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The Track Thread


Patrick Tipton
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I have been spending a lot of time with tracks and the drive system of the Weasel.  As tracks are probably the biggest issue in Weasel ownership, I am hoping to gather the collected wisdom on the drive system in this thread and then compile it into an article that will help the Weasel community and future owners as they wrestle with track issues.

For what its worth, I love WW2 tech manuals.  The manufacturers of WW2 vehicles and the War Department did an outstanding job supplying reference information to the motor pool back in WW2.  Most of what we need to operate these machines today can be found in 3 or 4 manuals and a parts lists.  That being said, there are areas that didn't need to be covered (ie refurb because new parts were available),  tools that are no longer easily accessed (ie track tensioning gauge) and the fact that we now have to do maintenance that was never contemplated because the expected lifespan of the vehicles (measured in months in WW2), has so far exceeded design expectations.

The topics I want to cover are as follows (please add if you see something missing).

1.  The Weasel Track system - basic measurements, theory of operation, original track variations, track guides, 15" v 20", 55 grouser & 56 grouser, bands and cables

2.  Alternate track systems - ie French, Consolidated/LAR style, other

3.  Track tension

4.  Steering and final drive adjustments

5.  Sprockets, Drive Wheels and Hubs.

6.  Track refurbishment

One of the big problems with forums is that this type of information can build into a many page thread.  Since the information is not "curated", the threads may have incorrect data etc. and it becomes a big chore for a new reader to parse through and figure out what is what, who knows what etc.  My plan is to curate the thread and write an article - WIKI style - that the community can edit/amend over time as more information is collected.  This thread will stay open, but eventually this first post will be amended to have a link to the article so someone can cut right to the information or peruse the thread to see how this all developed. 

This is a small exercise in collective knowledge.  Let's see how we do.

Thank you!

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@Patrick TiptonWhat a great idea Patrick. Here is what I have on the Ambillary track. I don't quite know if that is the correct spelling. Also I am not an authority on the history of this particular track. The photos below show the track fitted to an EPF weasel that operated in Antarctica. You can see the similarity to the LAR track. Drawing and photos courtesy of Steve M.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

    I have been assessing the condition of some of our existing grousers. I think I may have figured out a thing or two about how damage related to a particular problem. E3DE2818-5B48-4E64-B37A-B5764511190C.thumb.png.799339dfba7bec227f58804339597902.pngIn this photo the rivets on the track guides have the tops shaved off and the guides are cut next to the rivet. Notice the intact rivets at the bottom of the photo for comparison. I believe this was worn sprockets mostly and poor tension. B360EBBE-7BB2-4C0F-9610-2C5161E33E16.thumb.png.91d2e918c1a051049852dcace9317c6e.png5B88D2B7-202D-4649-8577-DEF5A93875AE.thumb.png.951258f49cee71771d0c0baabb9aa329.png782B7944-FE38-48D0-AEFB-C0C4FFACD7DF.thumb.png.9120652714b45b7c33186dc69dca89d7.pngThese grousers are all from the same track. Notice the steel hinge replacing the outer band. This is a solid fix with a manufactured piece made for the weasel. The outer band did not fail but there is evidence the inner band broke. I must assume when the band broke, the grouser cracked and it was all over. Even though the outside was intact. My observation is these grousers broke in a group and the machine could not drive any longer. You cannot rely on only an intact outer band when the inner is failing  AA8B32AC-1C8B-48F3-B020-9ECA29486F2B.thumb.png.8a84af755609cebf0f7a64a0836dc63c.pngThis is from a completely different track and machine. Someone was aware of the risk running when the inner band began to fail. This repair with wire must have gotten them home. I believe some of these past owners understood a thing or two about the risks driving on tracks that are beginning to fail. 
    This observation convinced me to go with the LAR track for now. I know this choice is not for everyone. In time I intend to re belt an original set. For now our first attempt at running a weasel is to learn about them. Just like Pat’s yellow machine we intend to keep this one as a test bed and a driving machine. Also some original parts will be donated to a different weasel to make it proper. 
Fred

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Great stuff Fred.  I think your observation about the center bands being really important is spot on.  These tracks need to be very tight to run well.  If the center bands aren't doing part of the work, there is a lot of leverage/stress on the center of the grousers.  If the grousers have not been too abused, they appear to hold up OK with this stress and the outer bands doing the work...but if the grousers have been weakened by rust....good chance of breaking them.

 

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2 hours ago, Patrick Tipton said:

Great stuff Fred.  I think your observation about the center bands being really important is spot on.  These tracks need to be very tight to run well.  If the center bands aren't doing part of the work, there is a lot of leverage/stress on the center of the grousers.  If the grousers have not been too abused, they appear to hold up OK with this stress and the outer bands doing the work...but if the grousers have been weakened by rust....good chance of breaking them.

 

@Patrick TiptonIf you go to the trouble of replacing the outer bands, then it would be time well spent to replace the inner bands as seen on the Snake River tracks.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi All, New to the forum. I just purchased a M-29 and trying to identify the tracks on it. I have seen a lot of Weasel tracks but so far nothing like these.

Anyone out there ever seen this type of track? Oddly the Cassel nuts that retain the pads are metric and even odder 11 mmx 1.5.  The segmented rubber pads

have 2 sections of double row 40 pitch chain molded into the rubber and all the ears that the double row attaches to is brass and the track guide ears are entirely made of brass. any ideas? 

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Congrats on the purchase @Mike B!  I believe those are French made tracks from the 60's.  I have two sets and am in the process of rebuilding them with new bands.  They are a nice design but very heavy as I am sure you know.  The rubber is heavy, the embedded links are heavy...tough set of tracks, but man are they heavy.  My revised version will be lighter than the original Weasel tracks - but missing the road pads.  I don't really care for my purposes.  Pics soon!

 

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Speaking of track links, I found this style of track joiner (dozens of them) on a rubbish dump up near the Aussi snow fields. I believe that they were made locally to repair the tracks on the weasels that were used as ski tows back in the 50's.

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15 hours ago, Patrick Tipton said:

Congrats on the purchase @Mike B!  I believe those are French made tracks from the 60's.  I have two sets and am in the process of rebuilding them with new bands.  They are a nice design but very heavy as I am sure you know.  The rubber is heavy, the embedded links are heavy...tough set of tracks, but man are they heavy.  My revised version will be lighter than the original Weasel tracks - but missing the road pads.  I don't really care for my purposes.  Pics soon!

 

Hi Patrick, mine are indeed French tracks made by Consolidated Industries. I confirmed from an old article a buddy of mine had on the Consolidted's tracks.

Surprisingly the center road rubber sections are in somewhat fair condition, far better than the outside molded rubber /chain pads which is odd as the center sections use the molded /chain design as well, almost looks like they are newer, go figure. I am considering going to heavy belting on both out-board runners, Shear and punch plates to attach the belting to the shoes and retain the existing center road sections. Looking forward to how you do your tracks. We have an Almond processing plant here in California and have access to 3/16" through 3/4" thick conveyor belting on rolls and have the machine to cut length wise into strips, so other than the million bolts it should be straight forward I think/hope.

 

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4 hours ago, Mike B said:

I am considering going to heavy belting on both out-board runners, Shear and punch plates to attach the belting to the shoes and retain the existing center road sections. Looking forward to how you do your tracks.

 

That is what I did, except mine covers the inner two holes and will be the surface upon which the bogies and idlers roll.  I purchased elevator bolts for mine - one less step....there are a lot of damn bolts!🤣  Get that impact fired up.  I have about 60 grousers free of 112....

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One thing I will add to the French track rebuild idea. I had forgotten about this but 40 years ago my brother and I took an old worn out set of french tracks and removed the old rubber links and belted them with conveyor belt.  Not sure the thickness of it but was about 5/8 thick. It was easy to do just had belting to drill no rivets to bust out etc. We tested the weasel with the tracks done that way and after about 5 to 6 miles of use the bogie wheels were a mess. many had loose bearing some the bogie wheel had come off bearings and all. Turns out the grouser spacings being farther apart than the regular track and caused the bogies to strike the grouser hump in the belt as it passed over it. This caused much wear on the bogies and springs to. It was a bunch of work that turned into a fiasco. This is why INMO the french built that track with thick roller chain belt. If you go this route make sure you use heavy enough belt to  soften the approach for the bogies to ride over those narrow pads. The only good thing about belting the french track was we put the idea to use on the regular weasel track and never had a problem with bogies etc. Yes  it was more work but the result was much superior to the french track.

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I have always found the multitude of track threads interesting. It seems that there are tons and tons of photos of deteriorated track and even more questions about how to "skin the proverbial cat". I say, get out a pencil, a piece of paper, a tape measure, some drill motors and lubricant. Put your brain in gear, add a generous proportion of elbow grease and figure it out. Yeah everyone wants the original rubber bands, but no one wants to pony up the dough to respect another man's hard work when they're done. 

Sorry to those I offend with my blatant honesty, but laying around like a herd of cows chewing their cuds waiting for the other guys to come up with the next best thing to chocolate milk is just wasting good honest educational and experience building time. Just take a look at what the founder of this site has done with 1 Weasel and a video camera, and that has taken a bit more than 20 months. 

What I did here took less than one week, a little over 3 hours a day and some good old fashioned American Ingenuity. Get out there and build something on your Weasel and get it back into modern day history again.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Recently me and my dad have been busy on our weasel's tracks too... The rubber blocks (on which the weasel rides when on flat ground) were very worn... on some grousers to the point that they were completely flat and even split... So after a lot of thinking and considering we decided to remove the old blocks, clean and sand the entire grouser, drill holes and install rivnuts in the places where the old blocks originally sat... That meant drilling 448 11mm (or 7/16th inch) holes and installing 448 rivnuts. Each rivnut was ground such that it would fit the grouser perfectly regarding depth. The rivnuts were then crimped in place. We then painted each grouser with bitumen coating, to preserve it, but also to resemble the original rubber layer. This bitumen will dry to a matt finish (in the photo it was still wet). All of this took about 7 days of work...

The plan is to install new rubber blocks with bolts in these rivnuts. When a block fails or is worn down, we can simply replace them in the field. The strength of these rivnuts is amazing... I crimped one in 3mm thick steel, screwed a bolt in it, and then hit it hard with a hammer... The rivnut stayed in place and the steel bent... If they won't stay in place on the tracks, we will spot weld each one. I also installed a testblock (as i would to the track) to a metal sheet, then placed a 80kg (or 175lbs)  weight on it (my dad), and spun it around on very rough asphalt. It stayed in place perfectly, and the rubber stayed fine too. so the hopes are high. If the rubber proves to be too soft (it's 70 A shore comparable to the old blocks and modern tires.) We will replace it with something harder.... The size of the blocks will be LxBxH, 81x36x30 mm (or 3,1x1,4x1,1 inch).  I will of course update you all when we have the test results! We are waiting on a waterpump rebuild so we cannot drive yet... and that probably for the best due to the high fuel prizes right now (about 10 USD per US gallon for 98 octane) 


While doing this we found a break in one of the middle main trackband... We are looking for solutions to reinforce it, and eventually repair it completely.... The tracks were already reinforced with chain though... We do not know for how long this break has been there... 

 

Curious to know what you think! Ill give updates as we go along!  

Regards, Rob

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Edited by Pips_Blaauw
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  • The M 29 Weasel track saga continues, The French track that came on our weasel is not in horrible condition, but there are some sections that have given up. We have examined the entire track and decided to repair what we have for now.  Attached are a couple pictures of us manufacturing the chain anchors that attach the track pads to one and another. Building out of brass like the originals. We CNC machined the side the chassis bolt headsets into then we set up 3 manual milling machines, one to slit for the center chain link, one to mill the edge and the other to drill for the chain link pin. the French track used regular 40 pitch double roller chain so that part was easy. We are going to attempt to build a form so we can pour Polysolfide into it with a retaining fixture to hold the chain sections in their correct locations and recast the pad. I am not totally sure of the Polysulfide idea yet; we are still in the research stage there.IMG_1675.jpg.a138caa8e22e1aa72056116be257e051.jpg

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It would seem there are several versions of the French track. On ours everything is brass, the only thing that is not is the 40-pitch double roller chain and the shoes themself. The grousers are solid brass, there's probably several hundred pounds of brass. Building all new chain links is turning into a project.

 

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