Above: 1934 Leach Model 6R (six cubic yard) Refuse Getter
Elmer Leach began producing logging tools at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1887, and by the 1920's had diversified to produce a wide variety of equipment which included power saw rigs, dump wagons and portable cement mixers. Two of Leach's distributors, George C. Dodge and A.M. Anderson joined forces to form Elgin Sales Corporation in 1917, and would distribute Leach tools, as well as an Illinois-built road sweeper named Elgin. Upon the death of Elmer Leach in 1920, his Oshkosh Logging Toll Company was in the hands of his widow Mary, and sons Elbert C. Leach , or "E.C. " and Elmer Leach, Jr. , also known as "Onnie". It was under the tenure of of E.C. and Onnie that Leach would enter the refuse body business.
It began in 1931, when Elgin Sales had become a distributor for the Colecto, an early self-loading refuse body with side or rear buckets and enclosed bodies. These primitive trucks tried to address the problems of refuse collection at that time, primarily the difficult and hazardous chore of hand-loading open trucks whose heights were often well over that of the workers. After having sold only five Colectos in eighteen months, Elgin was dropped as a distributor. However, the Dodge and Anderson believed there was a market for refuse trucks, if a reliable and economical model could be produced. They summoned their friends E.C. and Onnie Leach to New York to look over the Colecto, and see if a better model could be made. Though it likely wasn't obvious at the time, it was in fact a pivotal event for the future of Leach, and the refuse body industry as a whole. Within a mere ninety days, the first Leach refuse truck would emerge from the Leach factory on South Main Street.
Early Leach refuse bodies were flat sided, with no reinforcing ribs. This one was sold to a town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Refuse Getter, as it was to be called, was a the creation of Otto Manthie, Leach's self-taught engineer who built the prototype by hand. Like the Colecto, it was a rear 'bucket loader'. Guide rails and rollers connected to endless-loop roller chains on either side of the body were used to raise the bucket. Power for the bucket came via a double acting hydraulic ram driving a rack and pinion gear set (under the body) which converted the sliding motion of the ram into rotary motion to turn the chain sprockets. A direct-lift hydraulic hoist raised the body to discharge the load out a large door in the rear of the body. The original model was the 6-R, which stood for six cubic yards, and would later be joined by the 8-R. The first sale was made to the City of Waukegan, Illinois on September 27, 1932. Mechanical refuse bodies were still a somewhat novel idea at the time, and early sales were slow; a total of nine were sold during in 1933. That figure had risen to 24 units by 1937, and would reach 63 units the following year.
Loading, raising and dumping the bucket using side-mounted controls
Unloading by gravity: Note how chains on bucket are used to raise rear door. Also note "assist" ram just behind cab compliments main hoist
Early Leach innovation; split-compartment Refuse Getter
REFUSE GETTER VIDEO
A restored Refuse Getter of 1950s vintage demonstrating the loading operation
(Video courtesy of oldSawyer)
Chief and Compactor
Constant improvements were added to the basic Refuse Getter, including reinforcing ribs to strengthen the body. In 1939 a large 12 cubic yard Chief body was added, and 1940 saw the introduction of the very first Leach packers to the lineup. As the disposable packaging of consumer goods increased, the density of refuse was decreasing, and though relatively light, could quickly fill a refuse body. Leach addressed the problem by adding and optional 'half-pack' blade, powered by a hydraulic ram with a 20" stroke, just below the top opening in the body. The Compactor models, as they were called were available in two versions; an 8.5 cubic yard Master and the 12 cubic yard Chief.
These innovations helped push annual sales of Leach refuse bodies well over the 100 mark by 1941, though production virtually ground to a halt as Oshkosh geared up for war production in 1942. A total of 110 were sold in 1943, but the majority of them went to the U.S. Army. Leach Refuse Getter production would thereafter be greatly curtailed until 1946. However, the company had broken in to the refuse body market, and was poised to make some pivotal advances that would have far-reaching effects of on the future of the domestic industry, and around the world.
Packer blade of Compactor model also helped to discharge load
Optional accessories included side doors, roof rack and riding steps