Evolution of the Pulling Sled
In 1969, stone boats and pace tractors were used to control the speed of a pulling vehicle which were usually a stock farm tractor. At that time, Orville Hawthorne, owned a stone boat that was the main sled used in area events. Orville was the father of Larry and Steve Hawthorne, also known as the Hawthorne brothers. They pulled with the WTPA super stock tractors in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As tractors started moving faster, people were getting hurt trying to jump onto the stone boats. That’s when mechanical pulling sleds were developed to handle the increase in speed and shifting weight needed to stop pulling tractors. Lloyd was just the guy to create the first sled. Lloyd had several patents in his name already for innovations in farm equipment. One of his first patents was for an extension to the power takeoff so that a hay crimper could be pulled behind the mower when getting a hay field ready to be baled. At that time, it took two trips around the field to get a field ready to be baled. The first trip was to cut the hay and the second trip was to crimp it. The power takeoff extension made it possible to pull both pieces of equipment at the same time which cut the preparation time in half. Another patent that Lloyd had was for a hay bale kicker. The only hay bale kicker that was on a Ford baler was built by Luedtke Manufacturing. Lloyd’s first “shop” was actually a couple of small sheds at his home. There were 4 to 5 workers in Lloyd’s shop who produced the parts for the kicker. When it was time to assemble the kicker, Lloyd would have about a dozen guys come over and work for a few days to assemble them until completed.
Lloyd built his first mechanical sled in 1969 and as a result filed for several more patents. The original sled had a pan in a different shape than what we see today. Tractors didn’t travel very fast and there wasn’t a problem with dirt piling up in front of the original pan at first. As tractors started going faster, dirt piling up in front of the pan became a problem. The pan was rebuilt with a different front so that the dirt would slide under the pan instead of building up in front of it. In May 1970, Lloyd got a few of his pulling friends, James Skaar and Frank DeVries, to come over with their tractors to try out the first sled. Two weeks later, this sled was taken over to Angel Park Speedway in Sun Prairie. Between racing heats, the sled and tractors gave a demonstration of tractor pulling and an early look at what tractor pulling would become. Angel Park Speedway was the site of several WTPA pulls in later years with the help of Kenny Mack as promoter. Jim recalls that the original sled was used at a few places around Allenton area that first year.
Lloyd built his second pulling sled in 1974. This model had improvements to the weight transfer. One of the features that was unique was that the sled operator sat on the side of the sled, something that hasn’t been seen before. Lloyd built the brown sled in 1976 and the silver sled in 1980. Each sled was built with new features. Some of the early sled parts were used in the later sleds. When they sat down to figure out how many miles these sleds had traveled on the track, it came out to be 8,500 miles!
In 1983, Lloyd sold the manufacturing shop to focus on the pulling sled business. Since then, Jim has taken over the business and continues to keep the Luedtke pulling sleds on the track. In 2007, Jim built a new sled from scratch, he called it the “007”. In 2014, Jim rebuilt the sled using the drive train from the silver sled. This latest sled is painted white with a large cab that gives the operator a better view of the track and provides protection from the heat and dust. Jim reported that in 2013 Dennis Wagner, one of the workers at Jim’s shop in Allenton, put the original pulling sled back together. The original sled was taken to a farm show called the Half Century of Progress which is held bi-yearly at the Rantoul National Aviation Center in Rantoul, Illinois. It is the largest farm show in the United States and showcases vintage farm machinery to show how farming was done 50 years ago. The Luedtke sled was on display along with several other pulling tractors.