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Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer
Westfall Performer

Featured here is a Westfall Performer. A skid steer before skid steers had been invented. It was purchased new in 1956 by Kondor Lumber Co. of York, PA, and was still in service in 2001 when these photos were taken. Westfall marketed the concept of skid steer long before the idea was popularized. They made some skid steer farm tractors in the early 1950's of which I've seen a couple, and they took a shot at the logging market with a giant skid steer. This writer can only claim to know for sure that two of the large machines were built. There is the Kondor example shown here and in about 1965, this writer saw a companion model on a dealer lot in Portland, Oregon.

Like today's skid steers, the power train goes back to a 3rd member and has an air clutch and air brake for each side. There is no differential. The Front wheels are driven via a roller chain in a chain box. Unlike the skid steers of today it also has a little bit of conventional steering. The front wheels have a joint outside the chain box which allows a little steering. The Portland version which I saw had a Cummins C series turbocharged engine (the 1950's variety) in it (likely around 160 horsepower). The Portland model had a front end (or should I call it a rear end) loader on the back with log forks on it. It also had a hydraulic winch and a fairlead in the loader mast so it was both a skidder and a loader. The version that you see here was powered with a classic Cummins NHBI which we know and love as the classic industrial version of the Cummins 220. Behind the engine was a 5 speed manual transmission and behind that was a 2 speed transfer case. The factory winch was a gear driven 80,000 lb model. Kondor added the second winch (note line off to the side of the arch)

Westfall has long ago vanished, but their ideas live on. Skid steers are not popular -- though much smaller Somehow it seems that the people who have the bright ideas aren't the ones that cash in. Although the good folks in York are still using their machine happily 45 years after they bought it, the name has always, perhaps unfairly, be known to me as an example of engineering run amuck. But then I think these little Bobcats running around are just another product that someone designed without a way to steer them.

The folks from Kondor Lumber have used this machine for 'heavy dragging' and it no doubt serves them well. We evaluated it for use on steep slopes and rough terrain, and our thinking was that on wet hillsides it didn't have a chance.

Many thanks to Kondor Lumber Co. Inc. for providing these photos of a truely innovative machine. No one knows what works and what doesn't until somebody builds in and tries it.

Later: 5/17/2004 9:30:16 PM

Since this page was written a few years ago several things have developed. Sadly not long after I got these photos from Kondor Lumber, I was advised that the shop in which the machine was parked burned and the machine lives no more.

On a happier note, I have also had a number of emails from Paul Westfall, who was the inventor and original owner of the company that made these. He is quite proud of his engineering achievement, and perhaps with some justification. As with many startup companies long on creative ideas and short on capital, the company failed before there was a Westfall in every landing in America, but given that now every equipment company that is anyone even including Caterpillar is marketing a 'skid steer', maybe we are just looking at an engineering idea that was 40 years ahead of its time.

Oddly his company did go to a company with money (Paccar) when he ran out of money, and they did sell a some equipment of his design under the Kenworth name, but for whatever reason it quickly disappeared.

You will find a picture of a Kenworth log skidder here

UPDATE: 4/7/16

Sometimes I get exciting things in the email. What I got this time is is a batch of photos of a restored Westfall sent to me by the Westfall family. These things are amazingly still around after 60 years.
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