Rancher gives 1947 bulldozer a second life, plowing snow in rural Steamboat Springs
Long may you run
Steamboat Springs — Once Bill Fetcher fully committed to restoring the 70-year-old bulldozer, there was no doubt what his highest priority was. Fetcher reached into his pickup for a bow saw and cut down the willow tree that was growing between the steel track of the little 1947 Caterpillar D2 and its cast iron diesel engine.
Fetcher, who will turn 71 in March, acquired his skills as a mechanic, as well as his tree cutting chops, on his family’s ranch on the upper Elk River. He was nonchalant this week about his ability to resurrect the long-neglected bulldozer.
“It was mechanically sound and needed a lot of TLC,” he said. “The one thing that saved it was the flaps over the exhaust pipes that keep water out of the engine. I was a little concerned that water had gotten in and froze up the engine block.”
The truth is Fetcher can fix most anything. He has a business repairing clocks and band instruments. And he hates to give up on household appliances
“I still use my grandparents’ 1925 Kitchenaid mixer,” he said, flipping the switch to prove it still works.
The D2, with its 30-horsepower engine, was the smallest bulldozer Caterpillar made between 1938 and 1957, Fetcher said. He routinely uses a 20-year-old Kubota tractor with an auger attachment to remove snow from the lanes and driveways of his neighbors in Elk Mountain Estates. But the mighty little bulldozer has come in handy this winter with the unusual amount of wet, heavy snowfall.
“I’ve been out three times this winter to push slush,” Fetcher said.
Originally, the D2 was intended to do double duty as a farm tractor; the bulldozer blade is actually an attachment.
Fetcher first spied the D2 two years ago sitting on Chuck Baker’s property in the Moonhill Meadows subdivision while Fetcher was harvesting a neighbor’s hay along the Elk River. It had been sitting in one place for so long that its steel tracks were embedded 6 inches deep in the ground. He paid Baker $850 for the vintage machine.
The next step in the machine’s restoration involved acquiring a re-print of its original owner’s manual. In addition to its diesel engine, the D2 has a gasoline “pony motor,” which is used in place of an electric starter.
The carburetor on the pony motor was flooding badly, and Fetcher rebuilt the carb in short order. He was also able to buy replacement water and oil temperature gauges for the diesel at Wagner Equipment in Steamboat Springs.
The diesel itself didn’t required repairs. Fetcher replaced the filters and adjusted the hand clutch and was pretty much set to run his bulldozer.
But there was at least one major cosmetic issue — the original driver’s seat had been reduced to bare springs. He bought a brand new after-market seat, put a new coat of yellow paint on parts of the dozer and added brand new Caterpillar decals.
Twelve-hundred dollars later, Fetcher says his “new” 70-year-old bulldozer was a great buy. And besides … “It had to be saved before it got any worse with that tree.”
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