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Caterpillar 30 is a family mainstay

Dave Barlogio’s touchstone of tradition is a Cat 30 that’s not very pretty to look at. For Barlogio, though, the crawler embodies the memory of his grandfather, Giacomo (James), and his wife, Angelica.

The Cat 30, the Paso Robles, California, farmer points out, has anchored this operation since the day it came off a dealership’s lot 88 years ago. “My father, Miles, had a 1918 Fordson before purchasing the Cat from the nearby Luke & Livingston dealership for $1,800,” Barlogio says. “It soon became the major workhorse for handling tillage chores such as disking, running the Wheatland disk plow with eight blades, and operating the Case grain threshing machine.”

The Caterpillar was the product of advanced engineering, combined with skilled manufacturing and the finest materials metallurgical science could select. Thousands of satisfying economical working hours were built into every machine. 

almost lost the tractor

“My favorite part of operating the tractor, which had good maneuverability, was the sound. I never wore ear plugs and can say to everyone that while riding on that seat, the noise was always loud and powerful,” he says. “As Dad grew older, he wanted to cut the 30 up for scrap because it was such a gas burner. I always insisted he just leave it alone. That’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”

A tried-and-true workhorse, the 30 hasn’t always been kind to Barlogio. “In 2012, I tried to time the ignition, but the tractor kicked back and broke my elbow,” he explains. “I quickly learned it’s best to crank with the left arm and not let other people start it.”

The tractor had wide-gauge tracks, 18-inch shoes, three forward speed gears, reverse, a hand clutch, and eight rollers that needed to be greased every eight hours. It burned 3 to 4 gallons of gas per hour. 

Prior to starting and turning on the gas, 2 teaspoons of fuel went into the primary cups. By turning the compression off, it cranked easily. The next step was to turn the crank three or four times, switch the compression on again, and use the cable to set the throttle to achieve the proper ignition.

other operating pointers

Barlogio offers other pointers for operating the tractor. 

Start with a light load for the first 60 hours. Move the throttle control lever to the idling position and disengage the flywheel clutch. Press the clutch control lever forward as far as it will go to apply the clutch brake and to stop the rotation of the upper transmission shift and the gears. Watch out for grinding if not fully engaged. 

Next, carefully move the gearshift lever into the speed desired. The sliding gears in the transmission are held in place by locking plungers that must be released by moving the gearshift lever sideways before any shift can be made.

After the gears mesh, pull the throttle control lever all the way back. Carefully engage the clutch until the slack is taken up between the tractor and the load, and then pull the control lever all the way back until it stays in the center. The tractor is steered by hand levers that operate the steering clutches and pedals that control the steering clutch brakes.

Barlogio says under no circumstances should the tracks be lubricated. The stiffness noted between the links of a new machine is not caused by a lack of clearance between the track pins and bushings, and it will disappear as the tracks begin to wear thin. 

One secret for top performance is to clean the spark plugs with a pocketknife every two weeks.

“Besides overhauling the 30 Cat and changing the magneto a couple of times, I’ve replaced the rings, ground the valves, and added new tracks,” he says. “In 1946, after 2,800 hours, I converted from gas to diesel and repainted everything in 1965 and 2004.” 

Now, Barlogio showcases his Cat’s working prowess each year by using it to cut wheat with a Caterpillar model 38 combine during a threshing bee held on his son’s farm near Paso Robles, California.

Dave Barlogio on his dad's Cat, AIA August 2015
Courtesy Dave Barlogio

A teenage Dave Barlogio (seated on the Cat) helps his father, Miles (on the combine), in the picture from 1947.

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