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Caterpillar Diesel Engine No. 1

"Old Betsy"
This is the first American-made, mass-produced diesel engine that was developed, manufactured, and applied as power in a vehicle--the Caterpillar tractor. Known familiarly by Caterpillar employees as "Old Betsy," the engine remained with the company from 1930, when it was manufactured, to 1973, when it was donated to the Smithsonian. Old Betsy is a water-cooled, overhead-valve, four-cylinder model that developed more than 85 horsepower at 700 revolutions per minute. Because of the extremely high compression of the diesel engine, hand-crank starting was out of the question. Only another engine had the power to turn the engine fast enough to make it fire. To accomplish this, a small two-cylinder gasoline-powered starting engine was attached to the side of the larger unit. As soon as the diesel began to rotate and fire, the so-called pony engine was shut down.

Cast iron, steel, brass, zinc, rubber
Weight, 3,800 pounds
Serial # 1-A-14
Deutz, M-A-N, and Mercedes were building large numbers of high-speed diesels for tractor and truck propulsion in Germany in the late 1920s.
Web display only

Learn more!
· "Steaming into the Future" by Diotima Booraem, "Smithsonian" magazine, September 1998
· The Diesel Engine
· Caterpillar Tractor Company

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