THE MARION REFUSE COMPRESSOR
Like it's nearby competitor in Galion, Marion Metal Products of Marion, Ohio, was an early manufacturer of hoists and dump bodies and even metal burial vaults. In 1934, Marion began producing the Refuse Compressor, a garbage body that was perhaps the very first mass-produced packer in America. The Compressor was a simple side-loading packer, of the type that would eventually become popular with numerous manufacturers following the Second World War.
Marion's concept blazed the trail, which was later followed by Pak-Mor, M-B, Packa-Van, and Galion (E-Z Pack), as well as front loader pioneers such as Bowles and Dempster. It consisted of an all-steel, enclosed body that contained a movable partition, sliding from front to rear, which compacted the load and served as an ejector panel for unloading. Though it marked a great leap forward in refuse body technology, the Marion Refuse Compressor was in way a variation of the established 'template' system, a method for unloading open refuse/garbage wagons, and later, motor trucks.
THE TEMPLATE UNLOADING SYSTEM:
Templates allowed open-bodied collection trucks that were not equipped with hoists to quickly and easily discharge their contents at the dumpsite. A template was merely a partition (made of wood or metal) that was constructed to fit the general dimensions of the inside a truck body, and was stored upright at the extreme front end of the body. Ropes or chains were attached to template, and laid down on the bed floor or sides of the body, extending past the rear end. Material collected was deposited in the body behind the template and over top of the chains. When the filled truck arrived at the dump, the tailgate or end doors were opened, and the chains were connected to a tractor or another truck, which pulled the template rearward, clearing the truck body along the way. The template was then recovered from the discharged load, and replaced at the front of the empty body, ready for the next load. Alternately, the chains could be affixed to an immovable object, and the tuck was simply driven forward to accomplish unloading.
The template may be considered a primitive, "one-shot" ejector plate, which required external power and had to be manually replaced after each use. Inventors William Ehrick and Ralph Garverick may have been inspired by this method when designing the Marion Compressor. What they came up with was essentially a power-operated adaptation of the template system, fully reversible and working within an enclosed, all-steel body. The plate not only ejected the load, but also served as a crusher, consolidating the material when periodically activated during the loading of the body.
Refuse was loaded through large side doors, on to the body floor in front of the compressor plate. The plate was reciprocal within the body, by way of twin rotating screws, parallel mounted, each running the length of the body. The screws were threaded through nuts affixed to either side of the plate. When rotated, the screws, being threaded through the fixed nuts, caused the plate to move rearward in the body to compress (or eject) the material loaded within. By simply reversing the rotation of the screws, the plate was then drawn forward, ready for the next load.
Power to operate the rotating screws came by way of a clutch and reversible gearbox between the cab and body, tapped directly from the vehicle drive train. Connecting between the final drive and screws was a series of chains and sprockets. Thus, the Marion Refuse Compressor may be categorized as a mechanical packer, and had no hydraulic system.
Early advertising for the Refuse Compressor had the company trading as The Marion Steel Body Company, but was soon changed to Marion Metal Products. One ad contrasted their modern packer body with the old horse-drawn wagons once commonly used in collection fleets. Despite its name, Marion clearly had designed the body with garbage collection in mind, meaning putrescible kitchen food waste, which was typically picked up separately from combustible rubbish. In fact, the latter was not even collected by many municipalities, being the responsibility of the citizens to dispose of by incineration, scavengers or other means. Bodies were initially offered in six cubic yard capacity, with a 110-gallon liquid sump built into the body. The sump collected liquids squeezed out of the garbage loads, an important feature for cities where final disposal of garbage was to by incineration. Loading doors were typically at the front of the body, near the cab, but some models were built with front and rear openings.
The Refuse Compressor was a landmark design in mechanized collection equipment, and established Marion as an early leader in the industry. However, the design may have been too advanced for its time. Undoubtedly, many cash-strapped cities could not justify the expense of these new-style packers during the Depression years. Their old open-type dump trucks were a far cheaper alternative, despite the obvious sanitary deficiencies. Additionally, pure garbage loads are inherently dense, and thus less effected by compression. Marion's product was better suited to collection of combustible rubbish or a mixed stream, but it lacked a suitable body capacity for that duty. Furthermore, demand for rubbish collection would not peak until after the Second World War. Nevertheless, Marion would be ready with an improved model, once again ahead of the rest of the fledgling refuse body industry.
1936 Marion Refuse Compressor serving Tucson, Arizona
© 2011 Eric Voytko
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