History Takes Flight With 1940s Caterpillar D4 Tractor on Display at Peoria’s General Wayne A. Downing Airport
In the 1930s, Caterpillar was a young company that had made its mark in diesel engine production thanks to a huge research and development program. But in many ways it was still a relatively small organization.
That changed during World War II. From 1942 to 1945, the company doubled its workforce, operated seven days a week, placed women in foundry and assembly-line jobs, manufactured special products, trained enlisted men and built approximately 51,000 track-type tractors for the military.
To keep raw materials, parts and the production line moving, East Peoria factory workers created a Caterpillar D4 tractor entirely out of spare parts. It didn't meet engineering specifications; it didn't even have a serial number. It was never sold. But it helped the company radically increase its production capacity during World War II. And the "little tractor that did" kept working at the plant for years afterward.
Today, that same machine, the tractor that pulled Caterpillar into a new era, has a different job: greeting travelers at the Peoria International Airport.
Refurbished in 2000, the D4 wears its decades of service lightly. But its history remains locked in the iron.