Pros: Nice weight, Classic style, EASY to use
Cons: Discontinued! & Plastic Worm gear worries me.
I looked around for a Traveling Tractor Sprinkler for months. Checked out garage sales and ebay trying to find a bargain. I still think these 2 places are your best bet for price, but watch out for outrageous shipping on ebay. I paid $18 S/H and the actual postage was $7.38. I still did better than the $70 they go for new, but shipping was just about the same as the auction ending price!
My jewel was a newer (90's estimate) Thompson. It has 3 aliases. Thompson Pathfinder, Nelson 605, and Sears Craftsman 79054. As of 6/11/02 Sears.com no longer carries one. Nelson purchased Thompson in the late 1990's I believe and carried on the Thompson Pathfinder rebadged as a 605 in competition with their 1800 series. I just emailed them 6/15/02 for a manual and parts list and the response was no problem, but once the parts are gone they are gone due to it being discontinued!
Back to the Tractor itself. It has 3 "traveling" speeds and neutral. The unit is made of Cast Iron, some Aluminum, and some Plastic. The only plastic is the Worm drive and my only real concern 5-10 years from now. The arms and a drive assemblies are made of aluminum. The rest is iron. Very durable and should last a real long time.
Operation is quite simple. You layout the path desired and plug the hose into the tractor (I use a quick connect on all my watering accessories). The path starts at the end of the hose and works it's way back to the faucet. You can angle the spray arms to throw farther if your lawn requires it. I set mine with only a slight pitch and the 50 X 75 gets soaked. I will definately be considering purchasing a 100' hose. You really need the length for any odd shaped lawn because too sharp of a turn will cause the tractor to jump off the hose which is it's track.
Overall it is a great unit, and try to find one used! The newer Nelson's have an autostop device that looks real handy, but the high price and styling stopped me from purchasing it. You can add an autostop valve to this unit, but it requires you to splice into the hose where you want it to stop. Probably around the faucet area. The front wheel has a rod sticking out that hits a lever and thus stops the water flow. I just like the antique look of the thompson. Plus some of the Nelson's are die-cast not cast iron, which supposedly is weaker.