Trackmobile Through Time

Our History

Trackmobile began as an in-plant project at Whiting Corporation, Harvey, Illinois. In 1947 a young ex Navy fighter pilot and engineer named Marshall Hartelius was assigned to modify an old industrial locomotive Whiting had used for years inside their plant. Their locomotive was constantly being trapped on dead-end tracks, losing hours of productivity. Hartelius was charged to find a way to move it by road to avoid bottlenecks to railcar movements. He first designed a road wheel system to mount on the locomotive, but found it was cumbersome and complicated. Furthermore, in spite of the added utility of road-to-rail capability, the locomotive consumed a lot of fuel and oil and required constant repair. Marshall scrapped his first design and in its place submitted to his boss a concept for a vehicle specifically designed for in-plant rail movement. It had hard rubber tires to move by road and flanged steel wheels to work on rail.

The central problem was how to design a machine that was light enough for road movement and yet heavy enough to start and stop railcars. Hartelius' solution to this engineering dilemma: borrow weight from coupled railcars to increase the vehicle weight for traction. He designed a coupler head that could be operated from the driver's seat, and that would raise hydraulically to lift the railcar, transferring up to 49,000 lbs (22,680 kg) to the wheels of the vehicle.

A prototype was built in 1948, and designated the "Mule." It went to work in the Whiting plant and was an immediate success: railcar movement was accomplished in a fraction of the time the locomotive had required. It consumed little fuel, required little maintenance, and dramatically lowered operating costs compared to the locomotive. Hartelius had solved a difficult railcar switching problem for his company.

One day in 1950 Marshall wondered if other companies might be interested in a Mule.

He put one on a trailer and took it around the country, demonstrating the advantages of a mobile railcar mover.

Since that day, more than 10,000 Trackmobile units have been put into service in 54 countries.

We think Marshall Hartelius had a good idea.

By 1980 Trackmobile had outgrown the Whiting plant in Harvey and moved to LaGrange, Georgia as a separate division. In 1987 The Marmon Group of Chicago acquired Trackmobile® LLC and merged it with their Switchmaster product line. Today Trackmobile is a company within the Marmon Transportation Services Division.

Space Exploration

Trackmobile® LLC continued its role in the Lockheed Martin space program rolling out the Atlas V rocket for its successful May 13, 2003 launch from Cape Canaveral, FL. This was the 65th successful Atlas launch for Lockheed Martin, and the second successful Atlas V boost using two Trackmobile model 4850TM mobile railcar movers to move the rocket to Launch Complex 41. The highly professional operators of Lockheed Martin, now confident of the capabilities of their traction equipment, rolled the Atlas V out of the Vertical Integration Facility at 8:10 am on May 12 for the trip to the launch pad. Lift off occurred at 6:10 pm EDT the next day, launching the Hellas-Sat Astrium Eurostar 2000 telecommunications satellite into a perfect transfer orbit. This is the first satellite for Greece and Cyprus, and will provide voice, video, data and broadcast services over Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

Trackmobile® LLC of LaGrange, Georgia, joined aerospace giants Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell, SAAB, and GenCorp Aerojet teaming with Lockheed Martin Space System's Atlas V launch on August 21 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two of the company's 4850TM mobile railcar movers were selected by Lockheed Martin as part of a 7-year program culminating in the August launch. The 4850TM units were chosen to roll the 737,500 pound, 191 foot tall rocket from the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to Launch Complex 41, which was constructed in 1963 for the Titan IIIC program, and from which NASA's Viking Mars landers and Voyager space missions were launched.

Lockheed Martin engineers responsible for the design of the mobile launch platform and rolling it to the launch pad considered competitive railcar movers. After extensive analyses and tests, they chose the Trackmobile model 4850TM because of its steel wheel design and availability of Trackmobile's exclusive Max-Tran® weight transfer management and Max-Trac wheel slip control systems. Using these microprocessor-based systems, operator teams were able to precisely synchronize and optimize power delivery and traction.

The 4850TM Trackmobile units, weighing 50,000 lbs each, pushed the Atlas V poised on its Mobile Launch Platform along two parallel railroad tracks. In addition to the launch vehicle and platform, the 4850TMs transported launch support equipment: on the west tracks, a generator and environmentally controlled systems (ECS) vans totaling 1,230 tons; on the east tracks, a payload support van (PVan), a ground, command, control and communication van (GC3 Van), and ECS vans totaling 1,700 tons. The platform and launch equipment trains had to be transported 1,800 feet to the launch complex. The Trackmobile units had previously made two practice runs before the actual launch.

The rocket boosted Eutelsat's Hot Bird™ 6 satellite into orbit, which will provide home satellite television services for Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. The launch lifted off on schedule at 6:05 pm EDT on Wednesday, August 21. Air Force officials stated that this is the first all-new unmanned rocket to launch from the Cape in at least 30 years. Within 32 minutes after liftoff, the launch vehicle had placed the Hot Bird™ into orbit.

Gary Skinner, Trackmobile Sales Specialist for distributor Briggs Equipment Company of Houston TX, and Fred Lee, Regional Vice President, Trackmobile® LLC worked with Lockheed Martin engineers during the planning, acquisition and testing stages, and provided on-site training for personnel at Cape Canaveral. Virgil Cobb, Sales Representative for Andress Engineering Associates, the Trackmobile distributor for Florida, will continue to support Lockheed Martin in future launches.

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