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Late-1950s Ford Station Wagon Pulling Tandem Trailers

Apparently pulling tandem trailers with a car used to be legal in some states back in time as can be seen in the enlargeable photo below of a pair towed by a late-1950s Ford station wagon. Today it appears that only western states allow double trailers. We would imagine that backing up a rig like this is not very easy because any steering input from the tow vehicle for the front trailer would cause the second trailer to go the opposite direction, but it should balance out if done carefully. Have any of our readers towed a pair of trailers tell us about your experiences?

In New York State the tandem trailers have special parking lots on I-87 where many of the trailers are stored. Are these rigs restricted to traveling on interstate highways in the east?

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph via This Was Americar.

28 responses to “Late-1950s Ford Station Wagon Pulling Tandem Trailers

  1. I’ve never seen a rig like this on the road. If the rear trailer started oscillating there’d be no stopping it short of catastrophe.
    Oregon allows semis to pull two trailers, for a total of three, but only on the highways. They look like they should be on rails.

  2. In answer to your question about tandem trailers in the east, long tandems are restricted to the Thruway and Mass Pike.
    There are compounds at certain exits where they are hooked up and disconnected for further travel to places off the Toll Roads.

  3. I recently saw a Motor Home towing an Enclosed Trailer (possibly containing a car) and a Boat Trailer here in the Tampa Bay area on US Hwy 19. The vehicles were registered in Indiana . I assume the people were Snow Birds heading home. I wondered if they were legal here in Florida or in Indiana and all the states between.

    • It’s not legal in Florida under Florida State Statute 316.515 (3) unless it’s a commercial vehicle (commercial tractors can haul up to two trailers). Non-commercial vehicles can consist of no more than two coupled units not to exceed 65 feet in length.

  4. Some years ago, I pulled doubles in Texas every time we’d go camping . I’d take our minivan and pull a pop-up camper followed by a boat similar to the configuration shown in the photo of the ’58 Ford wagon. The trailers tended to sway and a sway bar between the camper and the boat was essential. However, if you kept a constant pulling force on the trailer “train”, the tendency to sway was less. It could result in a rather rapid pace going down steeper hills which could get a little un-nerving at times.

    And yes I could back up for short distances but it was very, very tricky.

  5. While the ’57 Ford wagon is obvious, the camper could be a Shasta, unsure of the boat, but the motor is a late 50’s Johnson 50 hp. “Triple towing” ( some call it “double towing” ) is legal in many states. Some states ( like Wisconsin, figures) require special permits. Best to check with authorities 1st, rather than t’other way ’round.

    • What a coincidence. Just last week, I saw someone getting on the freeway driving one pickup truck, flat-towing a second pickup truck, flat-towing a third pickup truck! All about the same size. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing so I took a picture. The guy was heading into serious interchange construction in Milwaukee. No license plate, brake lights or turn signals on the last unit. Did I mention it was also lightly raining? Howard, Wisconsin requires a permit because a lot of people, if left to their own devices, will do something stupid!

  6. Is it coincidence that both the car and outboard motor are white with gold trim? That the camper is white and gold? Any guesses on the color scheme of their living room?

  7. Few years ago, at the Canandaigua Pageant of Steam (NY), there was a fella who had a goose neck trailer filled with tractors, and hitched to the rear of the goose neck trailer was an original U-haul camper… It looked like a Scamp. The entire set up looked like a DOT inspectors dream…

  8. We still see the “sportsman doubles” in the west on our annual trip to Bonneville Salt Flats. And also lots of trailers and camper trailers with no license plates. Commercial trailer/trains can have 3 short trailers, maybe 25-27 feet each.

  9. I believe towing a small boat with a larger trailer similar to the pic is commonly legal but the first trailer has to be a 5th wheel gooseneck type trailer. In Wis. and probably many states, the weight of the towed load can’t exceed a certain percentage of the towing rig’s GVW so the towing rig has adequate brakes, tires and steering.

  10. This would be an illegal “combination” of vehicles according to the Federal Highway Safety Administration. You are “supposed” to have a Class A commercial Drivers License to move a combination, more than one trailer and then you are required to have brakes capable of stopping the combination, there is a standard for that which I don’t this rig stand a chance of meeting. With a standard driver’s license you are restricted to towing one vehicle/trailer behind the power unit and depending on the state there will usually be a weight figure where brakes are required on the towed vehicle.
    Tows like this are usually a disaster waiting to happen

  11. Believe the boat motor to be :
    Johnson 35 horsepower
    ” Golden Javelin ”
    As my father had one like it on an
    An aluminum 15 foot ” Lone Star ”
    Runabout
    As I recall he purchased both +
    single axle “Tee Nee ” trailer
    In ’57-’58 time frame .
    Wow such memories , so many years ago

  12. Do a Google search for “Australian Road Trains” A lot of really long combos are run in the outback. You can also find videos of really talented drivers backing those things!

    As far as licensing goes in the US, there are as many variations as there are states. Most classifications are based on weight and single or multiple. Large rigs do not necessarily require a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). For instance I tow a 37′ fifth wheel with a Volvo semi tractor. I carry a Class A non-CDL license that says on the back “All single and combination vehicles except cycles.” So I can legally drive a rig that is 65 feet long and weight 37k lbs., but not a motorcycle! Go figure!

  13. If the engine was either the 332 or 352 in the FE series it would take the load in stride. These engines held up well in truck service. I used to sometimes drive a single axle grain truck powered by one of these engines. If it was powered by the 292 Y block may be a different story. The transmission, that could be another story.

  14. We still see that done here in Michigan. In fact, a quick check of the web shows several sites listing this as legal in 28 states currently.

    1 Alaska
    2 Arizona
    3 Arkansas
    4 California
    5 Colorado
    6 Idaho
    7 Illinois
    8 Indiana
    9 Iowa
    10 Kansas
    11 Kentucky
    12 Louisiana
    13 Maryland
    14 Michigan
    15 Minnesota
    16 Mississippi
    17 Missouri
    18 Montana
    19 Nebraska
    20 Nevada
    21 New Mexico
    22 North Dakota
    23 Ohio
    24 Oklahoma
    25 South Dakota
    26 Tennessee
    27 Texas
    28 Utah”

  15. I have pulled 30′ travel trailers with a utility trailer or a small horse trailer behind my 1 ton Chevy pickup across these US states for years. I make sure they all have lights, serviceable brakes and proper registration and make sure to stay in the right lane and at the speed limit and I have never been bothered or pulled over by police or weight stations.

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