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A History of Technical Innovation

"The Locke Power Reel Mower"

The Locke Steel Chain Co. was formed in 1895. S.D Locke had devised a new patented method of manufacturing link chain from steel strip rather than the standard method of casting. This was not only a major industrial innovation but was also considered a technical triumph. His son, S.D. Locke Jr., of Bridgeport, Conn., his successor, began design and prototype work in the early 1920ís on a self-propelled, self powered lawn mower. His interest in lawn mower development was derived from his dissatisfaction with the quality and performance of the mowers he had purchased for his estate. He went about to develop a precision cutting machine whose quality would span generations. The product of this effort was the 1925 21" mower, which is the forerunner of a long line of mowers built to exacting standards of  performance, and durability, as well as bearing the namesake of the originator.
This mower (see photo at right, June 1926) had a newly developed Briggs & Stratton "FI" engine, a swinging caster wheel, a counterbalanced reel that was full floating, a bevel gear differential housed between two wide traction rollers, and fingertip controls for reel lift and clutch engagement. So successful was this first mower that it was decided to enter into a manufacturing venture dedicated to the advancement and production of Locke power reel mowers. A team of engineers, craftsman, and planners set about the work of this project, and technical achievement was evident in the fall of 1927.   1925-1.jpg (292539 bytes)
The following year, 1928, is commonly known as the first model year for the Locke power reel mower. This new mower was available with such options as a grass catcher and a back-lapping arrangement. The mower was known simply as the 25"Power Reel Mower and bears striking resemblance to the mowers produced today in terms of size, shape, weight, details such as the tool box, handle-bars, controls, self tensioning chain drives, and construction in general. Many of the design and handling features that were present in this first production Locke mower are firmly embodied in our most recent models. (Below photo taken March 1928)

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After a successful but limited run in 1928, production was stepped up in 1929 to meet the market demand created by this efficient machine, and the dedicated people behind the Locke power reel mower proved more than ready to meet this challenge. (See photo below of completed mowers taken May 1929) 

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During the busy year of 1929, the research and development department came up with another innovation. They took a 25" mower frame, installed a larger engine, attached side reels to the frame with special carrying brackets that allowed the side reels to follow the ground contour like the front reel, and designed a way to get the engine power to the new side reels. Due to the fact that the 25" mower was originally designed and built so substantially, a different frame was not needed to support the extra weight, power loads, and attachments. This resulted in a mower well suited for large areas with a price only nominally more than the single mower. The product of this effort was the 70" Locke triplex, later to become known as the item #6. (See below photo of prototype triplex taken October 1929). The following year, 1930, saw the introduction of the 70" Locke triplex mower, which would become the flagship product of Locke Power Reel Mowers for the next 50 years

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In 1932, a 30" cut-single unit mower was introduced. Later to become known as item 5 & 5A, the 30" single became a favorite of landscape professionals. From a mowing efficiency perspective, it is interesting to note that a 5" increase in cutting width results in a 40% increase in productivity. The 25" mower can cut .5 acres per hour while the 30" cuts .7 acres per hour.

By 1932, the first sulkies were offered. These were ball bearing units with iron wheels. 1932 also marked the first year that rubber traction rollers were offered as an option. This improvement proved to be so successful that, with the exception of rubber shortages during the war, all mowers thereafter would be shipped with rubber traction rollers. Several new advances were on the horizon and in 1933 a 75" triplex was offered. This mower would cut at the rate of 2 acres per hour and became a favorite tool of contractors and estate keepers responsible for maintaining large turf areas. In 1934, pneumatic tires replaced the iron wheels. Production was suspended in 1942 and resumed in 1946 as very few units were shipped during World War II.

In 1949, a reverse gear option was offered on the 70", and 75" triplex mowers. This transmission was specially designed and built in the same plant as the mowers, as it is today. The reverse gear transmission uses a planetary gear set, a multi-plate friction pack, a brake band and drum, and is sealed with oil in its own housing. The transmission simplified the handling of these heavy mowers (725 pounds), and was so successful that it was offered on the 25" and 30" mowers in 1951. (see photo below of Locke 70" reverse triplex which will later be known as item 10)

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After 1959, model #, and width of cut were associated with item numbers as follows:
Item 2 25" single unit mower
Item 5 30" single unit mower
Item 22 30" single unit mower with reverse
Item 6 70" triplex mower
Item 10 70" triplex mower with reverse
Item 8 75" triplex mower
Item 23 75" triplex mower with reverse
In the late 1960ís, the mowers were redesigned, taking advantage of many new industrial processes and the new standard metric size of bearings, shafts and other power transmission components. Although this was a corporate move to improve efficiency, care was taken to insure that the legendary handling, productivity, and quality were not compromised. In 1966, 7-blade reels were offered as an option and were highly valued in southern climates. Up to this point, 5-blade reels were standard on all mowers.

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Locke mowers have been and will continue to be heavy-duty, precision instruments built to hold up to the most rigorous demands of landscape professionals. No capricious model year or cosmetic changes are instituted, although improvements are continually incorporated into all models. Present day Locke mowers have an outstanding pedigree and we at Locke plan to continue to produce mowers that will be recognized around the world as the ultimate response to the need for the highest degree of quality lawn care.

Locke Power Reel Mowers have set the standard for turf care at some of the most prestigious grounds around the world. These grounds include the White House, the Kremlin, National Park monuments, L.A. Dodger stadium, Yankee Stadium, as well as yours.

We welcome your comments and suggestions at Locke. If you do not presently own a Locke, we encourage you to try out a Locke Power Reel Mower and experience for yourself Lockeís legendary cut, performance, and durability.

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The first riding mower was developed in 1971. It was known as the Maxi mower. A newly designed chassis, with a front mounted engine, utilized three 30" reels in order to deliver an 87" cutting width. The heart of this mower was the new Eaton model 6 hydrostatic transmission that allowed unlimited variable traction speeds along with reverse in the same control mechanism.

In 1973, Locke reentered the golf market (A putting green mower was built in the early 1930ís) with a 70" triplex greens mower. The new mower was called item # 7. They enjoyed only a limited run and were discontinued in 1976. The Maxi mower was updated and changed to the Maxi-II in 1974.

1976 marked the first year of the "60 series"mowers. At first, a 25" single mower, item # 60 was offered. These machines were a separate product line and were lower in cost than the "standard series". The sixty series mowers used belts and pulleys instead of chains and sprockets. This allowed the reel and traction drives to be engaged with out the clutches and related hardware. Also, a welded frame replaced many castings further reducing lead times and expenses. The 60 series mower grew in to a family of mowers offering everything from the 25" single to 70" and 75" reverse triplex, and even included a small greensmower. After a successful run, the 60 series were discontinued in 1983. They are highly valued today because of the ease of maintenance and the simple availability of pulleys, belts, etc.

1980 saw the further evolution of the riding mower with the Maxi-II (Mark-2), and later in 1984 to be renamed the Professional model 1 (87" cut) and the model 4 (77" cut). These units had foot controls and electric start Briggs & Stratton 16 hp engines.

1987 marked the first year Honda engines were offered as an option. These proved to be very smooth running, durable engines and were used as follows, 5 hp on single units or item 6C, and 8 hp for other triplex mowers. Because of good planning and parts interchangeability, Honda engines can be fitted to any standard series Locke from 1932 to present. 1988 saw the introduction of the pneumatic tire drive system. This option substitutes 4 small pneumatic tires for the two rubber covered drive rollers and fits within the same space. These tires greatly increase traction, which helps while mowing in wet or hilly conditions. These developments were employed on a 70" triplex with a Honda 5 hp engine, making it the lightest triplex ever. It was called the model 6C," Contractor".

In 1996, the R & D department began in earnest with a new project. It was determined that a lower cost, more versatile single unit mower was needed. In the spring of 1997, the new product was offered as the Locke "Commercial Series". It is built in 25" and 30" cutting widths and comes equipped with a Briggs & Stratton 5.5hp vanguard engine. This series of mowers combine all of the qualities that have made Locke a household name, with the latest in manufacturing technology. This mower incorporates a "quick adjust" height control system which allows the user to adjust the height from Ĺ" to 3" in a matter of seconds. This is made possible due to the fact that the reel runs on a full length aluminum roller instead of skid shoes, which allows the overlapping of bedding areas, as well as increases the striping ability of the mower. This series of mowers also feature operator presence safety controls. These mowers have quickly become our number one sellers worldwide and we are expecting great things in the future.

  © 2003, Locke Turf