Getloaded might be chock full of trucks made for hauling – everything from reefers, vans, and flatbeds to cargo vans, lowboys, hopper bottoms – but do you know who’s credited with building the first semi-truck?
Alexander Winton emigrated from Scotland to New York City in 1878, where the 19-year-old worked as a steamship engineer. After that, he moved to Cleveland just as the bicycle craze was sweeping the country.
Businessmen were giving up horse-drawn carriages for bicycles, which didn't have to be fed, watered, or stabled, and Winton and his brother-in-law opened The Winton Bicycle Company in 1891. Meantime, he began designing engines for new-fangled horseless carriages.
In another leap of faith, he started building and selling cars in 1896, turning out a total of 22 that year at the Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland. But the company hit a snag: Those motor carriages were sold to people living all across America, and there was no delivery system for them, other than driving each machine to its new owner. This put a huge amount of wear and tear on the cars even before the owner could get behind the wheel.
In 1898, Winton invented the semi-truck to deliver his motor carriages, calling the new invention an “automobile hauler.” He placed each brand-new Winton on a two-wheeled cart pulled by a specially modified automobile, with its engine in the rear. The cart held one motor carriage, pushed onto the cart and secured to the platform. The loaded cart was then attached to the trunk of the pulling car, a primitive RGN. Only a year later, Winton was making semi-trucks to haul his own autos and selling them to other manufacturers in Cleveland.
Until 1908, Cleveland was the center of automobile manufacturing for the United States. Winton realized autos could be made to a pattern rather than individually hand-built, and he also invented the nation's first diesel engine. He drove the first “reliability test” vehicle from Cleveland to New York City in 1898. The 800-mile trip took more than 78 hours.
He was surprised when his entry into New York was completely ignored, and Winton and his car took the train back to Cleveland. The next year, he did it again and brought along a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Along the way, reporter Charles Shanks filed his stories for the newspaper (which was sponsoring the trip), showing "the feasibility of this mode of locomotion" and popularizing the term “automobile.” People all across the country followed the "road trip," and about a million people greeted Winton and Shanks when they finally got to New York.
The age of the automobile and the truck had officially begun, as Winton's next invention that same year was the first mail truck in the United States. He would eventually hold more than a hundred patents, and he shared his plans for a steering wheel with Henry Ford in 1901. Winton died in 1932, the day after his 72nd birthday, in Cleveland.
Photo from www.delphos-ohio.com