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Lifeboat Tractor at Llandudno

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute in the UK (usually just called the RNLI) has a number of specially adapted tractors it uses to launch its lifeboats.[1] The lates of which are more like a submarine than a conventional tractor.


The RNLI which is a voluntary organisation that was started to rescue sailors and fishermen in trouble and is mainly staffed by volunteer crews based in fishing ports and harbors around the coast of the United Kingdom. The early boats were rowing boats that were pulled by hand to the nearest beach and launched just bu pushing them into the sea.

As the service developed lifeboat stations were built at some places with slipways so they could be launched straight into the sea. But at other locations with large tidal ranges and long beaches this was not possible and by the early 20th century they started to use tractors as some fishermen do to launch and recover the boats from the sea.

Later crawler tractors were used built by Roadless Traction Ltd and mased on Case Model Ls. A few example survive today. They then moved ont water proffed models tha could waid into deper swells based on Fowler Challenger tractors.

Other models were baed on County Commercial Cars conversions of Fords. Some of there had like a fish tank for the driver to sit in !! The first 2 of this style being developed by Mike Bigland for a boat yard in Abersoch based on Fordson E1A Major tractors.[2] Mike went on to be involed in designg later County based tractors such as the Ford County MB Talus-764 built around a County 764 with a fully enclosed cabin. These being built by MA Bigland (Preparations) Ltd

Conversions based on the Case 1150B were also used from the 1970s

The latest models are custom built by ? and run on rubber flexi-tracks and look like a small submersible.

The tractors all have a number TXX and currently theire have been around 100 in service over the years. The first conversion by Clayton Engineering of tractor T1 was in 1921. They are mainly replaced as operation requirements dictate - i.e when a newer boat is asigned to a station they also get a new tractor to suit it. The latest tractors under trial also have a powered carriage unit for the boat to improve traction, The latest boats are designed by the RNLI Engineering team and external consultants to meet the very onerous service requirements encountered at some locations to be able to launch in all weathers, based on the over 80 years experience of operating tractor launched boats.

From the RNLI Web site;

There are 27 RNLI tractors in the south west area*. There are 3 10-ton Talus tractors based at St Ives,Exmouth and Ilfracombe. The next biggest vehicle is the MB4H hydrostatic tractor of which there are three at Looe, Newquay and Burnham on Sea. The RNLI has two Case 1150 track vehicles at Clovelly and Minehead and a beach clearing FL145 Fiat Hitachi at Clovelly. Six marinised County Tractors serve the lifeboat stations at Mudeford and Lyme Regis in Dorset, St Catherine’s in Jersey, Westonsuper Mare, Appledore and Penlee. Lifeboats at eight stations rely on the use of Agricultural tractors of different sizes and these are Exmouth, Teignmouth,Dart,Ilfracombe, Appledore,Rock,St Agnes and Sennen Cove. There are also three Loglogic Softrack’s at Bude,Burnham on Sea and Weston super Mare.[3]

Supercat tractors

In 2013 the first of the new Supercat lifeboat tractors will enter service with a new launching recovery trailer system custem designed for the latest shore launched lifeboats. The new tractor has been under development for several years.

Tractors list

Former RNLI tractors

A number of these survive in preservation

  • T ? Roadless Case - Ex ? now at ?
  • T ? Roadless Case - Ex ? in the S.E. Davis & Son collection
  • T50 - Roadless Case LA - KLA 84 now fully restored and on show at RNLI Newbiggin by the Sea
  • T55 - Roadless Case LA - KXX 565 - Ex ? now in John Bownes collection
  • T61 - Fowler Challenger 33 Lifeboat tractor PLA 561 Ex ? in the Fox Plant Collection
  • T62 - Fowler Challenger 33 Lifeboat tractor Ex ? in the Chain Bridge Honey Farm collection
  • T65 - Fowler Challenger 33 Lifeboat tractor VYT 878 Ex ? now part of RNLI Museum at Chatham Historic Dockyard
  • T74 - Case Lifeboat tractor 136 HLC ex ?
  •  ? PXF 136
  • One is believed to be in Suffolk
  • Two other lifeboat tractors are believed to be in Huddersfield.
  • An Ex RNLI one is also believed to still be in service in the Republic of Ireland

In-service RNLI tractors

  • T84
  • T87 -
  • T90 - Talus ?
  • T91 - Talus MB ? at Llandudno
  • T92 - Talus MB-H A462 AUX ? at Ilfracombe
  • T93 - Talus MB A496 CUX
  • T94 - Talus MB UAW 558Y at Llandudno -
  • T95 - ? at Hastings - Photo at Commons
  • T96-
  • T97-
  • T98 -
  • T99 - Talus MB-H (C82 NUX) at Hoylake, Wirral on Mersyside - photo
  • T100 - Talus MB-H D466 RAW
  • T101 - Talus MB-H -
  • T103 - Talus MB-H E589 WAW
  • T104 - Talus MB-H
  • T105 - Talus MB-H - Ransey, IOM - Photo
  • T106 - Talus MB-H (F760 BJJ) at Whitby - photo 2
  • T107 - Talus MB-H (F415 EAW)
  • T108 - Talus MB
  • T109 - Talus MB-H
  • T110 - New Holland TC45 at Moelfre ?
  • T111 - Talus MB (L222 MN) at Peel - Photo
  • T113 - St Ives
  • T114 - Talus MB-H (J126 WUJ) -
  • T11? - Adleburgh, Sufolk (K499 AUX) - Photo
  • T117 - Seahouses - (L784 JNT)
  • T118 - Talus MB-H at Newcastle, NI - Ex St. Ives - photo
  • T119 - Talus MB at Hastings - Lifeboat.jpg Photo
  • T120 - Talus MB-H at Bridlington
  • T121 - Talus MB-H
  • TA38 - Ford 6640 at Teighnmouth - Photo
  • TA48 - New-Holland TN? at - Bangor NI - Photo
  • TA56 - New Holland TC45 at ?
  • TA57 - New Holland TC45 at Mumbles
  • TA58 - New Holland TC45
  • TA59 - New Holland TC45
  • TA61 - New Holland TC45 at Anstruther
  • TA69 - New Holland TC45 at Achill Island
  • TA74 - New Holland ? (JJZ 9544) at Newcastle, NI - tractor at Newcastle - - 479971.jpg Photo
  • TA76 - New Holland TC45 at Conwy
  • TA87 - New Holland TC45 at Penarth
  • TW02 - Talus MB-764 (LRU 581P)?
  • TW13 - Talus MB-764 (County) at Red Bay - Photo
  • TW15 - Talus MB-764 County
  • TW16H - Talus MB-H BLACKPOOL
  • TW17H
  • TW18H - Talus MB-4H at Hunstanton / Flamborough Head - (H710 RUX) - Photo 2
  • TW19H - Talus MB ? (J20 VNT)at RNLI workshops at Pool -
  • TW20H - Talus MB at Newbiggin - Photo
  • TW21H
  • TW22H - Talus MB-4H (K501 AUX) at Sheringham, Norfolk - Photo
  • TW23H - Talus MB-4H
  • TW24H - Talus MB-4H (K313 ENT) at Sheringham - Photo
  • TW24H - Talus MB-4H 93-D-45502 from 2005 now located at Bundoran (IRL) after refit 2016
  • TW25H
  • TW26H
  • TW27H - Talus MB-4H
  • TW28H
  • TW30 - Talus MB-764 at Lymington - Photo
  • TW31 - Talus MB-764 County - Bangor (NI) - Photo
  • TW33 - Talus MB-764 (reg no)
  • TW34 - Talus MB-764 (M71 RUX) at Kessock - photo
  • TW36H - Talus MB-764
  • TW37H
  • TW40 - Talus MB-764 at Kinghorn - Forth estuary Scotland
  • TW45H - Talus MB-764 (County)
  • TW46H - Talus MB at Aberystwyth - Photo
  • TW48H - Talus MB-764 (County) Y281 EUJ
  • TW49H - Talus MB-4H at ST.Bees - photo
  • TW50H - Talus MB-4H
  • TW51H
  • TW53H - Talus MB-4H at Staithes, North Yorkshire
  • TW54H
  • TW55H
  • TW56H - Talus MB-4H DY52 EFR at Burnham on Sea - Photo
  • TW57H - Talus MB-764 (County) at Looe
  • TW58H - Talus MB-4H
  • TW59H
  • TW60H
  • TW61H - Talus MB-4H
  • TW62H
  • T?? - Talus MB (F133 FUJ) at Cromer
  • T ? Talus MB-H L784 JNT
  • T ? Tooltrak WA61 HZG
  • add detail here of any others


Add photos here

See also


Article part based on a discussion[1] on the British Construction Equipment Forum -

External links