The Trail Beetle was designed at the US Forest Service, Equipment Development Laboratory in Portland, Oregon. The three prototype Beetles was built in 1945. Construction of the Beetle was contracted to Western Gear Works of Seattle who built 25 Trail Beetles in 1946 for use by the Forest Service. Beetles were built in two gauges (widths), narrow and wide as models N and W.
The narrow gauge Beetles were used for building trails, while the wide gauge Beetles were for general use. Upon completion of the USFS contract, Western Gear built additional Beetles in 1947 and 1948 for commercial sale. These were wide gauge W-2 models and marketed as the Beetle Tractor. The USFS Equipment Lab also provided plans to other companies and similar machines, all wide guage, were built in Canada as the Laurentide Beetle and Massachusetts as the Mity-Kat.
All Trail Beetles and Beetle Tractors were fitted with a Waukesha model ICK engine; a 61 cubic inch, water-cooled four cylinder. Beetle models N and W used a Zenith carb, while model W-2 used a Schebler.
A total of 90 production Beetles were built between 1946 and 1948: 25 Trail Beetles (models N and W) and 65 Beetle Tractors (models W and W-2). Total production by gauge was 18 narrow gauge (model N) and 72 wide gauge (12 model W and 60 model W-2).
If you have a Beetle survivor, feel free to email your information (location, type, model) and I will add it to the list of "survivors". I would be interested in copies of any old Beetle literature or documentation.
Beetle brochure, page 1
Beetle brochure, page 2
Trail Beetle serial number plate
Beetle Tractor serial number plate
1944 concept drawing
Beetle in action
Easily transported in a pickup truck
Fitted with a plow for cutting a fire line
Showing just how small a Beetle actually is
Towing a Forest Service compressor trailer
Forest Service letter, "History and Origin of Design of the Trail Beetle Tractor"
September, 1949 Popular Mechanics article, "Call out the Mules and Beetles"