CLEVER CRAFTSMAN: Bill on his first invention, the grader with front blade and protection canopy.
CLEVER CRAFTSMAN: Bill on his first invention, the grader with front blade and protection canopy. Contributed

Inventor with creative flair

WHEN a young neighbour bogged his truck on a back road of his property, he headed straight for Bill Ryall's shed.

"Get out that Go Devil of yours,” he called to Bill.

"Let's see if it can get me out of this hole.”

And so Bill's barely completed contraption was given the name it was to be know by for the next 50 years.

Bill always enjoyed manufacturing tools and equipment, much like his grandfather before him.

In his youth he built many labour-saving devices for use on the family farm, Kentucky, at Columboola.

His grandfather, William Ryall, had been a master blacksmith and Bill inherited not only his skills but his creative flair.

It was a matter of necessity being the mother of invention when in the early 1950s Bill Ryall converted his 1942 short- wheel based Blitz truck into a grader.

It was a three-ton truck with a side valve Ford V8 engine, known as a "flat head” Ford.

Bill's father Alfred was still checking the 17 miles of boundary netting on a horse in those days, and Bill's idea was to grade a track along the fence so a vehicle could be used instead.

His first attempt used a squared off log bolted to railway line.

Dragged behind the Blitz, it graded a track 10 foot wide.

It worked pretty well but, whenever the grader blade hit a stump, it invariably speared into the netting fence.

Bill decided if there was enough power to pull the 10-foot blade, then there was enough to push one 8-9 foot wide. He stripped the body and cab from the Blitz truck, leaving only the chassis, axles and engine.

Arms pivoting from a king-pin on the back axles supported the front blade, and a steel-framed canopy protected the driver.

The blade was cable driven from a rear-mounted winch which operated through a small snap-over centre clutch, fashioned from an army motorbike clutch with a "live drive” off the front of the engine.

Bill's only tools for completing the job were an oxy welder and an electric welder. The steel for the blade was 5/16th checkerplate, cut from the floor plate of another Blitz truck.

The Go Devil, as it was so aptly named, proved to be a versatile machine, so much so Bill used it for far more applications than just grading tracks through his heavily-timbered country.

With the addition of a half yard capacity Tumbling Tommy scoop, the Go Devil was extremely useful for filing potholes, making creek crossings and building foundations for sheds.

The success of this application was mainly due to the efficiency of the cable winding mechanism.

A rear-mounted elevated snig pole provided a high lift with 3/4 ton capacity for snigging logs out of the forestry, and eventually a mid-mounted grader blade proved to be even more efficient than the previous two, with left or right hand tilt to allow the driver to crown the road.

All in all, this ingenious machine provided Bill with more pushing power than a Fordson tractor and drove at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Bill had actually bought very little in the building of the Go Devil. His main purchase was a transfer case in good condition, which came from a Blitz truck in found in a local clearing sale.

Although his first design had proved to be versatile and efficient, the cost of petrol was a concern.

Go Devil 2 was built on similar principals but was fitted with a P6 Perkins Diesel which made it fuel efficient and gave more pulling power.

The building of the Mark 2 added up to only a few weeks' work and, for his trouble, Bill had a machine with full hydraulic power he could use to clear tracks through the timber, assist in Cypress pine harvesting, clear loading pads for timer, and load timber onto trucks and trailers with forks fitted to the front blade.

Bill's wonderful inventions now lie rusting in a paddock; their days of service behind them.

In their time they made life easier for a hard-working sawmiller and proved you are limited only by your imagination.