Think Tesla was the first to build a heavy-duty electric truck? The Commercial Truck Company beat them by over a century. From the seller’s description:
1912 Commercial Truck Company Model A 10 Standard, Originally purchased by the Curtis Publishing Company, this 1912 C-T Electric Truck was manufactured by the Commercial Truck (C-T) Company of America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1907-1928). It is a 5-ton, Four Wheel Drive, Model A 10. Standard; complete and in original condition (unrestored). This truck (#4) was used almost daily by the Curtis Publishing Co. from 1912 to 1964 (+50 years).
The 105-year-old battery-powered electric truck is driven by four (4) 85-Volt, 100-amp GE electric motors, one at each wheel; each producing 16 horsepower (Total: 64 HP). When new, the truck operated for 22 hours on a single charge, and could be recharged in as little as 2 hours using rebuildable batteries (not included in this sale) or the “Edison” battery (also rebuildable). However, some owners/operators preferred to maintain a fully-charged set of interchangeable batteries to further extend service hours.
The battery compartment consists of nine battery trays. Each of the original-equipment lead-acid batteries measured 8″ wide by 14″ tall by 60″ long, and weighed approximately 500 pounds; producing 10 Volts. Five (5) modern-day 12-Volt batteries may be substituted for each of the original 5-foot-long units (total: 45) which together produced 90 Volts, and the vehicle may easily be moved using only one, two or three modern 12-volt batteries.
In August, 2012, the Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, purchased the first 10 of a what would eventually become a fleet of 22 C-T electric trucks, and this is number Four (#4) from that initial purchase of Model A 10 Standards (referring to a “standard”132″ wheelbase). Two of the C-T electric trucks (#14 and #15) were used to haul coal from the railway yard to the printing plant. Twenty C-Ts were used from 1912 to 1962 to haul rolls of paper from the railway station to the printing plant, then they loaded with up to 10 tons (!) of periodicals for delivery to the Post Office and silent, overnight delivery to newsstands located throughout the City: Lady’s Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Jack and Jill, Holiday, The Country Gentleman, and The American Home.
By daily use of interchangeable batteries, the Curtis Publishing Company kept these trucks in continuous operation from 1912 to 1964. Once the batteries were completely depleted (approximately 10 years), they were then rebuilt versus replaced; further extending their useful life. During their 50 years in service, the batteries were rebuilt several times, and the trucks were only twice held for repairs for more than two hours when needed. Obviously, these are extremely durable and reliable vehicles.
Curtis developed an efficient three-point relay system to make the most of their electric truck fleet. It took a very long time to manually load and unload 10 tons of cargo, so a single driver would haul outgoing magazines from the printing plant to the post office and pick up an empty truck waiting there, then drive that truck to the railway depot and leave it for loading; picking up a third truck already loaded with 8.8 tons (!) of paper rolls for delivery to the printing plant. Meanwhile, six other drivers performed the very same routine during the normal ten-hour workday and seven-day work week.
During rush periods, the trucks and drivers worked for twelve to fourteen hours per day. In extreme cases, one truck would shift drivers and batteries every six hours, operating 48 consecutive hours; hauling as much as 661 tons in a single day. Try doing that with a team of horses pulling a fleet of wagons!
Originally produced as an open-air commercial vehicle with folding canvas top, Charlie Wacker (Philadelphia, PA truck designer and manufacturer) designed and installed the modern cab that was fitted to 20 C-Ts of the Curtis fleet. His grandfather started a bodyworks near Philadelphia well over 100 years prior, and Charlie Wacker worked in the industry his entire life. Like the balance of the vehicle, only clear, thick, Red Oak was used in the construction – – painted (green), never varnished or otherwise sealed. C-T #4 is still wearing a (thin) coat of that original green paint!
As a distinctive C-T brand feature, both the steering wheel and throttle control (for forward and reverse speeds) are combined into a single vertical shaft. The larger, top wheel steers the vehicle. The lower, smaller wheel controls speed and direction of travel. Turning the small wheel clockwise accelerated forward. Turning it counterclockwise accelerated in reverse. One foot pedal operated the mechanical rear brake (see photos), but ‘reverse’ could also be used to help slow and stop the vehicle.
The heavy-duty truck bed is made from two sections (3′-9″” x 16′-3″) 1/4″ steel plate on 2″-thick red oak, secured by well over 500 7/16″ bolts. It shows almost no signs of wear whatsoever.
Although pneumatic tires were available on some models, the solid rubber tires on this C-T truck measure 36″ x 3″ (front) and 36″ x 4″ (rear). Fully laden, this vehicle weighs in at 35,700 pounds; hence, the solid rubber tires (and extra, restorable wheel and tire is included in this sale).
The top speed of the Model A 10 was 12 mph empty, 8 mph fully laden. Although “officially” rated at 5 tons, these trucks regularly carried more than twice that load. This Model A 10 Standard flat bed electric truck, 4×4, cab forward, (4) General Electric motors (G.E. Model 36-A-102), has a curb weight of 15,700 lbs. This is one of the very first (#4 of 22) C-T Trucks used by the Curtis Publishing Company, and remains complete and in near-original condition (paint, signage, wheels, etc.).
Winfield, West Virginia
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