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Farmer Inventor Creates Tractor Line

Walter Brockway came to building tractors in the tradition of other, more famous manufacturers like John Deere and Cyrus McCormick. With neither blueprints nor engineers, Brockway headed to his family’s barn after his father, Lewis, asked him to build a tractor for their farm. He emerged with a machine that became the envy of Chagrin Valley, Ohio.

the brockway is created

Soon, orders came pouring in, spurring the family to create a manufacturing firm around 1936. First known as the All American Tractor Company, the family changed that moniker to Brockway Tractor when it started mass-producing tractors in 1937. These early Brockways were simple in design and made extensive use of auto components. Power came from a 171-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine paired to a four-speed truck transmission both built by Chevrolet.

The popularity of the tractor grew. With that recognition came concerns from the Brockway Truck Company. It asked the Brockway family in 1939 to change the firm’s name. Thus was born the Leader Tractor Company and the Leader tractor in 1940.

Production of the Leader continued until the onset of World War II, when a shortage of supplies forced the family to cease production. By 1944, the family had permits to acquire steel and were back building Leaders. This time, the tractors were powered by 201-cubic-inch, six-cylinder Chrysler engines. This same year, the family flirted with a three-wheeled tractor, but only 12 such machines were built. Sales success spurred the creation of the model B in 1945. The Chrysler engine was replaced by a four-cylinder Hercules. The B’s transmission featured gears by Warner, housed in a case of the Brockways’ own design. The front of the tractor was formed with rounded sheet metal around a rectangular steel grille.

hostile takeover

In an effort to expand sales, the Brockways hired the Walter Schott Company to head up marketing and sales in 1946. Business expanded and with it came a new model, the D, in 1947. That tractor was essentially the same as the B but bore the label “Made in Auburn, Ohio” on its grille. The following year, the grille was reworded to read “Made in Chagrin Falls, Ohio” since Auburn lacked a post office.

During this time, the Brockways borrowed money from Walter Schott for a facility expansion. Schott, in a hostile takeover in 1948, called in the loan forcing the Brockways to sell their shares in Leader Tractor.

brockway returns

The company continued to make tractors in Cleveland, Ohio. Sales were poor, and by 1950, the Leader Tractor was liquidated. This did not herald the end of manufacturing for the feisty Brockway family, who set out to build a new tractor. These machines, sold under the Brockway name, were more refined than their predecessors. The model 49G employed a Continental F162 engine and offered a three-point hitch and hydraulics as standard equipment. The Brockways’ model 49D had a Continental GD 157 diesel.

Brockway Farm Tractor Company continued until 1959 when it ceased production. Their lithe ponies have attracted collectors who formed the Leader Tractor Club. For more club information, go to facebook.com/LeaderTractor or contact Henry Hahn at hehahn@onemain.com

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