of 1936, John Deere introduced a second trailer, another model designed primarily for use by farm implement dealers. It was called the No. 15 tilting platform freight trailer. It had a platform, or bed, 13 feet long and 8 feet wide mounted above two sets of dual wheels with 6.50 x 16 six ply tires. The overall width of the No. 15 was identical to the No. 10 (95-3/4 inches) and the total length was only six inches longer (16 feet). The rated hauling capacity was the same: 6,000 pounds. Openings were provided around the sides of the bed for stakes or for securing implements. For loading or unloading, the bed tilted by means of a pivoted hitch. Regular equipment included a loading winch mounted underneath the trailer bed with a long cable which ran through a pulley mounted at the front of the bed. This winch enabled one man to pull a tractor onto the trailer until the bed pivoted to the level, transport position. The frame was of a bridge truss design and was made of square, tubular steel members that extended the full length of the trailer.
Automatic brakes were regular equipment. Here’s how they were described in the sales folder (A219a- 36-6): “Automatic brakes are a new feature, thoroughly tested and proved. Application is through a sliding member on the hitch which telescoped rearward on the hitch when the trailer overruns the towing vehicle. The brakes are applied through cable connections to the 14 x 2 inch Bendix brakes on the wheels. The big advantage of this type of brake is that only one connection is necessary between the trailer and the towing vehicle and this is a ball and socket hitch. The brakes are regular equipment—the trailer is not furnished without brakes.”
When management learned that farmers were purchasing the No. 10 and No. 15 freight trailers in greater numbers than John Deere dealers, engineers at the Wagon Works were directed to design a lower cost, more compact two-wheel trailer. The John Deere No. 20 trailer cart was the end result and became available early in 1937. According to introductory advertising: “The John Deere No. 20 trailer cart is built for the farmer who wants a simple, smooth-running, two-wheel trailer with the strength to haul loads up to 2,000 pounds at rapid speeds.” There was no end to the jobs for which it could be used. With optional equipment, it became a very versatile trailer for general field and barn work, for quick trips to and from town, and for hauling grain, fruit, cans of milk, and livestock to market. Optional equipment included a 6 foot x 44 inch x 12 inch lower box with drop endgate and flare boards, a 12 inch deep top box and a 5 foot deep stock rack. With the lower box, endgate and flare boards, the No. 20 trailer cart weighed 432 pounds. The box, stock rack and frame were painted green; the wheels were yellow.
The total length of the No. 20 trailer was 9 feet, including the single-pole hitch with ball and socket. The overall width was 5-1/2 feet and it had a 56-inch “auto track” wheel tread. When regularly equipped with 5.25 x 17 four-ply tires, the bed was just 17 inches off the ground, which made loading and unloading easy. The steel wheels had demountable drop-center rims and provided an axle clearance of 10 inches. The wheels had Timken roller bearings. Mounted between the frame and the axle were two strong coil springs on each side to protect the load against undue jolting on rough, gravel country roads. The springs were adjustable for lighter or heavier loads. According to the service manual: “There are two replaceable bronze bushings where the axle pivots on the frame. Each bushing is equipped with an Alemite fitting for easy lubrication with a grease gun. Both wheels have a large, removable hub cap that provides a grease chamber to keep the Timken roller bearings well greased.”
As with nearly all John Deere products, once the No. 20 trailer was readily available, farmers began to ask for a similar two-wheel trailer that was both bigger in size and stronger so it could haul more weight. Deere responded in 1938 with the No. 25 farm truck trailer. Depending on the type of wheels and tires used and the down-the-road travel speed, the No. 25 had a rated capacity of between 2,500 and 5,500 pounds (see chart).
A two-piece wood box was provided for the No. 25 trailer as extra cubic feet or 69 bushels. A 10 or 12 inch top box could be ordered to increase the capacity by 33 or 40 cubic feet, respectively. A 6 foot high stock rack made of oak lumber also was available. The height of the trailer bed, ground to floor, was 25 inches; the axle clearance was 10-1/2 inches. Less box and third wheel, the No. 25 trailer weighed 950 pounds.
The No. 25 trailer was regularly furnished with a pair of 38 inch, nine leaf springs mounted lengthwise between the frame and axle. Bendix mechanical brakes with either a vacuum or cable control also were regularly furnished; however, the No. 25 could be ordered without brakes by farmers who intended to use it only on the farm. Steel disk wheels were held securely to the hubs with six rustproof set screws with countersunk heads. The axle was a solid cold-rolled steel bar 1-11/16ths inch in diameter. The bed was well balanced over the two wheels so little weight was carried on the hitch or towing vehicle. Either a ball and socket hitch or a plain clevis hitch could be ordered. The frame and hitch were painted green, the wheels yellow.
A third wheel could be ordered for the hitch to assist in maneuvering a loaded trailer. Two types were offered—one was a caster wheel with a pneumatic rubber tire. When the trailer was towed, the wheel folded up on top of the hitch. The other type of third wheel was a caster jack with a small diameter steel wheel that could be raised vertically when the trailer was towed.
As tractors grew more powerful and heavier, John Deere dealers asked for a larger two-wheel trailer than the No. 15. To fill this demand, the John Deere No. 16 tilting platform freight trailer was put in production in 1940 and remained in the line until 1956. The No. 16 had a platform, or bed, 13 feet long and 1/4 inch narrower than the 8 foot maximum legal width for over-highway use. The total length, including hitch, was 16 feet. This tilt-type trailer was built to carry three-ton loads with the following restrictions: “Up to 6,960 pounds can be carried safely when pulled at speeds under 20 mph, with 40 pounds pressure in tires. At speeds over 20 mph and with 40 pounds of tire pressure, the load should be held to not over 5,160 pounds. To be on the safe side at all times, travel speed should be held to a maximum of 35 mph.”
The bed was made of two-inch thick lumber reinforced with steel on all four sides. Openings were provided in the steel edges for stakes and for securing implements. The frame supporting the bed was made of square, tubular steel channels welded together in a fashion similar to a bridge truss. A durable loading winch was provided as regular equipment and included an extra-long cable for pulling implements onto the bed. The axle was made by welding two steel angle irons together to form a rectangular box. Dual wheels with Timken tapered roller bearings were placed under the bed. Heavy duty 6.50 x 16 six ply tires were used, making the No. 16 a “straight trailing trailer—not a whipper.”
According to sales literature: “The John Deere No. 16 is the trailer every implement dealer should have for making pickups and deliveries, for hauling demonstration machines, for speedy, low cost, all around hauling service. Its heavy duty platform is built low to the ground—it is an easy trailer to load and unload; handles and backs easily; will not weave or tip over; it is an ideal running mate for a small pickup truck.” The No. 16 trailer weighed 1,944 pounds and was well liked by John Deere dealers, as this endorsement indicates:
A.E. Bentley, Fairview Farmers Elevator Co., Fairview, Illinois: “We have used the No. 16 trailer for three months and find it very satisfactory and especially useful to a farm
machinery dealer. The tilting bed works fine for loading and unloading heavy equipment. I’d rather do without one of my big trucks than without this tilting platform trailer.”
The John Deere No. 50 farm trailer was the last two-wheeler designed for the farmer-customer. It was brought out in early 1941 and continued to be available until the 1950s. It was officially named the “general utility two-wheel farm truck” because it could not only be used for a variety of hauling jobs, but also was used for transporting a John Deere hammer mill or an orchard and grove tree duster with a seated operator.
The No. 50 was a versatile trailer. A hammer mill, for example, could be mounted directly on the steel frame. Or the No. 50 could be equipped with a one-inch thick oak bed seven feet long by four feet, five inches wide. Also available as extra equipment was a general utility box that measured (on the inside) 101-3/4 inches long by 47 inches wide by 12 inches deep. A 10-inch deep top box could be added along with eight-inch flare sides. The flare sides acted as fenders, protecting the load from mud and dust.
The frame was made of three-inch steel channels. The axle was a three-inch square box and could be positioned at three different locations on the frame in order to better balance the load. The axle could be “flipped over” to provide two different road clearances. In one position, the under-axle clearance was 7-3/4 inches; in the alternate position, the clearance was increased to 14-3/4 inches.
The No. 50 trailer was available with either a long or short steel pole. With either pole, a plain clevis hitch was regular equipment. A springcushion clevis hitch was optional or a ball-and-socket hitch could be specified. The long pole was required when the No. 50 was used to transport a hammer mill. The short pole was required for use with the PTO powered orchard and grove tree duster.
Regular equipment included dual wheels with Timken tapered roller bearings. Both four ply 5.50 x 16 or 6.00 x 16 tires were available. However, if a farmer preferred, the trailer could be ordered without tires and a set of used tires used to reduce the purchase price. Without the bed and box, the No. 50 trailer weighed only 280 pounds. Because of the light draft, it was an easy trailer to pull behind the family car. The 60 inch wheel tread matched the tread of most passenger cars and pickup trucks of that era.
During World War II, John Deere built two-wheel trailers for the military. One such unit was a mobile laundry for use by the U.S. Navy. A variety of two-wheel trailers were built for the Army including a one-ton cargo carrier, a trailer for transporting sections of a pontoon bridge and a compact “fire” trailer. The latter included a 90 horsepower gasoline engine, water pump, hoses and nozzles and hatchets.
In the 1950s, the John Deere Wagon Works was used by Deere and Company to manufacture a wide variety of farm implements—rod weeders, toolbars, harrows, rotary hoes, potato diggers and beet harvesters, stalk cutters and cotton planters. These higher volume products took precedence over the lower volume two-wheel trailers. The production of four-wheel steel wagons continued.
Introduced in 1937, the John Deere No. 20 farm trailer was designed for the farmers who wanted a simple, smooth-running two-wheel trailer to haul up to a one-ton load at highway speeds. It is shown here with a 12 inch deep box, drop endgate and flare boards. The box and frame were painted green, the wheels yellow. Photos courtesy of Deere and Company Archives.
The two-piece bottom box on this John Deere No. 25 trailer was 26 inches deep and had the capacity to hold 69 bushels of grain. The third, or top, box added more capacity. As shown here, the three boxes have a space between each box for hauling hogs or sheep. The third wheel attached to the hitch aided in maneuvering a loaded trailer. This rubber-tired caster wheel could be “folded up” on top of the hitch when the trailer was towed.
The John Deere No. 16 tilting platform freight trailer was in the Deere line from 1940 to 1956. It had a bed 13 feet long and 8 feet wide. Regularly equipped with heavy-duty 6.50×16 six-ply duals, the No. 16 could haul a three-ton load. A tractor could be driven off the trailer or “eased off” by one man using the winch located under the bed. An extra-long winch cable could be used to pull a manure spreader, grain drill or corn planter onto the trailer.