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Something Special

The new Cariboo Special skidder from Allied is proving to be just that for contractor Roger Wheeler.

By Jim Stirling


Roger Wheeler enjoys operating his Cariboo Special grapple skidder and it's easy to see why-he's good at it. No movement is wasted. The machine runs smoothly and fluidly, neither too fast nor too slow. Wheeler moves a lot of wood in second gear and when it's deposited at roadside, the machine can turn quick-as-a-wink back for another drag.

Roger Wheeler of Quesnel, BC owns and operates the first Cariboo Special, a Ranger H67 series grapple skidder with some special features. The skidder has proved to be a good production machine for Wheeler, skidding a remarkable 12,000 cubic metres of wood in 20 days in one show.

Roger Wheeler Contracting is a skidder only contractor based in Quesnel, British Columbia's Cariboo country. He's been teamed up for years with Quadra Logging, which does an average of 120,000 cubic metres a year for West Fraser Mills in Quesnel.

Wheeler owns and operates the first Cariboo Special, a Ranger H67 series grapple skidder. Essentially it's a heavy duty, midsize skidder with some special features, as the name suggests.

The machine is the result of a collaboration between contractors like Wheeler, the supplier/dealer Inland Kenworth Parker Pacific and Ranger's manufacturer, Allied Systems Company of Oregon.

It's an example of what can happen when customers, salesmen, servicemen and manufacturers listen to each other. And it brings a smile to Tom Mower's face as he watches Wheeler's Cariboo Special put up production during the rump of the 19992000 winter logging season.

Mower is an equipment sales rep with the Inland Group in Quesnel and the middleman, communicating between logging contractors in central and northern BC and Allied. He's well-qualified for the role, having owned and operated logging equipment and put in 10 years as a heavy duty mechanic.

One of the key differences between the Cariboo Special and the H67G-the closest Ranger in specs-is a 10 inch extension to the frame. That seemingly modest addition between the hinge and rear axle extends the wheelbase to 150 inches. But it provides a mile better ride, says Mower, and helps transfer load weight forward. Wheeler concurs: "It's much smoother, a little longer and wider, and more stable on the knolls ."

The Special is powered by a new Cummins 6BTA 5.9 engine producing a rated 185 hp. It's matched comfortably with a Clark 32000 series transmission. "We've gone to a lower geared torque converter to transmit the 185 hp at a lower gear ratio into the transmission, giving it more torque and doing it more efficiently," says Mower.

A principal feature of the Special is a switch to a Funk difflok differential. The ability to flip a switch to disengage the differential on the fly results in less scuffing and ground degradation, notes Mower. When a differential is unlocked, the inner wheel turns more slowly and the outer tries to catch up.

Consequently, the machine's turning circle is much reduced with the kickout differential, contributing to faster cycle times, continues Mower.

The Cariboo Special has a gear pump hydraulic system. An accumulator and hold down lever delivers constant pressure on the grapple.

"It's simpler to run and maintain," he adds. And keeping it simple fits the skidder which Mower dubs "the mule of the bush".

The standard 105inch Clark bunching grapple has been extended to 121 inches on the Cariboo Special. The extension to the tines helps in digging under the load to pick up a second or subsequent bundle of bunched wood.

The machine is fitted with 30.5x32 tires, larger than standard, that deliver a light 7.0 psi footprint. Mower says the Special has an excellent disc braking system with brakes inside the housings of the Funk differential and on the rear of the transmission, both oil cooled.

The machine functions with a two-stick, four-valve control. Operators can employ a transmission de-clutch feature that disengages the transmission so the engine develops more revolutions per minute to maximize hydraulic speed for engaging a drag.

Wheeler has been running skidders for 20 years, starting off with old line machines. He's operated a whole alphabet of Clarks including Bs, Ds, Fs and Gs. "I'm very familiar with Clark skidders ." (The Ranger is the latest progeny in the Clark family tree. The company was Clark Michigan, then VME Ranger Valmet until Allied bought Ranger).

Wheeler admits to being the guinea pig with the Cariboo Special. But it's a decision he doesn't regret.

"It's been working well and I'm quite impressed ." Understandably. He acquired the Special last October and it worked all through the winter with only one period of downtime, and that was hose related.

By spring, it had more than 800 hours on the clock. The Special has proved a good production machine, on one Quadra show skidding a remarkable 12,000 cubic metres of wood in 20 days.

Wheeler says the Cariboo Special is a good fit with the type of wood he's working in now and expects to be skidding in the foreseeable future. He's into small diameter lodgepole pine with most stems averaging 10 to 12 inches. It's wood both infested and killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic raging out of control in many areas of BC's Cariboo and central interior.

The extended tines on the grapple means more wood per turn. "I'm getting in two trips what it took three to do with my old skidder," he says. "Most days we're getting 10 to 15 loads a day with the skidder in a 10 hour shift ." Working on Saturdays was helping Wheeler keep ahead of the two double shifted stroke delimbers decking about 18 loads a day for the highway haul to West Fraser's sawmill yard in Quesnel.

When LSJ visited, Wheeler was cleaning up the last block of the logging season on a gentle side hill northwest of Quesnel. A Cat 325 with Limmit stroker was decking wood delivered by Wheeler's Cariboo Special. It was ideal for the skidder. The uphill skids were quite short and the machine gained extra pulls not having to climb on the deck to drop a load. It also minimized the risk of flats and other tire damage. Wheeler says the machine was pulling well and the superior hydraulics were contributing to better lift.

Wheeler tries to keep to skids averaging 200 metres. It's one of the factors on his mind when walking the cut blocks prior to layout and contributing his two cents worth on road locations in terms of skidding distances and up and down hill skids.

The Cariboo Special has attracted considerable attention outside the Cariboo.

Contractors in other parts of the BC Interior are discovering the machine is fitting their shopping list of requirements and is suited to different applications. At least six more Specials have been ordered from Allied's manufacturing plant.


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This page last modified on Tuesday, February 17, 2004