Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crystal Park Fresno Scraper

This piece of equipment is a Fresno Scraper.  It was used to build the roads in the Park in the early days.  It sat, half-buried in the ground, near the Office for many years before the Historical Committee researched it and decided to restore and display it at the Clubhouse.  The cost of the restoration was paid for by a donation from a Park member.  Below is information on the history of Fresno Scrapers and photos of them in operation.

      A 25-year-old Scot named James Porteous asked a ticket agent for passage to America in 1873. "Where do you want to go?" asked the agent. "I have no idea," replied Porteous. "This family here just bought a ticket to Santa Barbara," said the agent. "Why don't you travel with them?" So Porteous did.

·        That may be anecdote, but it does help us understand Porteous. By 1877 he was selling wagons in Fresno, California. By 1880 he was an American citizen who had been woven into Fresno Valley farm life. Valley agriculture depended upon irrigation. That meant canal digging. Fresno farmers badly needed better earth-moving equipment for their sandy soil. Farmers experimented with horse-drawn earth-mover designs. The problem was harder to solve than it seemed.

·        Yet Porteous solved it. His series of patents reveal a subtle thread of real inventive genius. Fresno farmers had been using something called a buck scraper to move earth. It scraped up dirt and pushed it along in front. It was hard to pull and hard to unload.

·        Porteus' C-shaped scraper had a blade along the bottom. It scooped dirt as it was pulled along. That much was like the buck scraper, but this machine rode on runners and could be tilted. An operator walking behind it could change the angle. When it was full, he tilted it back and let it glide on the runners. He could dump dirt as he passed over low spots and smooth out terrain. He could vary the angle of attack to match the soil.

Porteous called it the "Fresno Scraper," and he formed the Fresno Agricultural Works to build it. It was soon being used all over the world. It was one of the most important agricultural and civil engineering machines ever made. Fresno Scrapers served the US army in WW-I. The two-horse model retailed for $28, yet today's bulldozer blades are its direct offspring. The gigantic scraper-carryall earth mover is its grandchild.
 By John H. Lienhard (University of Houston)