April 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
A Madill/Morgan combo—including a new Madill 2250B feller buncher—is providing a strong foundation for Alberta logger Isaac Fehr, who demands a high level of performance from his equipment.
By Tony Kryzanowski
In an industry noted for its long hours and stressful environment—particularly with spring breakup looming—Alberta logger Isaac Fehr would have to be what most people would recognize as a person who has a positive outlook on life. No matter how junior the employee might be, he greets everyone with respect and a smile. So it should come as no surprise that fortune has smiled back upon him.
Fehr owns I & B Logging Contractors Ltd based near Worsley, about two hours north of Grande Prairie. He has been logging for Canfor since 1976 and today harvests about 270,000 cubic metres during a short logging season from mid-October to mid-March. He transports the softwood to Canfor and the hardwood to Daishowa-Marubeni International (DMI) in Peace River. Logs under 14 inches in diameter are cut to length at roadside, while the remainder is shipped tree-length. Logging is seasonal because the Clear Hills area north of Worsley turns to muskeg in summer.
Fehr notes that when his parents settled on a homestead near Worsley in 1959, the area was solid bush in every direction. Today, the land has been cleared and Fehr farms 19 quarter sections of titled land while leasing another 24 quarter sections to raise cattle. Seasonal logging fits in well with his farm business. He’s now planning to expand his logging business into neighboring British Columbia as one of Canfor’s primary contractors to supply wood to their operations in Fort St John.
Fehr hasn’t accomplished all this on his own, as several family members are also involved in the logging business. His oldest son, Jake, sub-contracts a butt ’n top loader to I & B Logging, as does his son-in-law, George Bamman. His second oldest son, Johnny, works as a feller buncher sub-contractor.
In addition to keeping a positive outlook on life, Fehr is also willing to try various brands of forestry products. Given the seasonal nature of his logging business, he demands a high level of performance.
After looking at various feller buncher brands, he and Johnny each purchased a new Madill 2250B feller buncher last October. I & B Logging also owns two Caterpillar carriers with Lim-mit 2200 and 2200B delimber attachments, four Komatsu carriers with two Lim-mit and two Denharco delimbers, including one Denharco 4400 Extreme, two Morgan six-wheel-drive, hydrostatic, swing grapple skidders, two Caterpillar dozers, a 330 Caterpillar butt ’n top loader for decking, and five logging trucks.
The most recent purchase was the Madill 2250B feller buncher equipped with a 22-inch Waratah head. “I was looking for smoothness, along with a lot of track and hydraulic power in a feller buncher,” Fehr says. “When they brought the Madill out for a demo, we decided that’s what we wanted, and the price was about right.”
The feller buncher comes equipped with a Detroit Diesel Series 50, 8.5 litre engine that delivers 300 horsepower at 2,000 rpm. Fehr says it burns between 80 to 100 gallons of fuel in a 12-hour shift. It has a heavy duty D7 undercarriage and the overall track length is 15 feet, eight inches. It has nine Berco excavator rollers per side and comes equipped with 28-inch single grouser shoes. The ground pressure for this configuration is 8.4 psi.
Prior to them making the decision to purchase the bunchers, Madill invited both Isaac and Johnny to visit their factory in Nanaimo, BC. Isaac says watching how the feller buncher was manufactured from the ground up made the decision to purchase the company’s product quite easy. One reason why his operators like the Madill feller buncher is because it isn’t overwhelmed with electronics like some other products on the market, he says. It still allows the operator a reasonable amount of manual control over both the carrier and head.
Now with 1,700 hours under the machine’s belt, Fehr says he hasn’t been disappointed with the productivity and consistent performance of the Madill 2250B.
The logs in Fehr’s area average between 10 to 12 inches in diameter and one operator was able to harvest 5,400 stems in a 12-hour shift. However, the amount of production will vary depending on the size of logs and the terrain.
Madill outfits the carrier with its own custom designed feller buncher boom. It is mounted rear of centre for increased lift capacity. The stick geometry has 12 feet of sweep, and can lift 21,800 lbs at 20 feet.
“What I really like about the Madill and Waratah combination is that the saw doesn’t stall easily,” says Fehr. “I think that has to do with oil flow. I think there is more oil flow going to the saw motor, which makes a better cut.”
I & B Logging’s previous experience with the Koehring head is what encouraged the company to equip its Madill carrier with a Waratah 22-inch head, since Waratah bought out Koehring. It continues to offer products based on Koehring’s design. Fehr says his company experienced a lot less breakage with the Koehring head in the past compared to other brands.
He has had very little downtime with the feller buncher over the past logging season, and whenever he encountered a problem, he received good service support from the Madill branch in Grande Prairie.
Complementing Fehr’s Madill feller buncher are two Morgan swing grapple skidders. The Morgan skidder is also a Canadian-made product, manufactured by Morgan Forestry Products in Langley, BC. After purchasing his first Morgan skidders in 2002, Fehr recently traded them in for two newer, SX-706 SB models. “Those skidders were something that I wanted for many years—something in a hydrostatic drive and a swing boom grapple,” says Fehr. “We’ve had more production with those machines than we’ve had with anything else.”
Morgan says there are approximately 8,000 fewer moving items in the drive line of their skidders compared to conventional skidders. This includes no torque converter, transmission, differentials, propeller shafts, axles, and service brakes. Fewer parts result in a lower centre of gravity.
The transmission is a SyncroTrack hydrostatic drive. It consists of a four-pump system driving four hydraulic wheel motors. Instead of axles, the front wheels are propelled by wheel motors mounted in exterior weldment tunnels. The rear tires work on a bogie axle mounted directly to the rear frame with drive motors mounted inside. They are driven using Silvatech proprietary hydraulic/mechanical interface with positive torque reaction. The skidder frame can oscillate at the centre Rotec bearing 30 degrees from stop to stop.
While the initial purchase price for the Morgan skidder is more expensive, Fehr says he earns that money back in extra production. “We’ve pulled as much a 6,000 stems in a 12-hour shift,” he says, adding that one reason why the Morgan skidders are so productive is because the hydrostatic drive provides a smooth ride and excellent performance, especially in hilly and soft ground conditions. The six-wheel drive configuration with tracks on the back wheels contributes to better traction and stability in soft ground.
“These skidders are totally amazing working in soft ground,” Fehr says. “They are very environmentally friendly. You don’t leave any big ruts when making a turn.” Morgan says fewer moving items in the drive train results in a lighter vehicle and a softer footprint. Also, the drive system delivers 100 per cent power to all wheels all the time, even in turns under a full load.
Being environmentally aware is a priority in I & B Logging’s work environment. For example, the company works closely with Canfor to avoid disturbance of woodland caribou that migrate through the area, particularly in the northeast corner of the company’s logging operations. Logging these areas is restricted to only certain times of the year.
Fehr expects that the performance of his Morgan skidders in soft ground will come in particularly handy when he begins logging in BC because that contract requires year-round logging.
The Morgan skidder’s custom swing grapple has a 15 cubic-foot capacity and has a 120-inch opening. Its swing radius is 140 degrees, lift height is about 12 feet, and it has 15 feet of reach.
“The swing boom grapple gives you so many options to maneuver when you get into tight corners,” says Fehr. In addition to working well in tight spaces, the swing grapple’s dexterity allows the operator to deck a load on the fly without driving over the accumulate pile at roadside, which results in reduced cycle times, higher productivity, and fewer damaged trees.
The skidder is powered by a Cummins 6CTA, 8.3 litre engine, with rated output of 260 horsepower at 2,200 rpm. Typical fuel consumption is five to 8.5 gallons per hour.
Fehr says Morgan has made a number of improvements to its newest model, including a heavier frame and extending the back end by 30 inches. With this design, there is much more weight on the front end, resulting in more pulling power from the front wheels.
Other than an auxiliary pump failure that was covered under warranty, Fehr says he has gotten excellent performance from his Morgan skidders. Even when this issue cropped up, he says the service support from Coneco Equipment in Grande Prairie was quick, and the skidder was up and running in a hurry. And that’s enough to keep the smile on his face.
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