Paving Machine Invented in Marion, Illinois



Paving Machine Invented in Marion Will Revolutionize the Industry
W.F. “Frankie” Merritt, 428 S. Future Street, Marion, has invented a machine which may revolutionize paving operations in the United States. Merritt, who is chief mechanic for the Regenhardt Construction Company of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, has developed a paving machine which requires no forms, but deposits the fresh concrete directly on the new road, saving approximately ten per cent in the cost of operation, and reducing the number of workers. With a traveling sub-grade machine, the results are practically the same as paving with forms.
Machine Made in Marion
Merritt drew plans for the machine on Sunday, March 1, 1953, and within six weeks and two days the new machine was ready to operate. The machine was made in the building owned by Raleigh Crain, just off West White Street and transported to the new road to be constructed south of Whittington.
Previous machines had not proved practical for this type of work and up to the Merritt model; all had laid a twelve foot slab of concrete. This new machine lays a complete 24 foot slab.
Will Be Used This Year
The Regenhardt Construction Company was the successful bidder on two slabs of road in Southern Illinois recently and will use the newly developed machine in the construction of these highways this summer. One of these jobs will be Highway 51, north of Carbondale to DeSoto. This strip of road will be approximately ten miles long and will cost over $800,000.
The second strip of road will be in Edwards County, from Albion on Route 130 to Crossville, at the intersection of State Highway 1. This will be about nine miles long and will cost over $700,000.
Moved to Marion in 1950
W.F. Merritt moved to Marion in 1950 from Harrisburg. He has been an employee of the Regenhardt Construction Company since 1924. Merritt was born in Oran, Missouri August 17, 1906 and graduated from the Chaffee, Missouri High School.
In 1937, he married Maude Gidney at Wentzville, Mo. They have seven children, Mary Virginia, 16; Frances Ann, 15; Shirley Jean 14; Charles Raymond, 10; Carol Sue, 8; William Frank, Jr., 5; and Patricia Lynn, 4 months.
As chief mechanic, he works for the construction company throughout Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Motion pictures were made of the machine when it first went into operation on the Illinois Highway project in Franklin County. When it first went into operation it poured and completed 80 feet of 24 foot concrete slab during the first hour. The machine has a speed graduated from eight inches in a minute to 248 inches per minute. It has a total of 45 speeds forward and 45 speeds backward.
Construction of new machines will run approximately $15,000 each. The original model cost more than this amount, but many of the parts were custom made.
Recently Tried in Illinois
Encouraged by State Division of Highways at Springfield, the Regenhardt Construction Company recently laid a 24 foot Portland Concrete and Cement base course, nine inches uniform thickness on a 4.78 mile bituminous surfacing project on Illinois Route 37, two miles south of Whittington in Franklin County.
The machine was first used on August 3rd of last year. It is self-propelled and is supported on shoulders of the road with a pair of caterpillar tracks. Concrete is retained by two sliding or slip forms having the same vertical dimensions as the thickness of the slab being poured.
In operation, the metal plate and tie-bars are set ahead of the paver. The sub-grade of six inches of granular sub-base is carefully checked for elevation and wet down ahead of the machine.
Developed From Parts on Hand
The finishing machine was developed from parts on hand in the Regenhardt Construction Company’s shops, and the complete construction cost approximately $17,500. Frankie Merritt, genius behind the new machine, has had over 30 years’ experience in construction and road building. All details were worked out from rough sketches. The elevation and thickness of the slab was the big problem, but the machine with its numerous gears worked perfectly the first time it was tried.
Target Guides Equipment
The caterpillar tracks are outside the traveling form. The gasoline powered unit is near the center and a generator unit operates an electric vibratory motor. The 34-E dual drum paver and trailing water tank moves along with the machine.
Forward direction of the paver is controlled by an operator seated at the left of the 120 horsepower gasoline engine located in the center of the machine. A pointer hinged at the bottom of a target which is fastened to the forward end of the traveling forms guide the machine. The target is rigidly fastened on the front end of the left traveling form. Forked wire traveling along cord stretched between stakes at 25 foot centers, indicate the direction of the paver on target. Forked wire is also hinged for vertical movement to eliminate binding when passing over stakes.
The new machine is the only known one of its kind in the United States capable of paving a full 24 foot width. Besides highway engineers, several equipment manufacturers have evidenced considerable interest in the machine and have sent representatives to look it over. The Regenhardt Construction Company has applied for a patent for the machine.
Praise Cooperation of State
 D.L. Harrison, president of the Regenhardt Construction Company, in discussing Merritt’s invention states, “We believe our paving machine has successfully demonstrated that the idea of paving without forms is no longer in the dream stage. The far-sighted cooperation of the Illinois Highway Department made feasible our experiment and development. We are convinced that this present machine is sufficient for the placing of base course concrete. Ultimately the idea may make the costly forms a thing of the past.”

(Marion Daily Republican article by Paul Frick, April 15, 1954)