Caterpillar Challenger Tractor
Caterpillars, Rubber Track Challenger, is designed to pull large soil-engaging implements in agriculture when lots of power is needed.
At Caister such a vehicle , the Caterpillar Challenger 65C, is used to pull the Offshore Lifeboat ,on its non-powered hydraulic HLRT-Valentjin 2000 trailer, across the soft sand beach to and from the sea.
The Caterpillar was manufactured at Peoria in America during 1991. It was used in Czechoslovakia and Germany before coming to the UK. It is powered by a turbo charged intercooled six cylinder Caterpillar 3306B engine with a capacity of 10.51 litres and a rating of 285 hp at 2100rpm. It weighs in at 14 tons (34,030 lbs.)
The tractor has to cope with submersion in salt water during launch and lifeboat recovery which can corrode metal in double quick time. The unit was semi-marinised before it came on station in 1996 but in 2004 it returned to the Habbeke shipyard in Holland to be fully "Tanked". The tractor was fully stripped down and the bottom half transformed into what amounts to be a boat. By encasing the engine, transmission and other components in side a massive watertight jacket enables the tractor to operate submerged up to the base of the cab.
The exhaust is of stainless steel as are the safety rails.
The cab is located on 6 inch high mounts so that every nook and cranny can be pressure washed after each use. All rain water from the shed roof is captured in an uderground tank and pumped under pressure to the hoses used to remove salt sand and debris from the tractor, carriage and boat.
The air intakes can be sealed to deal with heavy lanch and recovery swells. The rear window of the Tractor is thick and reinforced to protect the driver from the water pushed on to it by the Lifeboat Jets during launch.
When started in the shed exhaust fumes are extracted via retractable mechanically impelled flue which is pulled back from the outlet just before the tractor pulls out of the shed.
The tractor cab is fitted with local communication radio equipment so the driver can keep intouch with the crew both on and offshore.
The hydraulics that move the rams in the cradle which lift and secure the lifeboat are all controlled from the cab where the driver is able to turn his seat to face forward or backwards to enable maximum visibility and the safety of others.