Drennan started learning machinery at age seven, running a Cat 245 with hammer from 1978 on, and a D4C.
There are few machine operators as dedicated to construction operations as Kevin Drennan. He still owns the first Tonka truck he ever played with. He has a tattoo of his favorite Caterpillar dozer down one arm. It is not easy naming Drennan’s favorite Cat as he is an expert on all of them going back a century.
Drennan, not yet 31, learned the trade through family who were in construction, the Army and served as firefighters. He started learning machinery at age seven, running a Cat 245 with hammer from 1978 on, and a D4C.
“I got into construction thanks to my grandmother who owns Brustin Realty in Massachusetts. There was large construction [then], so I was on site on my days off from school. I come from a long line of construction workers. My grandfather was in the military. He did a little bit of everything. My other grandfather was a firefighter, he ran machines for brush,” said Drennan.
His boyhood fascination with running models of Cats remains strong as the Walpole machine operator owns a fantastic collection of Cat miniatures and models, almost 400 strong, ranging in size from 1/16th to actual scale to 1/87th.
“I also have a Caterpillar tattoo down my arm from the 1920s, of a 436 Series 2 Cat backhoe.”
His Own YouTube Channel
Drennan, who runs dozers and excavators for a few Massachusetts companies, also is a longtime member of the New England Rockbusters, serving on its show board. Drennan just helped other Rockbusters organize a fantastic regional event in late summer in Plainfield, Conn.
Further, Drennan catalogued the event with hundreds of photos and videos. Sending the material to a relatively new Web site called bostonpowercat.com, where Drennan links site organizers in the United Kingdom with the lowdown, operation specs, history, development and fascination with the long, historic line of Caterpillars over the past century in America.
He also has a YouTube channel called catmack316 where Drennan has posted more than 150 videos of heavy iron festivals, projects, conventions and related visuals of extraordinary scope and presentation.
He does all this after overcoming a serious learning disability, which hampered his entry into the field and challenges him continually as technology changes. Yet, Drennan has kept up with every type of construction, demo and hazmat license and urges anyone entering the field to do the same thing if they want to excel or succeed in the contracting industry in permit-strict Massachusetts.
“Yes, it was very difficult, because I have a learning disorder, and ADHD. The company I work for, Tobar Construction, has a crew of eight doing many jobs. We do excavation, sewer and septic, paving, demo and more. The company has been around for more than 20 years,” he added. “It’s all a family company, father and son owners.”
“I also do stuff for myself with a friend. The best work I have done is demo. I obtained a lot of knowledge from a guy named Dave Philips of LRC Development Services, which is closed now due to his health. A great guy and my mentor,” he added.
“I have been in the trade for more than 20 years. I recommend anyone coming into this business, going for ownership of a small company, to get every license you can — 1a, 2b, hoisting licenses, hazmat, and fork lift licenses, because that’s a new law that just passed in Massachusetts to operate a quick coupler.
“Don’t stress out much. If it is in your blood, you are good. If not, it’s going to be hard,” he stressed to those who would enter this field.
Cats at the Rockbusters
The Northeast Rockbuster Chapter of the Historical Construction Equipment Association started in 1998. Drennan joined in 2009.
“We show off old equipment that built America, and went through the war. We teach people knowledge of them, or anything they ask. We appear at shows with machines on a trailer. We sell books, clothes and more,” said Drennan. “My vintage toy is a 43 Cat d4 cable dozer that was in World War II and appears on YouTube, Facebook, bostonpowercat.com, and other places. I have been restoring her for more than a year.
“I loved Cats my whole life. I ran them all. I know the history of Caterpillar. I also collect scale models. I have about 380 models and growing,” he added.
Drennan has learned the inner workings of dozens of machines, how to fix them, how to make them hum. He simply loves listening to the 345 Cat excavator with hammer banging away, feeling the vibrations, hearing the 972G Cat loader running beside him, loading trucks and keeping his “spot” clean.
“One time, I stayed late with owner Dave Philips to demo a few homes to make way for a Walgreen’s. That was a great job,” added Drennan.
The “heavy” friendships he has made across New England and even across the Pond to Wales in the U.K. through his love of Cats, has been nothing less than astonishing.
“My favorite Rockbuster guy is Paul Jenkins. He is a Lexington cop and a father figure to me. Another is the president, Kevin Maguire. There are too many to list. They are all awesome. They help me and I help them,” he said.
“The guy from the U.K. is also a good buddy. I have been doing this for the last several months for him. They want to know about Cats over there, too,” he said. “When I joined RockBusters in 2009, I had a 1957 Caterpillar D2. I fixed it up and ran it until the engine blew. The one I have now is a 1943 Caterpillar D4, a regular dozer. I found mine in Oakham, Massachusetts. I actually brought her to a show this year and premiered her, even though I was in the middle of a restore.”
In August, Drennan and his board set up an event for the N.E. Chapter of The Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA), a non-profit organization which is dedicated to historical preservation for public education regarding the history of construction, dredging and surface mining industries.
The organization has a dedicated museum which not only houses vintage machinery from the 1800s to the 1960s (some of which are extremely rare), but also is home to a massive library of literature, sales brochures and photographs all relating to the construction and mining industry and all available for research purposes.
The great thing about the HCEA is that they do not specialize in one era or type of equipment. They cover anything and everything related to construction, dredging and surface mining industries without prejudice.
The HCEA contains Chapters which serve to unite members locally, and are spread across the United States. Chapter members meet up on a regular basis, usually in a member’s home or shop. The Chapters have their own public construction shows where antique machinery of all types and sizes gather and can be seen “working” during the event.
The North East Rockbusters Chapter covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Drennan’s group recently held its annual show, which hosted an amazing array of antique machinery and was a great opportunity to see the machines digging, working and hauling in the display area.
The massive show took place over three days in Plainfield, Conn. Kevin put his construction skills to good use by preparing the actual show ground in the days before the show opened to the public. Drennan exhibited and documented the festival, along with his 1943 Military Caterpillar D4 bulldozer.
Old vs. New
An avid Instagram user, he posted great and varied content from the world of construction. Drennan is becoming a “must follow” in the world of social media and goes by the user name of “catmack316,” the same name of his large YouTube channel with its 150-plus video uploads covering all sorts of construction equipment and that massive scale model collection.
“What fascinates me is comparing the old technology to today,” said Drennan. “They looked awesome. They still run. I have got that ’43 still going strong. The operators are lazier today. The machines today have radio, AC. Those old machines never did.
“Your AC was the open air and the heat was from the motor. They had different hand cranks, brakes and all that fun stuff, so you have to work harder with those machines. You became a real man at that point. It separated the men from the boys,” said Drennan. “I have two motors on the ’43; a Pony, or pup, motor to start and engage the diesel motor. You have to kick that in to warm up the antifreeze on the dozer to help it start. The sounds are awesome. You can smell the diesel first thing in the morning when they fire up.
“I had to put a new Pony motor in, bang out dents, gave it a new paint job and sanded it, pretty much replacing everything as I go — new battery, new terminals, new lights,” added Drennan. “I was fascinated with machines since I was two. I still have my original Tonka truck. I do diarama models with my construction models. People call me a kid; they say it is ridiculous. But I don’t spend money on alcohol or drugs and it keeps me out of trouble and my wife fully supports it.
“I had a hard road. I have a learning disability and ADHD, so that took a lot out of me; that was a hard road in this field,” said Drennan. “But I help elderly people on the side of the road. I never charge them. I just do what I can.”
For more information, find Kevin Drennan on Facebook, YouTube or go to www.bostonpowercat.com.