Allis-Chalmers & Civil Defense Part II

As a follow-up to my previous post, I would like to fill you in on some new information that I received from the National Archives. I sent an inquiry to the archives about Allis-Chalmers’ involvement with the development of the National Emergency Alarm Repeater system (NEAR). If you haven’t read that post yet, click here.

This is the information I was able to uncover via the National Archives. Allis Chalmers was given a government contract to build and test three generators. I already mentioned the one at the Dairyland Power Cooperative near La Crosse, Wisconsin. Here are the details of the other two test sites.

    • A medium-sized city in the Rocky Mountain area to determine the problems inherent in providing complete coverage in a municiple [sic] power company embracing an area of approximately 100,000 population– Size 50 KVA
    • A large private power company in the southeastern section of the United States. The primary purpose of the installation is to test the propogation [sic] of the signal in areas subject to turbulent weather conditions and heavy power loads. — Size 200 KVA–
**from the National Archives file RG397 :DEFENSE CIVIL PREPAREDNESS AGENCY OFFICE OF CIVIL DEFENSE,Box 1, FolderNEAR Signal Generator Manufacturers”.**

The National Archives more than likely has many more files about NEAR and Allis-Chalmers’ involvement with it. If I ever make it out East, I will have to swing by for a day to research this topic further. I still have the Milwaukee County Historical Society’sinformation to research as well. As I mentioned in my last post, that historical society has archival material relating to the NEAR project and Allis-Chalmers building equipment for it. More to come.

Allis-Chalmers and Civil Defense

I am beginning to turn up some very interesting material for my History Seminar project. I’ve gone through boxes upon boxes, folders upon folders. papers upon papers, and I have run into Allis-Chalmers a few times in the old Wisconsin Bureau of Civil Defense information. The company played two interesting roles in Wisconsin Civil Defense. One was devising a CD plan for industry in Wisconsin, and they also were involved with the creation of an alert system for homes.

In 1955, Allis-Chalmers ranked 54th overall  among the Fortune 500 companies at that time. The company was very diversified in what it made. Farm equipment, electrical equipment, and other precision industrial parts were just a few of the items that came out of the company’s many factories.

Allis-Chalmers had won some defense contracts in the 1940s to build parts for airplanes and navy vessels. After the war, Allis-Chalmers continued to get contracts through the U.S. government. While conducting my research, I have discovered that Allis-Chalmers won some contracts from Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to help develop equipment for the National Emergency Alarm Repeater (NEAR). They were to research, build and test electrical equipment that would make the NEAR project work.

Milwaukee Journal, 8/14/62 Pg 20

Allis-Chalmers was going to build this equipment, and it was to be installed and tested at the Dairyland Power Cooperative power plant in La Crosse, Wisconsin. That was as much information I was able to gather about the project. I have contacted the Dairyland Power Cooperative via Facebook about information regarding the tests. The person I have been in contact with there is looking into it.

The equipment they were producing was going to be used with the National Emergency Repeater Alarm (NEAR). The alarm was a little box that could be plugged into a wall socket in homes. In the event of an imminent enemy attack, a surge could be sent through the power supply to trigger these small units to start buzzing. This was a mechanism to warn people in their homes of the coming attack. The units would be available for $5 to $10.

NEAR: Indoor Attack Warning
(Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization-1961)

Research and development began in 1956 on these units. There was a test in Charlotte, Michigan, and Wisconsin was even chosen for some testing. By the mid to late 1960s, the NEAR project was buried. It was not an efficient way to warn people or give them instructions. The Emergency Broadcast System was a better means of reaching the public during emergency situations.

PBS has a show called History Detectives that did a special on one of these devices. They really have an interesting story behind them.

I am still trying to find out some more details of Allis-Chalmers’ involvement with this emergency system. The National Archives has material in their vast collections that deal with the NEAR project. I contacted them and await a response. I also know that the Allis-Chalmers collection at the Milwaukee County Historical Society may have some information about it as well.

If you have any information about Allis-Chalmers and their involvement with the NEAR project, I would appreciate the information you have.

AC Christmas Gifts

Christmas is nearly here and that means spending time with family and friends. There are some super-sweet gifts that are out there for the AC enthusiast.


$25.00 on Ebay

There are 2 new DVDs out that have digitally converted 16mm Allis-Chalmers promotional films. I am acquainted with the guy that put these together. They are outstanding quality and have some interesting films on there. Test videos of the D-21, inside the West Allis Works, and Allis-Chalmers balers in action. A definite must for an AC collector.

$9.00 on Ebay

Another DVD that I purchased a few years back was this fine specimen. It has 3 films on it and 2 of the films have footage inside the West Allis Works! Another great set of films on one DVD.


Cafe Press has some cool clothing items that people have designed and put out on CafePress. Here are a few pictured above. You can check out some of the items that the Allis-Chalmers Facebook Fanpage has on their store.


Here are a few more of the great AC gifts available on Cafe Press. To check these items out, click on the pictures above. You can also visit and search of other items or customize your own.

City Man on the Farm

I was going through some photos on my computer, and I couldn’t resist making a post about this after I found the pictures from last year. Last Summer my soon-to-be in-laws made a trip to our family farm. According to the dates on the picture, it was the last weekend in July 2011. I remember that being a really fun weekend with both families getting together.

My future father in-law, Dan, was in for a treat that weekend when he came to the farm. Dan is a great guy who is always willing to try something new. He does a lot of volunteering and loves to help people. He is involved with Habitat for Humanity, an MS fundraising bike ride and many other fundraising/charity drives. Something he has never done, and expressed an interest in trying, is working on a farm. Well, we don’t milk cows anymore or have thousands of acres of farm land to tend to, but we did have some straw to bale that weekend. My dad was excited that we had an able and willing hand to help with that.


Stationed in the haymow.

We assigned Dan to the haymow station. He was in charge of stacking the straw bales up in the barn. Dad did some training on what to do, but soon figured out that Dan had the hang of it. I was stationed down on the hay rack to put the bales on the elevator to send up to Dan. We only had 2 wagon loads to do, but it was a hot day to be unloading bales.


Catching the bales to stack.

Bale unloading was only phase I of his training. We decided to introduce him to phase II on a farm, tractor driving. One of the first things people learn to do when starting off on a tractor is raking hay/straw. That is how I learned, and I think that is how my dad and brother learned. We had the Allis-Chalmers D-15 all ready to run with the rake. I remember Dan was pretty excited about being able to do some farm work in the field. I showed him where to go and what to do. It was pretty self-explanatory, and he caught on right away. He was having fun, we could all tell.


Someone is having a fun time raking!

Dan had a lot of fun with the farm work he got to do that weekend. I think he looks forward to doing more. Maybe Dad will have to buy a herd of cows and we can have Dan come up and help with a milking operation. Next time we will get Dan in a bigger tractor with a different piece of equipment to pull behind him. I am sure he will look forward to that.