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Essex Models and Miniatures archive
Category: Tracked vehicles
Back in the days before Matchbox Kingsize, everything larger than the 1-75 range was known as the Major packs, although not necessarily a larger scale like the Racing car Transporter, they were bigger in physical size.
The Matchbox Ruston-Bucyrus face shovel was one of these.
Barely more than 80mm long this was still relatively small, this was Major pack No4.
The Model it is based on is the 22-RB, a 28 ton unit and was released in 1959 and withdrawn in 1965.
The real vehicle
The Ruston-Bucyrus 22RB was a middle of the range unit and many are still in use today considering how old some of these machines are, is a testament to their build quaility.
The Match set up shows the 22Rb as a face shovel, with the bucket facing outward, but also heavily used as a drag line where the bucket is dragged by a cable towards the vehicle on a jib more like a crane.
Ruston-Bucyrus Ltd was an engineering company established in 1930 and jointly owned by Ruston and Hornsby based in Lincoln, England and Bucyrus-Erie based in Bucyrus, Ohio, the latter of which had operational control and into which the excavator manufacturing operation of Ruston and Hornsby was transferred.
In 1985 Ruston Bucyrus was bought by its management, severing all links with Bucyrus-Erie resulting in the formation of ‘R-B Lincoln’, which became R-B International, a subsidiary of Lincoln Industries. Production of existing Ruston-Bucyrus designed cable excavator/crane models from the 22RB to the 71RB continued at the Lincoln factory with ‘Improved Crane Dragline’ versions also offered. From 1985 onwards all new machines carried the ‘RB’ name instead of ‘Ruston-Bucyrus’ and in 1987 a new mechanical/hydraulic powered 51-60 model developed from the 38-RB was offered for use as a crane or dragline excavator. In 1990 RB bought from its rival Priestman, the design and manufacturing rights to Priestman’s Variable Counterbalance hydraulic/cable long reach excavator range and its extensive range of Grabs.
Having entered administration on the July 3, 2000 and following unsuccessful attempts to sell the company to Daniel E. Davis, former president of Favelle Favco. R-B International was sold to Langley Holdings plc as a going-concern on December 22, 2000 and a new company ‘RB Cranes Ltd‘ was created.
The Matchbox Snow Trac is one of those vehicles that I am only really familiar with through having a Matchbox version way back in the 70′s and actually until recently assumed it was quite a big machine used in the artic, but no, it’s no bigger than the average family car.
The Matchbox Snow Trac was released in 1966 and made 3 different versions of the Aktiv Fischer Snow Trac ST4. All were very similar in appearance, 2 of them used the same moulds. All of the Matchbox toys are modeled after the 2 large wheel Aktiv Snow Trac; this version has 2 large rubber tyres, one at the rear, and the third about 24″ aft of the drive sprocket. Lesney designated their toy No35 in the Matchbox series, all were supplies with white tracks although black tracks have been seen.
- Version 1 had the words SNOW TRAC embossed in the sides of the tractor
- Version 2 had no identification of the Snow Trac at all with smooth sides
- Version 3 had white decals reading SNOW TRAC on the smooth sides
Matchbox also produced a very limited run of cardboard puzzles featuring agricultural equipment and vehicles, one such puzzle featured the Snow Trac.
A few pictures set in real snow and the Matchbox model
The real vehicle
In 1954, Lars Larsson, the chief design engineer for a Swedish farm equipment company, AB Westeråsmaskiner, decided to develop a tracked vehicle to take him and his brother on fishing trips in the winter. The company put his snow vehicle into production in 1957. It uses a unique steering mechanism called a variator that allows the steering of a tracked vehicle to use a traditional automotive steering wheel instead of levers.
The Aktiv Fischer Snow Trac is a tracked vehicle, which was manufactured from 1957 to 1981 in Sweden. It runs on two rubber tracks powered by a Volkswagen flat 4 industrial boxer style engine and is suitable for both deep snow and soft surface use. The engine developed roughly 40 horsepower, but that varied from year to year as the earlier models developed 36hp, and later models developed 54hp. With a length of approximately 12′ (3.6 meters) and width of 6’2″ (1.9 meters) the vehicle is the size of a small car.
The Snow Trac is made up largely of off the shelf automotive and industrial parts supplied by Volkswagen including an air cooled flat 4 industrial version of VW Beetle engine, a VW Bus transmission, and hundreds of surplus parts including steering wheels, shift knobs, and lighting components. A proprietary drive variator was adapted to the transmission to allow the use of a steering wheel to control the tracks. The variator steplessly changes the speed of the left and right tracks, accelerating one track while slowing the other to affect a turn. Unlike traditional tracked vehicle steering, the brakes are not used to turn, increasing efficiency and reducing brake wear. Production of the air cooled VW engine ceased in 1981 in Europe and this effectively led to the demise of the Snow Trac, which ended factory production in Sweden.
In the standard cabin configuration, only the driver is facing forward. The interior is equipped with side-facing bench seats and there are enough seats for 7 people (including the driver). The entrance is by a door attached at the tail. There are no other entrances, but many are equipped with a large sunroof, which could double as an emergency exit. Unlike most other snow vehicles, the Snow Trac uses a traditional steering wheel instead of levers. Early brochures describe it as follows: As easy to drive as a car.
While manufactured in Sweden, the Snow Trac proved to be a successful export and approximately 550 Snow Tracs were shipped to Alaska. At least 200 units were shipped to Canadian telephone utility Northwest Telephone in the Yukon Territory, Canada. Approximately 200 Snow Tracs ended up at the Canadian National Railway, and Snow Tracs were also located at each of the microwave sites along the length of the ALCAN (Alaska Canadian Highway). At least 400 more Snow Tracs were known to have been shipped to the Lower 48 states of the United States. At least 200 were known to have been shipped to Scotland.