Archivist’s Attic: The Walking Barge

Faster than a speeding Rhino barge, more powerful than an outboard motor, able to leap longer and further than a frog, look on the ground and in the sea; it’s a jeep, it’s a tractor, it’s…The Walking Barge!?

In 1948, the Navy sought a new means to haul men and materials through surf, soft mud, sand and quagmires to reach shore dry and ready to go. The task of developing this was handed to the men at the Advanced Base Depot Proving Ground in Port Hueneme, Calif. They came up with an ingenious idea of using pontoons and an outboard motor to drive the barge through the water until it reached a point where a specially designed leapfrog mechanism could be operated.

The walking barge, as it was called, was capable of carrying 60 tons of men and materiel. The frog-like gadget was made of all-welded construction and consisted of three pontoons placed side by side. The two outer pontoons were each slightly more than 9-feet high, 60-feet long and 6-feet wide. Fitted between the two outer hulls, the inner pontoon was 16-feet wide, 44-feet long and 6-feet wide.

walking barge 1

The barge moved using these pontoons in a halting leapfrog motion. The inboard pontoons were first lifted 17 inches off the ground then moved forward 10 feet at this level and then were lowered to the ground. That action would be followed by the outboard pontoons which were decked over and carried the payload. “Leapfrogging” upward and forward in the same manner as the inboard pontoon, they would come to a rest in their original position over the inboard pontoon.

Just like a frog though, this amphibious adaptation was just at home in mud and water as well as on dry ground. In mud traction was obtained through vertical fins installed in the bow of the inner portion and in the forward sections of the outboard pontoons. The fins were automatically raised into the hull as the barge made its way forward and were lowered into the mud when it touched down. In water, the barge jumped out as far as possible before the propeller took over.

Walking barge 2

This basic design prompted engineers to recommend it for various other jobs including a carrier for road mats and vehicles. Additionally, it could act as a stable platform for use in construction of causeways, bridges, docks and piers. Not all of these ideas were put into place but the simple design of the walking barge lent itself so well to various operations that it was used from the islands all the way down to Antarctica.

Throughout the years various improvements and redesigns leapt the walking barge into the future including various uses for tourists around the world; all due to a little inspiration from our long legged friends!

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150225-N-JU810-001Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast.  In D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Admiration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison

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