By Lindsay Mohlere
Almost fresh off the boat from Austria, EcoForst’s T-Winch is putting on a show across the steep slopes of Western Oregon’s Coast Range.
The T-Winch forest tethering machine — the first of its kind in the USA — was purchased this past summer by L&L Inc., from the EcoForst dealer, Precision Machinery in Eugene, Oregon. L&L put the T-Winch into service about four months ago, and it is being put to the test nearly every day.
The manufacturer, EcoForst of Tragoess, Austria, states the T-Winch was designed to simplify timber harvesting on terrain that is steep or is difficult to access. Unlike many other tethering systems that have begun to surface across the U.S., the T-Winch is a self-contained mechanized tracked unit that can be positioned easily via handheld controls. Powered by a 3-liter engine, pumping out 145 hp, the T-Winch is small compared to other tethering machines — 6’ tall, 13’ long, and 7’ wide. It tips the scales around 8.5 tons.
Anchoring of the T-Winch takes place through the crawler movement and the attached blade. Additionally, the unit can be tied off to a block with fixed strutting belts to deliver maximum tractive force.
Tractive force assistance and driving direction are preset by the operator via a remote control.
Evolution of a Company
L&L Inc. is a family-owned outfit out of Sutherlin, Oregon. The company consists of parents Louis and Lori Mann, brothers Terry and Ted, and long-time family friend, Derrick Benson. Originally from Philipsburg, Montana, the Mann family business was started in 1986 by Louis and Lori, thus the name L&L. They concentrated on tree-length logging until deciding to change their direction to cut-to-length in 2004.
At that point, they went looking for machines to fit their business model and ultimately decided on Ponsse. In fact, they became the first operator in the West to use Ponsse. “Their machines are built for what we do.; thinning and small diameter thinning,” said Terry Mann. He adds that with its lighter footprint, the equipment was designed for the type of jobs they do. “Doesn’t have to be big destructive iron. The technology is better than anyone else.”
The company fields a 2015 Ponsse Scorpion King harvester, which Terry describes as “Awesome,” a 2012 Ponsse Buffalo forwarder, and a 2011 Ponsse Buffalo Dual. L&L also has a CAT 320 shovel and a couple of dozers in its equipment stable. L&L does its own hauling utilizing a 2006 International Paystar Mule Train, operated by Ted Mann. In addition, the company has a 2006 KW T-800, which serves as a lowboy or a mule train. Contract haulers are also used when needed.
When the economy began to fade around 2009, the Mann family took a hard look at their future. They had a lot of work, but mills were closing, and the markets were drying up. At the time, they thought about closing the company down.
Fortunately, they got a call from Lee Miller of Miller Timber Services. Miller needed help on a thinning project near Bend. So, in 2011, the Mann family packed up like the settlers of old and traveled to Oregon in a column of equipment, RVs, and kids.
The Pioneering Spirit Lives On!
According to Terry Mann, L&L worked for Miller until early 2017, when they began taking on their own contracts. Again, the family’s pioneering spirit and solid faith foundation opened the door for opportunity when the T-Winch became known.
Terry said the company took a huge step by going into tethering. “Our first impression was we didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But as the technology started to progress and the government came up with some regulations, we looked at it again. A lot of guys were jumping in with both feet. It looked like it was going to be a part of the future of this industry, and we definitely wanted to be on the leading edge of that. Not only for the opportunity, but also so we can get a fair price for the work that we do. It expands our operating capabilities. It also makes us a more desirable contractor in the eyes of the landowners,” he said.
“The T-Winch really interested me when I first saw it three or four years ago,” Terry continued. “We’ve been watching it since. This spring the owner of EcoForst, Markus Krenn, was in the U.S. and I got ahold of him. He came out to the Northwest, and it just clicked. My dad and I both felt right about it, just one of those things. We went over to Germany, talked to some loggers over there, and we made the decision to get it. At that time, we really saw a future with this so we went to a couple of landowners and explained what we had in mind, that we were interested in this system, but only if it was something they wanted to apply. We had to be kept busy if we were going to buy it. They were very excited about it.”
Currently, the company works for Giustina Land & Timber but has also logged for Seneca, Weyerhaeuser, and Lone Rock.
Little Outfit, Big Results
Just because L&L Logging is a small, four-guy, one-woman outfit, it doesn’t mean they’re short on production.
In its beginning, the company was much larger, relying on hand crews to cut tree-length timber. In the early 90s, L&L evolved to more mechanized work, and when they changed direction into cut-to-length, the company morphed into a tight family operation.
Last year, L&L knocked out 35,000 tons and expects to do more this year. Daily production hovers between two and ten truck loads per day. “We added another machine that my dad’s running,” Terry said. “It’s a Ponsse Buffalo Dual, basically like the machine Derrick runs. The bunks are all removed, and the grapple comes off. We put a harvester head on it. It’s good for small jobs that can get done with just one machine. When we’re working all together, it helps balance out the production.”
The company sees the addition of the T-Winch to their equipment roster as a solution to some of the operational challenges of logging in steep slope country.
“Steep ground is always a challenge. Every job we do, it seems like there’s a piece, or a corner, or a draw that we can’t get on. The T-Winch allows us to get to those places and, a lot of times, go beyond what the landowner really expected,” Terry said.
Terry added that their usual work method on the steep slopes is that he will hook up to the T-Winch with the harvester and drop over the edge. When he’s finished, he brings the harvester up top. At that point, the cable is easily shifted to Derrick’s forwarder, and he then drops over the lip. While he’s in “the hole,” Terry works the flatter ground to keep production at maximum levels.
Working at a fast pace, the crew can quickly reposition the T-Winch without much hassle. “It pulls about 17,000 pounds, and it will use all of it pulling up the hill. But we’re not even tied back. The blade is buried, and it doesn’t even wiggle,” Terry said, adding that the winch is extremely frugal on fuel.
“What’s really crazy is the fuel this thing burns. It’s under a gallon an hour,” he said. “We’re saving more than that in the forwarder because the T-Winch helps it up and down. The combined fuel usage of the two machines is less than when we run without it. The T-Winch allows us to push further into the year and further down the slope.”
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