65 Years. 4 Modern Models. 1 incredible invention.

If you’re sitting in the cab of a Cat® pipelayer, you’ve likely got a tough task in front of you: laying miles of pipe that will carry key resources across vast territories. For the operator of a new pipelayer, there will be creature comforts like a quiet cab, a heated seat and a dash-mounted LCD display. While in operation, that display flashes up on-board diagnostic with individual profile info, operational settings and access to multiple switch-controlled functions. 

Designed by Caterpillar specifically for pipeline applications, today an operator can look through expansive glass surfaces that allow for unhindered visibility around the machine and into the trench. Looking up, a large skylight with sliding shade provides a clear view to the boom and block. 

These elements, along with key tech that helps improve efficiency, translate into real-world benefits for our customers who can perform tasks like fleet management through remote monitoring with the Cat Product Link™ system, that transmits info through the Cat secure web-based application, VisionLink®. (It even offers key safety details like showing fault codes for not using seat belts.) And, other systems like the LMI V4 Pipelayer System, will wirelessly provide the operator with more accurate load information, significantly reducing the potential for costly and dangerous overloading, tip-overs and other jobsite accidents. (1) 

The Standard for Decades 

Cat® pipelayers have been the standard of the pipelining industry for decades. A worldwide network of Cat dealers, in tune with the special high production needs of pipeliners, supports these durable, dependable machines that include 4 models today: the PL61, PL72, PL83 and PL87. 

The line was purpose-built for performance, safety and serviceability – and it all started sixty-five years ago with the 583. That machine opened the door for today’s pipeline contractors who continue to look to Caterpillar products to ensure maximum productivity and machine reliability on their projects.  

Caterpillar Invents the First Integrated Pipelayer 

Sixty-five years ago, Caterpillar manufactured the Cat® No. 583 pipelayer - the industry’s first complete pipelaying unit. Before the No. 583, the concept of a pipelayer was an attachment on a tractor. The 583’s introduction coincided with burgeoning needs for oil, gas, and water pipelines in the 1950s. 

It was introduced on January 16, 1955 before 200 pipeline contractors at their national convention in Los Angeles. The huge pipelayer was not just another tractor attachment, but was instead a completely new, integrated and balanced machine. According to W.K. Cox, former sales manager, “It was 100 percent pipelayer, designed by Caterpillar engineers from the ground up to do one job best—to lay big pipe.” 

Development and Testing 

The No. 583 had been in development since 1950, and before its official unveiling it completed severe field testing on a pipeline operation in Kansas where it capably took the place of two smaller pipelayers, tucking in 24 miles of pipe in four weeks.  

On level ground its 20-foot boom cradled as much as 700 to 800 feet of pipe at one time. In addition, the unit supported a 10,000-pound doping machine (to weatherize the pipe) and pulled a 23-barrel dope pot and supply shed. 

Watch this promotional clip from 1956, showing 583 pipelayers at work around the world.  

Strongest Muscles in the Field! 

This 39-ton “monster” had a lifting capacity of 130,000 pounds, the largest in the field, and a full 5,000 pounds more than any competing pipelayer. The 583 had a newly designed Cat engine that delivered 190 engine horsepower at 1200 rpm, with a torque converter that permitted smooth and flexible operation at speeds from 2.4 miles per hour in low to 5.4 in high. 

The machine was the first of several new and improved models Caterpillar launched in 1955. As Cox said, “The No.583 is just another assurance to our customers that we are constantly creating and improving our machines to meet and beat the best the competition has to offer.” 

Caterpillar’s reputation for durability and industry-leading technology in environmental compliance, safety, and ease of operation are what the industry relies on to do their work.