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.
Minor correction: Walter was purchased by KME, not KMW.
Typo; fixed now. Thanks.
And KME is now closing their local plan to me: https://www.tnonline.com/20210911/kme-plant-to-close-in-april-2022/
Some of the designs… hard-earned gains to potentially increase ground clearance, negated by axle beams (or other components) actually lower than with conventional drive arrangements.
Aaargh! (pulls hair) lol
Don’t pull your hair too hard. Not much need for extra ground clearance behind a snow plow. They seem to have done just fine. And the pumpkins on big driven axles would have had no better ground clearance than these.
I’d agree, ifrunway at LaGuardia.
I’ll pass along the encouraging words if I ever meet a Walter driver waiting on a stump on a snow covered logging trail. lol
* if clearing the runway at
What is the advantage of butane as a motor fuel? How widespread was/is its use? Awesome-looking very clever trucks in any event.
Butane was something of a byproduct of oil refining, and thus cheaper than gasoline. It was easy to convert gas engines to butane, and lower fuel costs. Butane was more common in parts of the West, where there was more oil refining. Quite a few Hall-Scott engines were sold as butane burners.
Back then, gas and butane engines had considerably higher torque than the typically un-turbocharged diesels of the time.
Thanks, Paul. Love reading about them. I have been up close to them, too as some DPW’s that I have visited over the years has Walter Trucks.
The Queens, LI (Long Island) address on the fliers
is in NY City, not upstate.
That aside, having the Thruway contract meant they
likely supplied the rest of the state DOT and likely
many smaller agencies for a long time.
Fixed now. Thanks.
Walter moved its factory to Voorheesville NY in the late fifties. It is about 15 miles west of Albany. Around the time they were bought by KME the Albany PBS station broadcast a show about the building of a crash truck for the Albany airport. Unfortunately that video is no longer available, but other videos of Walters plowing are on YouTube.
The trucking company my dad worked for had a building moving division. They used Walther’s for the pulling power. I remember those beasts pulling a three story brick house thru the neighborhood, just roaring. Lots of massive timbers and steel beams all sitting on dollies.
We had Oshkosh’s for the tough snow removal jobs. Very expensive but very effective. Never had a snow drift stop an Oshkosh with a V-Plow.
From what I understand the main companies making plow trucks were Oshkosh and FWD in Wisconsin and Walter in New York. FWD still exists as Seagrave but they don’t make plow trucks anymore, from what I understand. So I guess it’s just Oshkosh and AWD versions of the mainline truck manufacturers. What are the favored trucks for plowing purposes in recent years?
Really any dump truck with the appropriate equipment. For an Interstate you might see a heavy tandem Mack, Western Star, or Navistar with a plow, one or two wings, maybe an underbody scraper, and a salt/sand spreader. In a city you might a see a Class 3-4-5 truck with just a plow and a spreader.
Regarding these larger size tires. Why is this size tire not more common on heavy duty road vehicles? I only ever see them on crane trucks or military vehicles. Are they a lot more expensive or have limited distribution channels?
You mean like on semi trucks? There’s no benefit and plenty of negatives: higher weight, greater rolling resistance, makes the vehicle taller (higher center of gravity), etc. plus significantly more expensive.
Truck tires are optimized for fuel efficiency, rolling resistance, weight, long life, etc. Bigger tires offer none of that. They’re only useful for special applications.
We still have this darling back in the corner just as she was when we parked her. It has the original Cummins Diesel engine. It is still a local legend.
My father came back from WWII a bit late in 1946. He went to work for the Town of Danby VT on the road crew. Danby bought two small Ford dual wheeled dump trucks. Both had four wheel drive conversion He described as “Walter”. Three yard dump bodies were tail heavy & were notorious for a load hanging up when they were dumped. The whole truck sat on rear wheels & tailgate. Going up was terrifying for the driver, coming down was violent!
Watch a show called Big Kenny’s Auto Garage on Circle TV channel. Show had interview of person who customized 3 Walter Trucks into Weird Show Trucks.
I wanted to know more about Walter Trucks and their manufacturing / history as I’am Machinist by Trade and Love unusual Trucks, Cars, Motorcycles, Etc.
Thank you for composing Information.
God Speed Your Travels, Sincerely Mr. Mark.
walter trucks were built by walter truck co. when i was a kid i drove a model feks it was a 1958 with low miles 24000 mi i havent seen anyone talk about their 6 speed foward 2 rev tranys. the 1952 had the same unit. both had right wings.the Wakesha engines were replaced with G Ms 671 and 6v71 allthrough the years i never saw them with winter tires or chains.as far as the smaller fords most of themwere hendricson conversions to fwd a few years later the PTC switched to howe colelman. they went faster but the walter snofighters were a lot better.mark b simiele wrote 2 good books about them 1.walter 100% tractoion and 2 walter classic retrospective.