The single-arm loader

I grew up on a farm and still actively farm today. My interests will always be colored by my background, which will explain not only this week’s subject but how narrow is the subject; the single-armed loader tractor.

My guess is few have seen a loader tractor with only one arm, it looks like any other except it has only one lift arm and mounts to one side of the tractor. The arm and mounts are very heavy because all weight is held on one side.

My brother and I had this conversation last week. I asked him about the single-armed loader tractor, and he said that it existed in order to make the tractor control station easier to access. It’s very true that the addition of a loader makes it more difficult to climb onto older tractors. The loader was an add-on and cluttered up the control area.

Today’s loaders are mid-mounts and very well-engineered to do their job yet stay out of the way. Old F-11 Farmall loaders were a real dependable loader however they had a lot of structure, hoses and controls. The F-10 loaders were even larger and had an exoskeleton that enveloped the tractor. Today’s loaders run off the loader hydraulics and look almost like a part of the tractor. Most of the older loaders included an additional pump as factory tractor hydraulics were slow and didn’t develop as much pressure as modern tractors.

Designers must have known that people were an afterthought when it came to tractors and loaders and so made the single-arm loader. With the arm and mounts mounted almost as an outrigger, there was room for a human to comfortably sit on the tractor and get some work done. I suspect that these single-arm units could not lift as much as a twin-arm loader and so perhaps the on-board tractor hydraulics were enough to operate the loader. This would have eliminated a power take off pump, a lot of hydraulic hose, a storage tank and a second set of controls. It must have been liberating for the operator.

I’ve seen several one-arm loaders on old Ford tractors and even on Farmalls in my travels. In my travels, I’ve never seen one on a John Deere although I’m sure they were available, I just haven’t traveled enough. These units are an eye-catcher as they look odd, I recently saw one for sale on an old Minneapolis Moline that was a military version. It looked heavy and I wondered if it was maybe used as a cargo loader for 1950’s aircraft.

Hydra-mac made a one-arm skid-loader many years ago. I drove one about a decade ago and it was kind of fun. It was also a tiny machine but featured very convenient entry and exit from the side. Most times, you enter a skid-loader from the front. The JCB skid-loader has a single-arm loader and is very heavy built. Again, the side entry makes it more convenient plus you can crawl out of the control station even with the loader arm in the “up” position.

It’s pretty rare to see the single-arm loader. It’s rare that it is needed and therefore most loaders have double arms. It’s just another time when two is better than one.

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