Best Steam Tractor

Side view of Best Tractor
This Daniel Best Steam Tractor is owned by the Oakland Museum and is on loan to the Roots of Motive Power organization in Willits, California.
The tractor was built by the Daniel Best Company of San Leandro, CA.  It is believed that the tractor at Ardenwood was built around 1905.  In 1925 Daniel Best and Benjamin Holt joined forces to form the Catepillar Tractor Company which is still in business today.

Click here for an interesting comparison, then and now!

Tractors of this type were used to haul freight as shown in this photo from 'Railroad Magazine':
A Best Tractor hauling freight in Death Valley
(click on photo for a larger image)
A portion of the caption reads: "Alex Isgreen was the engineer, Jerome Connelly the fireman, and Walter Saunders did the braking. Mrs. Saunders and Belle Hutchinson kept a sharp lookout for Gila Monsters"

Shortly after the above picture appeared in Railroad Magazine a reader sent in the following photo:

A Best Tractor hauling logs

They were also used in agriculture as shown in this view from a postcard:
A Best Tractor Plowing a Field

The Best Tractor at Ardenwood is used for public education and is used to haul happy passengers:
The Ardenwood Best hauling passengers

A permanent home for the tractor at Ardenwood is in the planning stages.  In the meantime the tractor must be partially assembled and dis-assembled each time it is used since the building it is stored in has limited door height...  This leads to some interesting sights:

Best Tractor without Canopy and Stack

Here's a composite of the assembly process:

Best Tractor - Canopy and Stack Installation

You might wonder why the tractor is so tall.  In fact, you may have seen tractors like this Case Steam Tractor:

Case Steam Tractor

The difference is that the Best Tractor has a vertical boiler whereas most other steam tractors have horizontal boilers.  The vertical boiler enables the tractor to safely negotiate rough terrain and steep slopes.

Click on the following image to see a larger view with parts of the tractor identified:
Side view of Best Tractor

Page modified 01/01/2008. Copyright John R. Haskey