Truck History: Walter Trucks – Ultimate “Snow Fighters” With A Unique 4WD System Using DeDion Axles

I’ve always been particularly fascinated by all wheel drive trucks, as there were so many different solutions to the challenges involved, and how certain manufacturers developed a proprietary system and then developed and used it for many decades. Tatra and its backbone chassis and swing axles come to mind, as well as DAF’s innovative H-drive system.

Walter trucks arrived at another solution, one that was highly effective and made them particularly well suited for snow plow use and other specialized tasks. In Walter’s case, they used DeDion axles front and rear, including hub reduction gearing. This had several advantages.

Like a lot of early pioneers in the automotive sector, Swiss immigrant William Walter started with cars and racing cars, but a very crowded field pushed him into trucks, specifically ones using his system of shaft drive and all wheel drive, starting in 1909.

The key features are an engine mounted in front of the the front axle (a la Audi) with a transaxle that then drove the front wheels and a high central shaft to the rear axle. These then engaged in a large hub gear, enabling massive gear reduction, which also allowed the drive shafts to remain rather delicate looking, as they did not have to transmit the torque of a geared axle.

There were three locking differentials; one on each axle and one between front and rear axles. This of course gave absolute maximum traction.

This ad was targeted at tanker bodies. The set back front axle also improved weight distribution.

As can be seen in this shot, the slender rear axle, made of solid high strength steel, appears to be undriven, as the drive shafts are mounted high.

All of this amounted to truck perfectly suited for snow removal, with no need for dual rear tires as the front axle was so heavily loaded. This had a number of advantages, although some did use rear duals.

Walter was based in New York, and their trucks were especially common on the eastern states.

Walter snow blowers and plows were used on the New York Throughway. Power came from a wide variety of engines, as Walter was willing to use whatever was effective and offered them a good price.

This relic clearly has a GMC gas V12 engine.

Walter also scaled up its trucks for off-road mining and earth moving applications.

Walter Tractor Trucks.

In more recent years, Walter has specialized in certain limited production applications such as airport fire engines and such, similarly to the road taken by Oshkosh, its main competitor for many years. Walter was bought by the fire apparatus manufacturer KME in 1997.