Caterpillar Generator Set: 60 Years and Still Running

vintageIn 1947 grain production was booming in the United States as farmers responded to the post-war food shortages that were plaguing many countries.

Out on the Kansas prairie, Ernest Bertrand made plans to build a grain elevator. He needed reliable electric power to construct the facility, and to run it.

So he chose a Caterpillar generator set, a 35-kilowatt model that is still working today. It was the primary source of power when it was installed. It now provides emergency power for a third-generation Bertrand family business.

“We’ve operated this engine and maintained this engine since I was 12 years old,” notes Gene Bertrand, age 72, of Bertrand Cattle in Wallace Kansas.

dick-bertrandGene’s brother Dick Bertrand recalls that at the time the grain elevator was built, they were quite a few miles away from commercial power. “So in order to run the electric motors which drove the elevating belts, as well as some conveyors, we had to have electric power.”

So how have three generations of Bertrands gotten 60 years of life from their generator set?

“My dad was an absolute fanatic about maintaining equipment. And not just engines. It was everything that we owned,” says Dick. “If he said to grease a bearing every hour and a half, he didn’t mean every hour and forty-five minutes or two hours. He meant every hour and a half.

“That was something that we grew up with, and it was ingrained into us from the time we were small. I guess I’m still just as fanatical about it today.”

These days, the generator set provides emergency power at the family’s cattle operation, run by Gene’s son.

generator“You’ll always have to have standby power out here. Always.” explains Gene. “So that means you better be set up and ready to generate electricity if you want to stay warm and want to feed the cattle. ”

To be ready to go in the event of a power outage, the unit must be properly maintained. Since 60 years have passed, you might think obtaining parts could be an issue. But not with Caterpillar products. The local Cat dealer can still support it.

“I went in to get the filters for it. I assumed they were obsolete and we were going to have to improvise,” says Gene. But it turned out his Cat dealer had them in stock. “And gaskets; the dealer was able to still get them. They’re still current. They could even order the filters if I need them again.”

The Bertrand’s efforts to keep the generator set well-maintained for all of these years paid off recently when severe weather threatened the cattle operation.

gene-bertrand“It was the blizzard of 2006 in late December,” recalls Gene. “When we had 32 inches of snow and we had power outages all the way around us. And lines were on the ground and out. So we had no distribution of power.”

With the lives of more than 2,500 cattle at stake, the vintage generator set was called into action. It powered the entire operation for four days while the storm raged through. Proving to be just as reliable today as it has been for the past 60 years.

Gene appreciates the Cat generator set’s reliability and longevity. “They developed their power that way, they’ve engineered them that way and they very work well.”

From moving grain in the 1940s to saving livestock in the 21st century, the Bertrand’s generator set just won’t quit. And that’s why the Bertrand family counts on Caterpillar.

“Cat equipment is something that our family has used since the middle 1930s, and still does,” says Dick. “We got good service out of it, we’re happy with it, and so we use Cat a great deal.”

genset-radiator“They’re very serviceable engines. We like Cats, we’ve always been around them,” says Dick. “They run well, last well. We just haven’t had any problem with them.”

Caterpillar and the Cat dealer organization are proud to have played a role in this family’s history, providing quality products and unmatched support, for three generations and counting.

And if the family has a need for power in the future?

“We would undoubtedly go back to Cat. Sure would,” says Gene.