Continuous track

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Continuous tracks or caterpillar tracks are a system of vehicle propulsion in which modular metal plates linked into a continuous band are driven by two or more wheels. The large surface area of the tracks distributes the weight of the vehicle better than steel or rubber tires on an equivalent vehicle, enabling a continuous tracked vehicle to traverse soft ground with less likelihood of becoming stuck due to sinking. The prominent treads of the metal plates are both hard-wearing and damage resistant, especially in comparison to rubber tires. The aggressive treads of the tracks provide good traction in soft surfaces but can damage paved surfaces. Special tracks that incorporate rubber pads can be installed for use on paved surfaces to prevent the damage that can be caused by all metal tracks.

Continuous tracks can be traced back as far as 1770 and today are commonly used on a variety of vehicles including bulldozers, excavators and tanks, but can be found on any vehicle used in an application that can benefit from the added traction, low ground pressure and durability inherent in continuous track propulsion systems.

Contents

History

Perhaps the oldest implementation of something resembling continuous tracks is to be found in theories of prehistoric erection of large stone monuments, when megaliths may have been slid atop rounded wooden logs. The logs were grooved near their ends to be held in alignment and rotation by belts out past the edge of the megalith and lubricated by some means, probably organic. The logs are carried from the back of the procession to the front in an endless chain, like continuous track. The system is a precursor to development of the axle, which keeps a rotating cylinder fixed relative to its cargo.

In modern times, continuous track propulsion systems can be traced back to a crude continuous track system designed in the 1770s by Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Polish mathematician and inventor Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński conceived of the idea in the 1830s.[1] The British polymath Sir George Cayley patented a continuous track, which he called a "universal railway" (The Mechanics' Magazine, 28 January 1826). In 1837, a Russian inventor Dmitry Zagryazhsky designed a "carriage with mobile tracks" which he patented the same year, but due to a lack of funds he was unable to build a working prototype, and his patent was voided in 1839. Steam powered tractors using a form of continuous track were reported in use with the Western Alliance during the Crimean War in the 1850s.[2] An "endless railway wheel" had been patented by the British engineer James Boydell 1846.[3]

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