The Nodwell 110
Alberta muskegits deep, squishy and hard to travel through.
Especially if you are transporting a ten-tonne geophysical drilling rig,
which oil companies do, given the rich deposits of oil that often sit
under the undrained, boggy land in the province.
In the 1950s, Imperial Oil asked Bruce Nodwell, who had experience
building trailers, to solve this problem and construct a tracked vehicle
that could travel through muskeg. Nodwell agreed, and reluctantly built
two unsuccessful models based on the oil company's design. Nodwell decided
to design his own.
The success of Nodwells first tracked vehicle was unconvincing. He
sold over a dozen, but customers found the vehicle mechanically weak and
lacking in mobility. Nodwell reworked the design enough for Imperial Oil
to purchase 30. It was difficult to operate, however, and only the most
experienced operators could handle it.
Nodwell remained at the drawing board. Working on off-road vehicles, he
refined the track and suspension systems and developed a two-axle vehicle
named the Nodwell Scout, followed by a three-axle version, called the
Tracked Truck. Finally, he made an even larger version with four-axles.
This vehicle, the Nodwell 110, was named for its load capacity, able to
handle 11,000 pounds, or, about 5.5 imperial tonnes.
Available on the market in 1957, the first model Nodwell 110 featured a
combination of innovations that made the vehicle highly effective: a
flexible, 32-inch wide track that moved the vehicle forward and fitted
with high-strength steel bars that provided traction; a system of four
axles that were not powered on their own, creating front-wheel-drive
power; a load-bearing suspension and wheels, and an unique drive sprocket
that increased the vehicles power to move.
No part of the Nodwell 110 was ever patentedNodwell had neither the
time nor the money for the patenting process. The vehicle, nevertheless,
was used in difficult terrain and throughout the world. Key to the
widespread success of the invention was its flexibility. There were, in
fact, many versions of the 110 as they could be custom built, altered and
repaired according to an individual set of conditions.
Nodwell tracked vehicles were widely used by civilians and the
military. By the 1970s, they were exported from their manufacturing plant
in Calgary to Russia, South America, Iran and China. In recognition of his
achievement Bruce Nodwell received the Order of Canada and the Nodwell was
featured on a Canadian stamp.
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