54Wheeldrive The LeTourneau electric arctic land trains that …

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54-wheel-drive: The LeTourneau electric arctic land trains that put Australian road trains to shame

We have our friends at BigLorryBlog to thank for posting a vintage ad the other day that sent us seeking information about the longest vehicles of all time that ended up providing parts for the most beloved monster truck of all time: the LeTourneau land trains, built to access the most remote reaches of the arctic and to dwarf just about any other land vehicle in both size and sheer testicular fortitude.

Originally conceived to assist logging in trackless wilderness, LeTourneau, famed for its earthmovers, devised the first of its land trains, the VC-12 Tournatrain, in 1953-1954 with a lead cab and three trailers. A 500hp Cummins diesel powered a generator that then fed electric motors at each wheel, thus spreading the power application across 16 wheels to enhance traction. A later iteration of the Tournatrain added a second Cummins and four more trailers to put 32 drive wheels to the ground.

Though pitched to the Army, LeTourneau never found a buyer for the VC-12. The Army did, however, offer to fund the 1954 TC-264 Sno-Buggy, an eight-wheeled super-sized Tonka toy that used a butane-fired Allison engine to run the generators that fed power to four electric motors. A four-wheeled, non-powered trailer went with it.

Neither the VC-12 nor the TC-264 entered production. Early in 1955, however, LeTourneau contracted with Alaska Freight Lines Inc. to build the VC-22 Sno-Freighter to supply the construction of the Distant Early Warning surveillance system across Alaska, Canada and Greenland. With a pair of 400hp Cummins diesel engines and five powered trailers, the VC-22 hauled up to 150 tons of cargo.

The Sno-Buggy impressed the Army during its trials so much, the Army decided to combine traits of the Sno-Buggy and the Tournatrain into what LeTourneau called the YS-1 Sno-Train, and what the Army called the LCC-1. It used a single 600hp Cummins and three trailers for a total capacity of 45 tons. Released in 1956, it served in Greenland for DEW resupply runs until 1962.

Six years later, LeTourneau made one final stab at building the ultimate land train. Designed to traverse arctic conditions as well as sand and desert, the six-wheeled TC-497 Overland Train MkII used four Solar gas-turbine engines (at 1,170hp each, that s 4,680hp total) to spin generators that delivered juice to 54 total motors one for each of its wheels. Of its 12 trailers, two were dedicated just to carrying the turbines and generators. The Overland Train stretched 572 feet long, easily making it the world s longest vehicle.

Funny enough, it could only carry 150 tons of freight as much as the Sno-Freighter though it carried such developments as steerable trailer wheels that allowed the entire train more maneuverability.

The Army started testing the Overland Train in 1962, the same year Sikorsky introduced its large freight helicopters that rendered the land trains obsolete.

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By the way, recognize those tires? Bob Chandler bought four of them from a Seattle junkyard and fitted them to Bigfoot 4 to capture the title of Tallest Monster Truck.

All the photos above courtesy Eric C. Orlemann s 2001 book, LeTourneau Earthmovers , which carries an excellent history of the company known for its massive mining trucks, as well as details on many of the company s other, unique, military vehicles.

UPDATE (25.November 2009): Thanks to Randall over on CR4. I ll have to recant the world s longest vehicle claim for the MkII. He points out a train in Mauritania that s 3 kilometers long .

UPDATE (30.November 2009): More world s longest vehicle candidates from CR4 commenters. Kiwi Bloke suggests this Australian world record road train. and bp01 suggests this self-propelled German mining machine .

UPDATE (7.January 2010): Le Container has another pic of the Sno-Train from an unnamed source. Nothing groundbreaking here, but we do see Mr. R. G. LeTourneau standing by it.

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