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For other uses, including people with surname Smalley, see Smalley (disambiguation).

A classic Smalley excavator at work

Smalley is or was a brand of small backhoe excavator with two wheels on one axle. It had no drive to the wheels. To move, it hooked itself about using its backhoe. the rise of the more versatile Japanese built Mini excavator in the 1980s killed most of the market for these machines, except for a few specialist sectors were the traced undercarriage was a disadvantage. The manufacturer, Richard Smalley (Engineering) Ltd. was based in Osbournby near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, England.

From the WIKIPEDIA pages information update October 2018

Smalley is a type of small excavator with two wheels on a single axle. It had no drive to the wheels, moving instead by 'walking' using the excavator or 'backhoe' arm. Once in location the machine worked as any other 360° excavator, with two fixed-adjustable front legs, and two rear legs which could be mechanically height-adjusted from within the cab. For larger distances the machine could be towed on the road at moderate speeds using a suitable vehicle such as a Landrover or large van.

Smalley evolved over the years and produced the Smalley 425 which has two drive wheels and two steering wheels. It uses a Lister Diesel engine, ST1. Single Cylinder, 6.5HP . 360 Degree turn, no electrics and manual start. Later models, which are still made today, use a different engine and have an alternator to power an electric starter motor. The 1977 needed the side support or else it would be too easy to tip over. (Note: The photo is missing the cab)

Richard Smalley is credited with being the inventor of the world’s first mini excavator in 1959, although now superseded by tracked derivations of the compact excavator at the concept was highly successful in allowing a compact and cost effective machine, with these 'walking' or 'tow-behind' excavators having been sold into more than forty countries throughout the world (including over 100 machines to Japan before 1968) and hence likely being the design inspiration for these tracked compact excavators which dominate the market.[1] Smalley Excavator Uses They were popular with Grave diggers as the legs allowed them to straddle adjacent plots. Other versions were mounted on pontoons for use in small rivers, ponds and canal cleaning operations.

Smalley towable diggers, excavators, backhoes - pictures and owners info

Smalley have been producing towable diggers and grave digging machines since the 1960's. The company (a family business) is still trading and producing walking excavators, grave digging equipment and even dredgers. The Smalley 5 which first appeared in 1960 was one of the very first 360 degree machines and was an innovative idea as it was aimed at digging footings in hard to access places well before the likes of Powerfab, Fleming and others did the same.  Initially the Smalley had a BSA petrol engine and was priced at £685.  This engine soon gave way to the Lister SR1.

Some customers have claimed  that the Smalley machine was not particularly popular with users. The high driving position meant it felt terribly unstable and loading them onto lorries up ramps was very difficult. He said they were referred to as "one arm" machines in the trade because if you pulled more than one lever at a time the engine would stall! This may be an exaggeration but if you watch Keoni's video (link below) you might agree. Please note: since the video was filmed Keoni has cleaned out the hydraulic tank and fitted a new filter which has greatly improved his diggers performance. The noise from the hydraulic pump definitely sounded like oil starvation to me. I don't think Keoni's digger is a fair representation of the make as it isn't exactly in good condition.

Other users have taken exception to this "one arm" criticism and are very enthusiastic about their Smalley machines. I think some of the problem may be that the Smalley has to be driven correctly to get the best out of it. Bill (see below) clearly knows what he is doing and finds his digger very useful. My feeling is as usual that any digger is better than a pick and a shovel. Recently I saw a fully working Smalley digger advertised for £350. At that price you'd have to give it serious consideration.

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Surviving examples

Add details of any known surviving examples;

Smalley excavator being 'walked' on-site

A 1980s Smalley 430 Crawler Digger 5T

See also

References / sources

External links

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