Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.
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.
A mate of mine who worked in plant hire all his life said his opinion was 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.
Keoni from Hawaii with his Smalley. I love the umbrella! An important modification for digging in sunny places. Note the step for climbing onto the high driving position.
It looks like the rams are badly pitted by rust and there is plenty of oil coming out of the machine! .
The following email was sent in by Keoni from Hawaii, about his Smalley digger.
Hi Jim, My name is Keoni. I live in Maui Hawaii and I purchased the machine about one year ago. The machine is a 1968 Smalley 360. My wife's aunt had it in her garage for years (her boyfriend owned it). I contacted the Smalley company to get its history and information on it and they sent me the owners manual and told me the story of the machines sale. Richard Smalley remembers it well saying it was his easiest sale he ever made. It was brought to Hawaii on its way to Japan since he was on his way to Japan for the first time to sell his machines there. The Hawaii Gas works company saw it and immediately purchased it using it for clearing tar soaked wood chips out of the filter bed. It is the only one sold in the state of Hawaii. Mr. Smalley said the U.S. Military purchased a couple and a few were sold in the continental US. The man I bought it from said he got it from his brother who had purchased it from the Gas Company. It did not come with a cab and the seat is not original since it was lost while driving down the road years ago having fallen off en route to a job. It has a single piston Lister Diesel engine which you start by cranking a handle. It was fitted with an electric starter for easier starting which looks factory original but probably is not. The machine starts up on the first crank every time and runs great. I have had to replace all the hydraulic lines and filter and I am in the process of totally restoring it soon. It has a 2.5 mph top speed using the bucket to propel it along and is very top heavy feeling unstable on a hill due to the operator sitting about 5 feet above the ground. I have played around with it some and digs good but I have to clean out the hydraulic tank since it still has a lot of crud in it from sitting many years, clogging up the new filter. You can check out my web site which shows many photos and has a few videos of my father playing on it for his first time. You can really hear it moan. Feel free to use the pictures on my site to post on your site. Aloha, Keoni
Smalley should be credited with possibly the first 360 degree towable digger on the market? That's an interesting cement mixer in the background.
Rear view of the Smalley digger showing the Lister diesel engine with electric start (possibly added) and the slew motor.
Pete who visits this site regularly says "Like additions to your site esp. Smalley video - he is digging against wrong legs - put a plank across these legs when loading from loose stockpile only".
Ian says, I have a Smalley 360 similar to the one you show. Bought it originally in 1980 I think. It was a mess then. It came with a towing A-frame which fitted into the square sockets for the back legs, even had over run brakes. I used to tow it around on its wheels but in the end the tyres got so ropey and the road brakes didn't work so I used to put it on a transporter trailer. The cab was scrapped pretty quickly, and the SR1 engine replaced with an SR2 not long after. The SR1 was not really man enough and could be stalled quite easily. Having since got used to more sophisticated machines I suspect the "one hand" aspect was more to do with the control block than the power, it didn't really allow you to put fluid to two functions. Fitting the SR2 required a bigger and lower mounting plate but transformed the machine. The other upgrade that was worth its weight in gold was an up rated slew motor which I got from Smalley's in Sleaford before they went belly up. It would now slew properly even if the slew ring wasn't horizontal. The other thing I did to mine was fit an extension to the boom which came down over the main ram and stopped you grounding the ram when trenching. That was fitted as part of a repair to the boom where the bushes at the top of the boom ram were cracking out of the boom. I dreamt long and hard about how to upgrade the chassis but couldn't come up with any thing that made sense. If I ever had to move it more than a few yards I used to sit the bucket in the skip of a dumper and tow it like a trailer. I still have it and if I ever had to use it seriously again, I would be very tempted to fit rams to the front legs so you could raise and lower them from the seat. One weakness I never did cure was the main boom bottom pin, which would snap regularly, well 2 or 3 times in several years use. Fitting a bigger pin, say 1.5 in diameter instead of the 1 in one fitted was quite a big job and it is much easier to keep replacing the pin. If I can find any photographs I'll send them through to you.
Colin says, "Dear Jim, I never knew I was not the only sad b***ard interested in wheeled diggers! What a great site. I bought a one owner from new (absolutely shot) early Smalley 360-5. It is now almost completely overhauled and working again. The best bit about it was it came complete with the manuals for the digger, the hydraulic valve block and the Lister engine. The partial cab is my own as the original was long gone. One point I learnt from digging with the Smalley is not to stand on the wheels when getting down from the cab as they are off the ground and rotate easily!"
Bill says, "Hi Jim, I learnt to drive a Smalley in 1972. We bought a used one for our boatyard in 1979 and we still have it. It's in good working order though it looks remarkably like the one in Hawaii and is the same age. I take issue with the point about the Lister SR1 being underpowered. I have always found it to be well up to the job and able to use 2 functions at a time. One weak point is the coupling on the slew motor. The key and motor shaft can be damaged if they are not fitted up tight as there is a lot of stress on these parts especially if the chassis is not level. Ian says he would like to be able to move the legs up & down from the driving position. You can do that already by using the legs' locking lever and tilting the machine backwards (at an alarming angle!). It won't tip over backwards and you have to drop the lockpin's lever in as you bring the machine back level. Then you can move the machine on its wheels to a new position, slew round, use the bucket to take the weight off the legs, pull the lock pins out, and relock in the right holes. No need to leave the driving seat. If anyone wants more info. on this procedure get back to me. I have taken the Smalley up and down 45 degree slopes, driven one onto a boat (instant dredger!) and bogged one down in a sewage works. Some machines have an hydraulic winch fitted for such occasions - this one didn't. The scariest time was towing one with a SWB Landrover on a motorway when the machine started to wobble the Landrover and nearly turned it over. I would recommend a long wheelbase towing vehicle. The Smalley is faster at trench digging and stockpile loading than the much newer Nissan 1.2 ton digger we have, although the Nissan can level and tidy up better with its dozer blade."
Bill's Smalley digger. This machine was built 1968, he's had it since 1979. Lister SR1 diesel engine, hand start. Here the digging legs are locked up and the digger can move.
Here the digger is ready to dig. The angled legs are locked in their digging position and the wheels are clear of the ground. So Pete was right Keoni was digging against the wrong legs!
Bill demonstrates the Smalley's reach. And to the right what seems to me an alarming backward tip to lock the digging legs. Make sure the seat hasn't rusted out before trying this!
Bill shows the machine tipped back to put the legs into the travelling position. When the locking pins are in once it goes level the legs are locked in the up position.
Bill is very positive about his Smalley, he says "the machine is very robust but when it does break, it's easy to fix. Hoses can be had locally from Eurohydraulics (made up while you wait). Pump and slew motor are standard parts (but haven't needed replacing anyway). We have the cab but it's in poor condition. Travel is by using the bucket, only for manoeuvring on site, bucket in a dumper and drag it around (not on public highway) or use the towing bar that replaces 1 pair of legs behind a Land Rover. Weight of machine is a ton and a half. Fuel consumption is very low, runs 8 hours or more on a small tank full. Brilliant machine for stockpile loading or digging holes very quickly. The small trenching bucket gives it a lot of break-out force".
Ben emailed these pictures of his Smalley 5 Mark 2. Here it is parked next to a much more modern cousin. The cab is the original factory fitted version.
Ben says, "Richard Smalley is one of my father's uncles. My father owns a Mk 3 Smalley which used to be owned by the Environment Agency and is fitted with a long boom and rake.
Ben's Smalley 5 digger being put to good use on a trench.
Front view of the Smalley 5 Mark 2.
Peter from Australia emailed this picture of his Smalley digger. Peter says, "Its been through a grass fire in 2006 had the hoses and tires replaced not long after but its been sitting since. It had not been run for 3 years and started second crank even without fresh diesel". Peter is restoring this digger see: http://www.petensneak.com/zenphoto/smalley-digger/
Eamonn sent these pictures of a Smalley 425 digger which still works when required.
Smalley also produced a much bigger digger than the Smalley 5. It was not a common machine. Thanks to Pete for the picture.
Dorothy is in perfect working order, with three buckets and an extension arm all for £1200
Derek contacted me as his Smalley 5T had stopped slewing. He has sent the following pictures showing the cause of the problem.
The Smalley 5T slew motor.
Derek's 5T has lost a tooth from the slew gear.
Thanks to Keoni, Ian, Pete, Colin, Bill and Ben for the pictures and information for this page. Further Smalley stuff always appreciated.