Frank Raczon and Keith Haddock’s beautifully produced 224-page hard-back book, Caterpillar Modern Earthmoving Marvels, charts the development of some of the most widely used and successful construction machines in the world. Although it focuses on the machines, the book also provides a historic perspective on Caterpillar the company, in the sense that it highlights how the corporation has developed over the decades with the addition of new machines to its range.
After the foreword by Caterpillar chairman & CEO, Doug Oberhelman, there are no surprises that the book dives straight in with dozers, the machines developed by Caterpillar’s fore-runner companies , Holt Manufacturing and Best Manufacturing, at the turn of the century. Subsequent models under the Caterpillar brand included the ‘Sixty’ in the inter-war period, and the section rounds out with modern behemoths like the D11T and ground-breaking diesel/electric D7E.
The following chapters on different machine types follow this pattern and it makes for a refreshing approach to the subject. This is not a history book as such, although there are plenty of old black & white photos and decades-old adverts to raise a smile. Raczon presents where the technology of Caterpillar’s earthmoving equipment is today, including of mould-breaking machines like the D7E and 336E H hybrid excavator, explaining how they are designed to work and be used, and what the latest on-board systems and controls are.
There is certainly a focus on the ‘big boys’ toys’ end of the Caterpillar range, with about three quarters of the book dedicated to bigger machines like dozers, scrapers, loaders, excavators and trucks. But there is also space for chapters on backhoe loaders, skid-steer and compact tracked loaders. Again these are approached from a historical perspective, discussing how early models have developed into the modern machines of today.
It has to be said that Caterpillar Modern Earthmoving Marvels is an exquisitely and thoughtfully produced book on heavy gloss paper, with large photos on almost every page and the text presented in a big-ish and read-able font. The historical photos are certainly the most charming, and in it would have been nicer to see a few more of them. But this is perhaps not the point of the book, which seeks to present the machines of today with reference to their predecessors, rather than being a history book.