The best way to haul combines and iron on harvest

Hauling the iron

We can’t have a harvest crew without trailers. What makes the custom harvester so unique is the specialty trailers designed just for the purpose of moving combines. In addition, double combine trailers, header trailers single and double. The specialty equipment used in this industry is pretty cool.

How do the harvesters move big combines and all the support equipment down the road? Here is where real harvesters can help the model cutter. I asked Tracy Zeorian of Zeorian Harvesting and Trucking this question: “Tracy, different people who do not know custom harvesting do not know about the proper way to move machinery from north to south and back again. What is the proper way?” She responded “Eric, our goal is to move from one point to another safely. As long as we get it there that is all that matters.” There are no rules of thumb stating the order or combination of machines hauled. The U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. do urge all harvester to follow DOT regulations when moving machinery from state to state. Regulations and man power are the limiting factors when moving havesting equipment.

The Zeorians are a two-person operation with one combine. They bunny hop from one location to another with one semi and one tandem end dump truck they call Frank. Tracy and her husband begin by either moving their 5th wheel with their 378 Pete, a pickup and header to location B and setting it up. Then, dead head back to location A for the combine and grain trailer and anything else that was left behind.

Larger outfits like Haynes Custom Harvesting move their eight combine two-grain cart fleet in small batches, according to Paul Anthony Nibby of Harvest Support, an employee of Haynes. If a harvester has eight machines heading to one location and makes a stop of any sort, eight rigs, combines, and grain trailers will take up a long stretch of highway. Not to mention the support equipment and trailer houses. We have all met or passed long loads on the highway. Imagine meeting eight long wide loads on a stretch of highway. I myself would (will) whip out my camera, pull off the road and think I have died and gone to heaven. Joe Schmoe who thinks his food starts at the grocery store will not be as amused. It is a safety issue as much as anything.

One other caveat, larger crews are generally separated meaning, two combines, trucks, cart, etc will be in location A, three in location B and five in location C. That was the case for Frederick Harvesting in 2015. When I caught up with Lance Frederick in Meade County, Kansas, that was the exact circumstance they were in. The five machines in Meade county were working on a big job. Three were moving to Colorado the day after I saw them, while two would stay to finish the work. The balance of the combines finished various jobs in other parts of Kansas. I spoke with Mike and Kathie Keimig of Keimig Harvesting and Trucking. They told me in their career there was only one time in Texas they had all eight machines in the same field. Moving this iron takes on many different forms and methods.

To build your model harvest crew, the main concern is a combine trailer. The only scale to offer any kind of combine trailer on a reliable basis is 1/64th scale. To that end, there are only two places to purchase single combine trailers, Rockin H and Moore’s Farm Toys.

The Moore’s combine trailers are die cast and very nice. These were created before Die Cast Promotions came into the model truck market. The trailers come with ramps, can be bought in any color of choice and have a hitch to pull either a header trailer or dolly and grain trailer. The standard color is white with an entry price of $40. A pintle hitch design is also available. These trailers are great if using trucks such as a Speccast or Ertl as the trailers were created when Ertl and Speccast were the most popular brand of trucks around and fit them perfectly. Hook the Moore’s trailer up to a DCP and the combine will likely roll off backward due to a higher 5th wheel plate on the truck. Rockin H started out with Moore’s trailers on Speccast trucks.

The Rockin H trailer was designed specifically for DCP brand trucks. I had purchased six cabs and needed five combine trailers. At the time I was a bit stingy with the model budget and found a shop built combine trailer on a combine cruise. I measured it, then bought brass and began working on the design. Over time the design was perfected and that is the design used to this day. Now the Rockin H trailer is laser cut out of 12 gauge sheet metal. These trailers come in two axle and tri axle versions with 3D printed ramps, and have a hitch to pull either a header trailer or dolly and grain trailer. They are available in finished or kit form, the price begins at $33.

What kind of trailers do the harvester use? It varies on the model number of combine the fellows use and which states they travel. Different states have different weight limitations. An outfit using Deere S690s will likely be using a detach lowboy due to the weight of the combine and temper of the DOT where they travel. The S690, 9230/40  Case IH are big and heavy, thus needing a different trailer to haul them. The S670/80, CaseIH 7230/40, 8230/40, Gleaner S78/88 can be hauled on two or three axle combine trailers we typically see on the harvest run. But even those trailers are being modified to accommodate the correct amount of weight over the trailer and truck axles.

Our model crews can reflect what the harvesters use by following their lead. If a model crew is using the big combines, there are a variety of lowboy trailers with detachable goose necks. DCP offers Fontane lowboys in two and three axle versions. The three-axle version can be purchased with a “jeep” for even heavier loads after harvest. Both versions have optional flip axles as well. First Gear also offers a three-axle low boy.

For the model harvester who wants to go rogue, an exclusive in house design can be created. It is not uncommon for the harvesters to build their own trailers. Haynes Custom Harvesting has unique trailers designed in house by Chester Haynes. This trailer looks like a step deck, but has the combine loading backwards on the trailer over the rear axles. A fifth wheel plate allows the grain trailers to attach directly to the combine trailer, eliminating a dolly which is typical in modern crews. Many harvesters are happy to share designs with model builders in the off season. If a Rockin H or Moore’s single combine trailer is a bit too common, a harvester’s trailer can be replicated or a new design can be created for a custom look and a great story line.

One trailer that has outlived its usefulness to some degree is the double combine trailer. Beginning in the 1980′,s two combines were being hauled at one time. Due to size and weight this was not a problem. Regulation regarding weight was not prickly at the time either. Keller Brothers Harvesting from Ellis, Kansas has a cool image of two N6 Gleaners being hauled through the mountains. Move into the 90’s and see two 21,23,2588 CaseIH combines or 95,96xx combines on a 53′ double combine trailer was routine. That all ended as the machines grew in size and weight. DOT regulations began tightening up enforcement at the same time. The year 2012 was the last time I saw two modern machines on a double combine trailer. I happened to be east of Scott City, Kansas and a harvester jumped on K96 highway with two 6088 CIH machines. A true novelty as I had not seen that in years.


  1. Charles Kemp on May 16, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I like that you talk about the importance of trailers on a harvest crew. I think it is very helpful when you have a trailer because you can load up a lot of product or tools in the trailer to make the work a lot easier. I would imagine it would be the same for harvest crews. They have to work outside all the time and it can really make things better and they also wouldn’t have to work very long.

    • Eric Haselhorst on May 17, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for the comment and for reading.

    • Eric Haselhorst on August 16, 2016 at 2:30 am

      You got it. Thanks for the reply.