by Keith Haddock
Before the advent of hydraulic excavators, cable-operated backhoes, shovels and draglines could be seen on almost every construction job, and one of the most popular brand names was Northwest.
With its manufacturing plant at Green Bay, Wis. Northwest Engineering Company built its first excavator in 1921. With the steam shovel era rapidly coming to a close, Northwest joined a host of other companies in the 1920s that introduced contractor-sized diesel- or gasoline-powered universal excavators to the construction world.
By 1927, Northwest was the second largest manufacturer of excavators in terms of sales volume. Overdesigned by today’s standards, Northwests gained a reputation of being tough machines, able to di anything short of solid rock. Annual production numbers increased until 1955 when over 1,000 cable excavators left the Green Bay factory in that year.
The Northwest Model 25-D was a standard 3/4-yard cable excavator and could operate as a shovel, pull shovel (backhoe), dragline, clamshell or crane by changing the front-end attachments. As a shovel, the 25-D carried an 18-foot-2-inch=long boom, 15-foot-4-inch handle and weighed approximately 23 tons. The pull shovel could dig down over 17 feet and, rigged with a 35-foot crane boom, the 25-D could lift 18 tons at 10 feet radius. The 25-D was introduced in 1958 as a replacement of the similar-sized Moded 25 that first appeared in 1937. It stayed in production until 1974, by which time 1,580 had left the Green Bay factory.
As Northwest reached its peak production year in the mid-1950s, the machine that caused the eventual demise of the company was being born. Hydraulic excavators, pioneered in the 1950s, proved so popular that today they have eclipsed all but the very largest cable-operated excavators found in surface mining operations.
SpecCast produced 1,500 of these 1/50 scale models in 2009 for the National Toy Truck 'N Construction Show held in Indianapolis, Ind.
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