International Harvester in the early 1950s was innovative and unafraid to market new things. One of those things was called Electrall and it debuted for 1954 in the form of a tractor-mounted generator kit that cranked out 10 kW 3-phase 120/208 volts. “Yes, but why?” you may ask.
Even in the early 1950s, the electrIfication of rural farming areas was not complete, nor was it particularly reliable in many places. As a result, many farmers had standby generators. They weren’t there just to keep the house lights on and the wife’s fridge going, either. This was back in the days when many farmers did it all. A few dairy cows, steers, hogs, sheep, chickens, plus crops. Farmers with a small dairy had electric milking machines and refrigerated milk tanks and anyone who knows the dairy biz knows a power outage can run your day… and old Bessie’s.
On top of that, International Harvester (IH) had some ideas about the way implements should run. Shaft-driven PTO implements were just getting a foothold in the tractor market and only the newer tractors had them. At that time, most implements like hay balers and pullbehind combines were self-powered using small gasoline engines. In the case of the baler, the engine ran the baling machinery and the tractor towed the baler and hay wagon. IH contended self-powered implements were more efficiently powered by an electric motor fed juice by a tractor-mounted generator. It could probably have also been argued that an electrically driven implement offered a more precise, constant speed, less mechanical complexity, better efficiency and more safety over a PTO-powered unit. IH offered kits that could attach Electrall directly to many of their newer tractors.
Unfortunately, the idea failed miserably. In typically quirky fashion, IH had shot holes in their own idea by introducing the Electrall just as they were introducing live PTOs in their tractors and live PTO was to become the farmer’s best friend. So, IH adapted and began to offer PTO-driven generators mounted on a trailer or on a Fast Hitch-mounted skid. By then, the electric implement idea had gone completely by the wayside but IH still had a crapload of generators left to sell. This idea brought more acceptance and IH soon upped the PTO generator rating to 12.5 KW.
The nal variant of the Electrall debuted in 1956 for the S-Line light trucks. It was the same 12.5 KW unit then offered for the tractors but it was mounted in the bed of a truck and driven by a transmission PTO. It could be installed on a new truck or retrofitted to an older one. The truck units were potentially useful in a commercial or agricultural environment but they didn’t generate any hoopla and were quietly discontinued early in 1957. The various tractor units were discontinued not long after and today they are very rare and seldom seen, even by IH enthusiasts.
At the 2017 Red Power Roundup in Des Moines, Iowa, Electrall collector Don Olson answered the tractor enthusiast’s quest for knowledge with an Electrall display. He had his own ’54 M-TA diesel there with an operational Electrall and an electric Model 55 baler. New to his collection was an operational truck unit on a ’54 R-110 pickup. He was joined by Mike Wiegmann with his Electrall-equipped ’54 W6TA diesel with a trailer-mounted Electrall behind it. When enough interested people were present, the two red everything up to demonstrate the equipment. These units are so rare that it took Olson 20 years to put the collection together, and he may be the most knowledgeable person in the IH collector community on this super-rare option. DW