Historic Grader Returns to Fairbanks

By Rindi White


Antique Grader

Photos Courtesy John McKinnon


After gracing the Associated General Contractors of Alaska property in Anchorage for 10 years, a restored antique Adams Model 12 leaning-wheel road grader is back in Fairbanks at the property of its owner, Tom Johnson, along the bank of the Chena Slough.

The grader came to AGC in 2008 as a 60th anniversary restoration project. It was hauled from the property of the Sphinx Exploration and Mining Company near Mile 32 of the Ruby to Poorman road.

Aside from the knowledge that the J.D. Adams Company of Indianapolis manufactured it, not a lot is known about this particular grader. The model and serial number were removed from the data plate on the machine. However, Adams tow-behind graders were typically identified by the length of their blade, so this grader — with a 12-foot blade — may have been called a Model 12, making it a fairly large grader for its day. It generally would have been pulled by a dozer.

Early road graders consisted of a blade with a raising and lowering mechanism attached to the bed of a wagon. These early models were limited in their use, as they could not work on the sloping sides of roads. J.D. Adams is credited with inventing the leaning wheel grader in 1885. With this innovation, the wheels could be cranked to lean against the sideways thrust of an angled blade, greatly improving the versatility of the machine. Leaning wheels are a key feature of graders today.

Antique Grader - Adams


This Model 12 also has a “steerable tongue” or tow bar, by which the grader could be steered independently from the tractor, allowing the grader operator to concentrate on working the blade. Adams invented the steerable tongue in 1912. Although Adams first made a self-propelled grader in 1928, tow-behind graders were manufactured through 1945. The J.D. Adams Manufacturing Company made equipment from the late 1800s until it was acquired by LeTourneau- Westinghouse in 1955.

The grader was used to maintain the Ruby to Poorman road in the early 20th century and is still in working condition. Thanks to a painstaking restoration by Randy Krieg and Dave Cruz, it is back to the smart yellow that would have been its original color.

Antique grader in field


Johnson moved the grader 32 miles from where it was parked, to Ruby, then transported it to Galena. Inland Barge Service of Nenana carried it from Galena to Nenana in 2008 and Cruz, with Cruz Construction, trucked it to Palmer for restoration. It was on display outside of AGC’s offices for nearly a decade and was a frequently visited fixture.

Carlile Transportation coordinated and donated the grader’s trip back to Fairbanks.


Rindi White is the editor of The Alaska Contractor.