Despite sounding decidedly French, the name LeTourneau is synonymous with the United States and was once just as well-known as Caterpillar.
Kicking off in 1929 out of Stockton, California, Robert Gilmour LeTourneau was a prolific entrepreneur and inventor possessed with the ability and interest to solve common, everyday mechanical problems and make existing tasks more productive.
Considered by many as the father of the modern earthmoving industry, R.G., as he was best known, enjoyed pushing the limits of design and believed there were 'no big jobs, only small machines!'
Opposed to the use of hydraulics, one of R.G.'s most daring, successful and expensive undertakings in 1950 was the earthmoving industry's first internal electric wheel motor, a technology considered 'mainstream' in mining today. Still, a defining feature of LeTourneau's loaders, the replacement of major mechanical components with electric generators and wheel motors powered by a conventional diesel engine permits a range of outcomes that their mechanical counterparts could only dream off. These dynamics include infinitely variable speed range, lower centre of gravity and tighter turning radiuses during loading cycles.
Never one for aesthetics, R.G.'s designs were practical and the sort you'd expect to see in science fiction books. Such was his philosophy to power, that if one or two big Detroit diesels were not enough, he would try adding three, four or more engines to make 'things' happen (Google 'Tactical Tree Crusher'!)
A religious man, R.G. and his wife Evelyn were dedicated philanthropists giving an estimated 90% of their fortune away as well as founding the Letourneau University. Albeit many transitions over its time, the LeTourneau marque remains. Now owned by Komatsu Mining Corp., the Company continues to be headquartered at its original plant in Longview, Texas where to this day their loaders are manufactured entirely from the ground up.
Enduring, the LeTourneau philosophies continue to stand the test of time and can be found in all modern earthmoving and mining machines,. Should you find yourself with some spare time this festive season, YouTube 'R.G. LeTourneau, Pioneer Recognition.', it's truly a fantastic story.
Wishing you all a joyous festive season with family and friends. May 2021 hold good luck, good fortune and good health for all.
This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the December 2020 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.Published 15 December, 2020