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1911 San Francisco to New York Truck Run Stops in Albion Michigan

Many of our readers are aware of the successful New York to San Francisco run in the summer of 1912 with a Packard truck equipped with the Goodyear Tire Company’s hard rubber truck tires. Later in 1917 in Goodyear “Wingfoot Express” trip a fleet of  Packard trucks traveled cross-country equipped with the tire makers new pneumatic truck tire.

A year earlier than the first Packard truck run in 1911 this Swiss Saurer double chain-drive truck the “Pioneer Freighter” ran on BF Goodrich hard rubber tires while carrying a three-ton load was driven cross country in a two-stage trip.

This run by the truck started early in March of 1911 and traveled west from Denver to Los Angeles, and then North to San Francisco. From there it was shipped by rail to Pueblo, CO and on June 12, 1911, it then headed east to New York and arrived there a month and a half later on August 2nd. The truck was built in the US at the Saurer Motor Truck Company factory in Plainfield, NJ that merged with the Mack Brothers Car Company later in 1911.

Today’s enlargeable photo (below) shows a stop on the eastbound Saurer truck trip to New York in Albion, MI at the Albion Garage for a promotional photo. The Service Station sold Goodrich tires and sold the Flanders car, one of which is parked to the left of the truck. The second car is a tourist’s Model “T” Ford touring car.

The photo is courtesy of Historical Albion Michigan where you can learn more about the Albion Garage.

20 responses to “1911 San Francisco to New York Truck Run Stops in Albion Michigan

  1. Tough and nervy.
    Maybe they could tighten the canvas and had a windshield hidden away.
    And didn’t drive at night.

  2. Being somewhat tall, I do like a vehicle with plenty of headroom. It looks like you could drive this one standing up while wearing a top hat. The operable headlight is a plus too. I wonder if the model T at the left might have been a support vehicle for this expedition, carrying camping gear etc., and driven by by the passenger posing in the truck? I’m pretty sure Ts did not have independent rear suspension but this one sure does look like it does.

  3. Before leaving San Francisco the truck climbed to the top of Telegraph Hill. The Saurer had a 37 horsepower engine, and with its cargo it weighed nearly 12,000 pounds. Some articles indicate that this truck was actually built in Switzerland, and they stated that the U.S. plant in New Jersey was still nearing completion.

    The director of the tour was A.C. Thompson and the driver was George MacLean. They completed their cross-country trek on August 2, 1911. I found no evidence of them having a support vehicle going along with them.

    After the run this Saurer was scheduled to enter the Chicago Motor Club’s Commercial Vehicle Run on September 18 – 21, 1911. A Saurer was entered into the contest; however, it is unknown if it was the “Pioneer Freighter”. We do know that the Saurer in the Chicago contest achieved a perfect score along with 75% of the other entries.

    • I’ve been to the top of Telegraph Hill in a more modern conveyance. It gave me white knuckles and nervous ticks. But
      going down it in a 12,000 lb. vehicle with 37HP to hold it back must have been an experience you would never forget. I
      have a ’37 Cord that was sold new in San Francisco. I wonder what tales it could tell?

    • My uncle had a 1912, with contential engine that in the 80s, he drove in parades… more than thirty ft long, dullies with twin screw axels in the rear.
      He’d been told the USA took it to Europe in WW1, and returned with it too…
      It fascinated me as a young man, and led to me having a speedwagon today…

  4. There is one known surviving US built Saurer truck. It is on display at the Iowa 80 truck museum at Walcott, Iowa.
    As I recall the story the truck was found abandoned in Alaska by a worker on the Alaska pipeline project who transported it to his home with intentions to restore it. Some years later this person auctioned off his large collection and Loyd Van Horn of Mason City Iowa purchased the truck. Loyd and his grandson restored the truck to it’s present condition. When the Van Horn truck museum closed the Moon family bought the Saurer and other rare trucks to add to the Iowa 80 collection.

  5. I have a negative showing the same garage taken in 1909 as part of the Detroit to Denver Glidden Tour that year. The car in my negative is a 1909 Oakland. There were 30 official entrants in the tour and also 11 followers. The Oakland was one of the followers. I will share the digital photo with anyone who is interested.

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