The Lindeman J. Deere Crawler

The Lindeman J. Deere Crawler

| August/September 1985

  • Norma Brady and Jesse Lindeman
    Norma Brady and Jesse Lindeman, taken at Yakima, Washington in the fall of 1984.

  • Norma Brady and Jesse Lindeman

1460 Colchester Drive East Port Orchard, Washington 98366

As the proud owners of two Lindeman-John Deere 'BO' crawlers, my wife, Norma, and I journeyed to Yakima, Washington to meet with the inventor/producer of the well known unique orchard tractor. We had done our homework before meeting Jesse Lindeman and knew that he was 85 years young, an Air Service veteran of World War I and co-founder/president of the Lindeman Power Equipment Company (founded September 1922, Yakima, Washington). When the sale of this Company to John Deere was finalized in January 1947, Jesse Lindeman entered the J.D. work force as chief engineer and later became involved in product development.

It didn't take long for two tractor enthusiasts to find a common ground; consequently the reminiscing flowed as fast as a mountain stream! At this point Jesse Lindeman concurred in my request to tape record the conversation. Here are some highlights that may interest other tractor collectors:

The idea of a John Deere tracked machine got its impetus from the Port-land, Oregon J. D. branch manager who needed a tractor to compete with Caterpillar. The Portland manager, a cousin of Colonel Wiman who was president of John Deere, said he could get one of the new four-wheeled orchard tractors, the BO model. It then took Jesse Lindeman nearly a year to complete the design, casting and production of a prototype. The first tractor was field tested on a local Yakima orchard... unfortunately this orchard had all level ground. The absence of hilly terrain very common to many western orchards allowed an initial design weakness to survive the field test program. When the first production units got their real test on hilly terrain, the problem surfaced in short order.

The first ten units produced used metal-to-metal clutch plates which operated in oil. As you know, the Lindeman-J. D. crawler uses steering levers which first release the clutch plates before engaging the brake band. Everything worked fine until two crawlers were sold to a McMinnville, Oregon orchardist who had all sidehill fields. The near-constant use of the uphill brake to maintain a contour line brought the major problem to the fore. Since the clutch housing held only two quarts of oil, the plates got hot, dry and shed steel particles. Ultimately the gap between the plates filled and the clutch wouldn't release. The Lindeman-J. D. crawler almost met its Waterloo then and there as later reports indicated that six of the ten crawlers were experiencing the same problem!

The clutch dilemma was solved within two weeks by using Chevrolet dry thermoid clutch plates rivetted on the existing steel plates, revising the clutch housing and the release system. As soon Jesse Lindeman finished a modification package, his younger brother, Joe, would do the refit at the farm site. Fortunately, the ten crawlers were only spread from Vancouver Island, B. C. to Oregon so overnight trips got the job done in a hurry with minimal loss of tractor time.


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