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Madill 172 Rebuilt from the Ashes
What do you do when a perfectly good Madill 172 tower yarder suddenly catches fire? We’re not talking “catches fire” like it suddenly starts hauling logs like a son-of-a-gun, but literally bursts into flames, leaving the main body and drums toast, sparing only the undercarriage and drums.
Top to Bottom Rebuild
If you are Greg Roberti, you see an opportunity. You buy the charred carcass at a salvage sale for something around $67k and ship it off to your buddies at Active Equipment Co. in New Zealand (yup, New Zealand) to work some of their refurb and repair magic on the beast.
After the machine has been completely dismantled, cleaned, inspected, upgraded to the most current specs, and received a new engine, transmission, cooling system, fuel system, air system, hydraulic system, and 21st century cab and control electronics, you ship the whole thing back to the USA where you sell it to Cross & Crown Logging of Carlton, Ore.
Flames Won’t Keep a 172 Down
The 172 is serial number 25 out of only 36 ever built. It first rolled off the production line in 2000, and when the superstructure unexpectedly went up in flames, the unit still had a lot of good hours left in it. While the Madill 172 is a great machine, merely rebuilding it to original factory specs seemed like a less-than-ideal solution considering that, in the past decade, technology has improved considerably, particularly in the areas of cab design, digital control intelligence, and energy efficiency.
Fortunately, one of Active Equipment’s specialties is rebuilding and upgrading forestry equipment, most particularly yarders. They are also the official Madill servicing center for all of New Zealand.
When to Restore
The first question Greg had to ask before he went to work trying to put the deal together was whether the machine was salvageable. “There were burned out components, melted aluminum, melted plastic, melted cooling system, but when you got down to the heart of it, the main frame, shafts, and drums — they were all rebuildable,” says Greg. “With Active Equipment willing to jump into this, we acquired it together.”
That took care of “could it be done?” The next question was “should it be done?” “The Madill 172 is a fast, strong yarder,” Greg continues. “Its 70-foot tower is the right height for the Northwest market.”
It’s Good to Have Friends
It also helps that Greg knows a thing or two about heavy machinery and Madills in particular. “I’m a machinist from way back,” he says. “After my Detroit days, I went to work for Madill about the same time the new owners bought the company. I was Madill’s Territory Manager for the five Northwestern states.”
Through his position at Madill, Greg got to know Tony Henderson, director of Active Equipment Ltd. in Rotorua, New Zealand (140 miles SE of Auckland on the north island). Active Equipment is the exclusive Boman dealer for New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere. A logging contractor for ten years, Tony also has a pretty good handle on what loggers want in their equipment.
At Active, “We have a staff of ten down there, and we have specialized in the last seven years in yarder rebuilds,” says Tony. “At any one time, we have two or three being rebuilt. Along with the 172, we had a 009 and a 071 in the shop being rebuilt at the same time.”
The biggest challenged turned out to be sourcing all the correct parts. “It was designed back in the 1980s, and this one was actually built in 2000, so a lot of the hydraulic components are out of date,” says Tony. “We updated all those components but in doing that we wanted to keep the machine as standard as possible. We didn’t want to go way out and build something totally different that no one knew anything about.”
Among the systems and components that were replaced and upgraded were the engine, transmission, all the hydraulics, fuel and coolant system, air system, and all wiring and electronics.
Upgrading the Cab & Controls
One of the biggest upgrades was the cab. “The cab is one of ours,” says Tony. “It’s wider, higher, and provides more operating comfort. It’s fully certified so there’s no problem there, but we had to strengthen the structure underneath to carry the larger size.”
The controls are also totally different from the original 172 design. “The layout is the same, but the valving is altogether different. Simplification and durability is what we were after.”
A great example of how the guys at Active Equipment achieved that goal relates to the placement of the control valves. “Instead of being put underneath the main winch drum, which is a real sod to get to – it’s a mechanic’s nightmare to work on – we relocated it and made it real easy to get to,” says Tony.
Luoto Brings It Home
The end result is impressive. According to Kirk Luoto, “It’s the same as a brand new machine but with all the latest and greatest updates and all the things that Madill wishes they could have done but didn’t do.”
He continues, “The Madill 172, in our opinion, is probably one of the best yarders ever made. It’s versatile, it’s strong, it can reach out for long jobs, it can do short jobs. Our company specializes in yarder logging so it was just a very good fit for us – we foresee in the next 3 to 5 years, more yarder work than we have now so adding this to our fleet gives us the opportunity to handle just about anything that’s out there in terms of yarding work.”
Luoto especially likes the upgrades to the cab. “On the old 172s, they have a lot of controls up above on a panel. If you ever drop one of those down, it’s like a big rat’s nest of wires. This upgraded version is very sleek and smooth. It’s a very nice cab, and I hope to see more yarders do that..”
Cross & Crown even got to include a few custom upgrades before the 172 was delivered. “We have a toolbox in the back,” says Luoto. “They built that specifically for this yarder, for us.” In fact, it’s the only toolbox setup like it anywhere.
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