1949 Sherman Brochure picture showing the Wain-Roy Backhoe.
CEG takes a look back at this history of a true workhorse in the world of heavy equipment - the Backhoe Loader.
Early development of hydraulic systems for what would become the backhoe loader proceeded in parallel in the USA and the UK. The invention of the first backhoe swing frame was developed in July 1947 by Vaino J. Holopainen (pronounced “Waino”) and Roy E. Handy, Jr. (thus the company name “Wain-Roy”), and assigned to Wain-Roy Corporation of Hubbardston, Massachusetts, United States. In July 1948, patent # 2,698,697 was filed by Vaino J. Holopainen. The swing frame breakthrough allowed the hydraulic digging arm to swing to the side to dump the bucket. This patent also included the invention of the out-rigger bar, and high flow control. In April 1948 Wain-Roy Corporation sold the very first all hydraulic backhoe, mounted to a Ford Model 8N tractor, to the Connecticut Light and Power Company. Wain-Roy made 24 units in 1948. Wain-Roy also made them for Sherman Products of Royal Oak, Michigan, and Ford. Approximately 7000 Wain-Roy Backhoes were manufactured and sold between the fall of 1948 and early 1954, mainly through Ford dealers.
In the same year, 1948, JCB launched the first European hydraulic loader, and followed that in 1953 with a backhoe with a 180° slew, fitted to a tractor. Then in 1957, while Case produced the first “integrated” Tractor Loader Backhoe in the USA (whereby all the components were manufactured and warrantied by the same manufacturer), JCB introduced the first dedicated backhoe loader (whereby the loader and backhoe were permanently attached to the chassis, allowing them to be more robust, rather than being demountable accessories for an agricultural tractor). In 1965, they would follow this with the world’s first 360° excavator.
The patent for the first reversible seat was developed at Wain-Roy by Carroll Arnold and Vaino Holopainen and then filed by Vaino under patent # 2,784,768, and in June 1954, Vaino filed patent # 2,781,927 for individually controlled outriggers. John S. Pilch of Ware Machine Works, Ware, MA, developed the first 4-bar linkage to achieve greater bucket digging and dumping rotation. Pilch filed for patent #2,678,741 in September 1950. The 4-bar linkages were also used on the Wain-Roy backhoes after 1954.
The first hydraulic wheel loader was invented by Frank G. Hough in the mid-1940s under patents 2,782,946 and 2,726,778. The first Tractor Loader Backhoe was a Wain-Roy backhoe mounted to a Frank G. Hough model “HE” in 1952 in Holden, Msassachusetts, USA, for the Holden Water Department. The F.G. Hough Company was a subsidiary of the International Harvester Company. By early 1954, two Hough “Payloader” model wheel loaders, the HE and the HF, were available with Wain-Roy backhoes. In 1954 Wain-Roy Corporation got a deal with IH for the Hough TLB full-scale production on several other models of Hough loaders.
In 1960 Vaino Holopainen was introduced as “Mr. Backhoe” to Henry Ford II. Wain-Roy continued to produce them for Ford until 1963 when Ford made their own and Wain-Roy could not compete with such a large company after that. Wain-Roy Corporation bought the AC Anderson Company and then the company suffered.
In 1964 Elton B. Long of the J.I. Case Corporation filed a patent #3,249,244 for the first extendable boom. Patent #3,273,729 was filed in January 1965 by Vaino J. Holopainen for the first hydraulic thumb.
Although Wain-Roy Corporation no longer exists, the Wain Roy product line of backhoe attachments and couplers is still available through the Woods Equipment Company of Rockford, Illinois, USA.
Because of the long-time predominance of the JCB marque in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it has become a genericized trademark there, and all backhoe-equipped diggers are commonly called JCBs, while the term "backhoe" as an excavator component is almost unknown to the general public in this context. The founder of the JCB company, Joseph Cyril Bamford, holds the honour of being the only non-American in the U.S. construction industry’s hall of fame.
The American company Hy-Dynamic, a division of Bucyrus-Erie, introduced the second purpose-built American-made backhoe loader in 1959, the Dynahoe Model A. It offered a 14,000 lb. operating weight, 14-foot dig depth, and was powered by either a 65 hp Continental flat-head "Red Seal" 6-cylinder gasoline engine, or starting in 1961, a Detroit Diesel 353 diesel engine. The gasoline engine was phased out in 1964, with only diesel-powered units produced from that point on. The company marketed the Dynahoe as the only purpose-built backhoe-loader; previously all American backhoes were merely farm tractors fitted with front loader and rear backhoe attachments. The Dynahoe was built very robustly from the ground up with heavy excavation in mind. Production of the Dynahoe continued into the early 1990s culminating in the model Dynahoe 200-4, with a 36,000 lb. operating weight, 4-wheel drive, and a 20-foot dig depth. Production ceased with demand wavering in favor of more modern and versatile excavator type machines becoming more cost effective, and productive. Many of the original Dynahoe Model A’s are still in use to this day.
The first, and much more popular Case Corporation introduced their backhoes in 1957. The design of the Case backhoes, from the straight arm boom assembly, to the "Extendahoe" design, which can extend the dipper from four to eight feet longer, are all registered with the U.S. Patent Office, along with the chassis design. JCB also brought their range of backhoe loaders, tractors and other products, to the North American market in 1960.