Trenching Attachment


PostcardAuburn Machine Works Inc. in Auburn, Nebraska must have been pretty proud of their latest Jeep-A-Trench model when they had it photographed in front of their plant for this colorful advertising postcard (see the back, 100K JPEG). It's mounted on a shiny new late-1950s CJ-3B.

(Note that the photo also raises the question again of what years Willys may have offered body-color wheels on the CJ-3B, rather than just black or white wheels.)

Installation manualThe Jeep-A-Trench "Gear-Draulic" trenching attachment seen above was a significantly improved model, compared with Auburn's earlier version seen in the postcard at right, on a CJ-3A. The boom is in digging position, with the the augers moving loose soil away from the trench.

The early Jeep-A-Trench was attached to the back of the Jeep, while the "Gear-Draulic" model had much of its weight inside the body, an obvious advantage. Power for the new model actually came from the front PTO rather than the rear.

Early Survivor

1954 CJ-3B It's pretty rare to find an early Auburn model in operating condition, especially on a CJ-3B rather than a 3A. This '54 belongs to Matt Amos and Scott Sperling in Indiana, and was photographed at the 2022 Willys Spring Reunion by Bob Christy. The dual rear wheels are a smart addition with the weight of that trencher hanging off the rear (370K JPEG.

1954 CJ-3B The front view shows the Scheneker Iron Works dozer blade, lifted by a Hy-Lo hydraulic pump (450K JPEG) under the hood. The blade is useful for backfilling a trench, and provides some counterweight for the trencher. Also under the hood is an engine speed governor (400K JPEG) controlled from the dashboard (280K JPEG).

1954 CJ-3B The Auburn serial number plate is on the rear framework, and the diagonal braces (440K JPEG) are cast with the Jeep-a-Trench name.

Matt and Scott also have a Jeep-A-Trench Gear-Draulic on a CJ-5, and are looking for a more legible copy of the lubrication instructions (270K JPEG) that came with it.

Jeep-A-Trench "Gear-Draulic" Brochure

Brochure Auburn produced a six-page booklet advertising the new Gear-Draulic model, with a series of detail photos showing it mounted on a CJ-3B, and descriptions of its features:

Weight Distribution

"An accomplishment in design permits the installation of the new Jeep-A-Trench Gear-Draulic well forward in the Jeep body over the frame. Moving the center of gravity ahead places more weight on the front wheels, making for more stability and better traction for straighter trenches, and greatly improves steering and roadability between jobs. Being designed, engineered and manufactured in our own plant assures the purchaser uninterrupted parts service."

Speed Reducer

"Our own specially designed speed reducer has a nickel bronze gear and ground steel worm mounted on anti-friction bearings in an oil tight case, and is driven by the variable speed hydraulic drive."

Transmission of Power

"The engine power is transmitted through a new gear drive connected to the Jeep front power takeoff, supplying power to the digging ladder. By this unit the hydraulic pump for the operation of the boom control is driven, and power is also supplied to the hydraulic drive for the trenching speeds. This compact drive being constructed with helical and bevel gears mounted on anti-friction bearings and running in oil, replaces a multitude of sprockets and chains, as well as the Jeep Rear Power Takeoff and the Jeep Belt Pulley Drive."

Hydraulic Drive

"When trenching, the power for the forward speed of the Jeep-A-Trench Gear-Draulic is supplied through an exclusive hydraulic drive. By adjusting the operating control, speeds are infinitely variable from zero to the fully engaged position. The hydraulic drive oil cushions the shocks when intermittently changing soil conditions are encountered, making for smooth and precisely controlled propulsion under all conditions."

See all six pages of the booklet (150K JPEGs):

Competition from the "Go-For-Digger"

Hydraulic boom The success of the Auburn Jeep-A-Trench led to some competition, in the form of the similarly hyphenated Go-For-Digger, manufactured in Hawthorne, California. This article in the September 1962 Jeep News announced that Willys Motors was approving the new trencher as Jeep special equipment to be sold through Willys dealers. (See the full article, 240K JPEG.) The Go-For-Digger (180K JPEG) had some new features and was designed to go on a DRW CJ-5.

Auburn serial numbers from 1954 and 1963 suggest that the company built some 400 Jeep-A-Trench trenchers in that ten-year period, but sales may have slowed down after the Go-For-Digger came on the market.

Offer you can't refuse!Auburn was innovative in marketing their trencher, as demonstrated by this offer to Jeep owners to turn "any Jeep" into a business. The unit was also available through Willys' Jeep Specialized Vehicles and Equipment catalogue.

Auburn Machine Works, established in 1926, was in operation until 2007 as Auburn Consolidated Industries, manufacturing lawn mowers and trenchers. The plant was then purchased by the Ariens Company, who manufactured lawn mowers there until closing the facility in 2018.

Tremaine Cooper photographed a well-used dually CJ-3B with Jeep-A-Trench Gear-Draulic (50K JPEG) evidently still in use by Krippners Trenching in New Zealand in 2003.

Thanks to Gary Keating for the GearDraulic postcard and brochure. Also thanks to Alden Jewell, Tremaine Cooper, Bob Stewart, Dave Christians and Randy Brown. -- Derek Redmond

See the late John Ittel's Jeep-A-Trench in action at the 2016 Willys Jeep Rally in Ohio.

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Last updated 19 March 2024 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond