12.01.2020: The Breuer tractor
Many of our visitors will have stopped in front of a very special contraption. Since it looks a bit shapeless, you can't see its purpose right away. All that is clear is that it runs on rails.
We have to admit that the vehicle has not even found attention on our homepage, and entirely without justification. Therefore we would like to introduce it to you here: the Breuer tractor
The vehicle is a shunting device for freight wagons. In the factories of that time, rail transport, including internal transport, played a much greater role than it does today. Goods, including fabricated and semi-finished products were frequently transported on freight wagons. However, as there was often no space between the angularly arranged factory buildings for turnouts and track curves with the radii customary on railways, small turntables were installed on the factory premises. These allowed freight wagons to be turned on the spot and moved to an adjoining loading track. The following picture shows such a turntable, although the illustration shows one installed not on industrial premises, but at those of our club colleagues in Gramzow.
Since these turntables were usually of a rather small diameter and thus offered just enough space for a single freight wagon, they first used human muscle power or horses to pull the freight wagons onto the turntables and later to haul them off again. As the weight of loaded freight wagons increased over time, in the 1920s the Breuer company developed machine-powered shunting aids, which on the one hand were sufficiently powerful to move freight wagons. On the other hand, they had to be compact enough to be accommodated on the turntables at the same time as a freight wagom. And this is how the unusual design of the vehicle came about.
In operation, the Breuer is driven with one side under the buffer beam of a freight wagon until the buffers of the wagon touch the black and red coupling beam of the tractor. Then the coupling hook of the wagon is connected to the coupling eye of the tractor so that the tractor can pull the wagon.
Between the wheels of the tractor you can see a jack that could be mechanically extended so far upwards that it would jam under the buffer beam of the freight wagon to be shunted. As a part of the weight of the freight wagon rested on the ram and thus on the running gear of the tractor, the adhesion weight of the tractor was increased. consequently, its driving wheels were less inclined to slip and as a result it was possible to move heavier loads and bring them safely to a stand.
The Breuer company designed such tractors in five different power classes. Ours belongs to class III, which had an engine output of 40 HP and weighs a good five tons. It was built in the early 1930s and initially had a petrol engine. After the war it was partially modernised and was fitted with an air-cooled four-cylinder, 40 HP, VW industrial engine, which is strongly reminiscent of the typical engine fitted to a VW Beetle.
Until 1994, our vehicle was in the Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg railway museum, which was unfortunately destroyed by arson. After that we took it over as a permanent loan and we would like to bring it back into working order. As far as we know, no other railway museum has such a vehicle in working order, so this would certainly be an interesting feature in our collection.
On Saturday, 11.10.2020, we removed the driver's cab of the tractor to get access to the drive. Engine, clutch, cardan shaft and transmission will be inspected and serviced in the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed that their condition will enable us to put it back into operation!