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EXACTRIX GLOBAL SYSTEMS....                  

NOW, a Track-Type Hillside Spray Rig!


October 3rd, 1968
Article by Leland Cade

UNTIL PROVEN otherwise, we will call it the world's largest track-type, hillside farm spray rig - 24 feet long in the field, 165 feet booms, 40,000 pounds loaded weight.
   Swanson's Spray and Manufacturing Inc. of Palouse, Washington designed and constructed it for their own custom spray business.  It is what owner Morton Swanson calls a "high - volume track-type hillside sprayer" built for a specific purpose - to apply a high volume of liquid on  large acreages in hilly country in all kinds of weather.
   "We have had experience with big wheel spray rigs of our design and manufacture and they work well where soil conditions are suitable: says Chris Kammeyer who is   

Above: A front view of Swanson's  track-type hillside sprayer, too big, it's apparent, for the camera lens.  Note that the deck and level and that the tracks are vertical. Only the transmission tips with the level of the land.  The boom is in a total of six sections. Dual caster wheels are visible at the left.
Here is operator Chris Kommeyer at the controls of the big spray rig. Not shown, but in view of the operator are three indicators to show the operation of each of the three indicators to show the operation of each of the three by-pass valves.
manager of Swanson's chemical application business. "But the need has changed. New chemicals demand up to 20 gallons or more of water per acre and are suitable for use during five or six months a year and all through the winter. During quite a bit of that time the soil is too wet for wheel rigs, and the per-acre volume too great for airplanes - and that is why we built this track-type sprayer - to put on a lot of water under varying soil conditions on hilly land."
   Kammeyer continued, saying that "The narrow tracks, wide boom and hillside leveling allow us to accurately apply chemicals under the most adverse conditions with a very minimum of track damage to the crop. This saving alone can pay for an entire spray job from a framers standpoint."

This Sprayer is Complicated

One look at the machine shows that it took a lot of engineering.   "paper is a lot easier to tear up than steel so we spent a lot of time on the drawing board,"  Swanson said. "We had five men working on it for five months and have additional work to do on it yet including the addition of an air conditioned cab and hydraulic attachments on the booms to make them fold up and fold out from the drivers seat."     

The most obvious feature of the machine, besides it's tremendous size, is the fact that it levels sideways automatically, both the deck or body and tracks. The deck (22 feet x 8.5 feet) carries or supports all of the working parts - 1,600 gallon tank, 316 horsepower motor, air compressor, hydraulic pump, three chemical pumps, all of the controls and even a hydraulically operated hoist for lifting chemical barrels to the platform.
   Tracks are mounted on parallel bars and remain vertical at all times, similar to the wheels on a hillside combine. The single purpose of the complicated leveling mechanism is to maintain weight quality on each track, this eliminates the hazard of tipping over on steep hillsides, it maintains equal traction on each side, crop damage is minimized, steering is easier, and as Kammeyer says, "The leveling device makes the entire machine possible. Without it, the development  of such a machine for use in this country would be impractical."
   The track assemblies remain vertical at all times and the transmission remains parallel to the terrain. Each of two drive shafts between the transmission and final drives are connected with what he calls a "constant speed ball joint", similar to a universal joint but with balls.
   Because the tracks are so long (20 feet on the ground on each side) sharp turns are accomplished by hydraulically depressing the center section a total of eight inches. this puts the entire machine on a length of track equivalent to that on a Caterpillar D6, short enough for easy turning. Long turns can be made without depressing the center section. The transmission and tracks are Caterpillar parts,   the motor a Jimmy (GM) Diesel. 
   All controls are located at the driver's seat. Beside the usual Caterpillar control devices there are also pressure indicators for each of the six lengths of spray boom, visual indicators to show the operation of each by-pass valve, an indicator to show water level in the chemical tank, four of his own patented "Watchdog"  shaft speed indicators, air pressure indicator, valve controls for the boom and controls to depress the center section of track.

Also an Inventor

Besides being a farmer-manufacturer-custom operator, Swanson is also an inventor. He created the "Watchdog" originally so that a combine operator would be able to know when critical shafts were loosing speed. The use is adaptable to any shaft and either or both visual and audio signals can be incorporated with it. The device is practical not only on farm machines but on many other machines in the factory or industry. He is now manufacturing the device and is in the process of establishing outlets.

   Pressure regulation in such long booms on hillsides is very important as Swanson pointed out. "On hillsides, the pressure can vary as much as 30 pounds from the low boom to the high boom. To correct for the problem we have we have three 1.5 inch pumps each with it's own pressure regulator and by-pass. The right and left pressure regulators are linked by a chain drive to the leveling mechanism to automatically lower the pumping pressure (not nozzle) on the low boom and increase it on the high boom. A visual indicator at the drivers seat shows how each by-pass is operating. 

   Two men are required to operate the machine when spraying, one as a driver and the other as an out-rider to show the driver where the chemical line is in the grain. The spotter rides a motorcycle in front of the booms at the edge of the last round.
   "We have been using a spotter on a motor bike for about 15 years" Swanson said. "Our big wheel machines, which had 135 foot booms, also required spotters. We also have aluminum markers at the boom ends that we use some of the time."
   Additionally one or two nurse trucks and drivers are needed to keep a water supply on hand since the machine sprays water at the rate of 33 gallons per minute or 2,000 gallons per hour of operating time, when the rate of application is 20 gallons per acre. 

Machine Covers A Lot Of Ground

   The 165 foot boom rides on a total of six wheels plus the back end of the spray rig. It is thus mounted at five points, the back end of the spray rig, two dual caster wheels and two single caster wheels. The outer 16 foot section is hydraulically controlled for elevation to go over trees, banks, fences and bridges.
   Swanson said that "We didn't have time to complete the machine this spring before we put it to work. But when it complete the booms will fold and unfold hydraulically, there will be an air conditioned cab and a highway type tractor and trailer to move it around."
   Time is valuable in the operation of such a machine because as he puts it. "Spraying time is worth about $2.00 per minute so we can't afford to waste time when it is possible to work. We will be able to set-up or set-down in much less than five minutes."
   The large platform serves as a deck for hauling several barrels of chemical. barrels are loaded and placed by a hydraulic hoist. Special provisions were made at the loading station so that the operator can simply and accurately add the correct amount of chemical. The water level indicator in the big 1,600 gallon tank is located at the center of the tank so that the reading would be correct at all times even though on a hillside. Agitation is accomplished mechanically. 

Specifications of Swanson's high volume track-type hillside sprayer

Loaded weight

   Set-up for spraying
   Set-up for road travel
   Number of sections
Spraying speed
Spraying rate
Tank capacity
Chemical pumps
Boom pressure
40,000 pounds
20 linear feet on ground each side.
1 foot wide, 40 square feet on ground.
Level vertically automatically.

22 feet
56 feet

165 feet
33 gpm at 20 gallons per acre.
318 HP GM Diesel V8-71
Three 1.3 inch Hypro.
8.5' x 22' levels automatically.
Automatically adjusted to compensate for varying elevations on hillsides.
All air operated
Two stage Hanson
                  41 Years Later

Features added through 1985

  • 2,000 gallon stainless steel tank
  • 150 gallon stainless steel mixing tank
  • Cab
  • Gyro compass
  • Electronic flow monitor and control
  • Disc steering brakes
  • Airbag boom suspension
  • Lloyds loops
  • Automatic boom fold
  • Lowboy transport
  • Motorcycle outrider eliminated
Pictures taken Oct. 2007 New owner takes delivery


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