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March 2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

CONTRACTOR PROFILE

Leaving an impression

BC contractor Tom Neufeld and his son, Ron, both experienced harvester operators, are impressed with the delivered track and swing power of their purpose-built Madill 1800 harvester, equipped with a Waratah HTH 624 harvester head.

By Jim Stirling

The profile appears disproportionate in the half-light of a winter’s dawn. The compact, tracked carrier with short tail swing and economic boom and stick geometry wields a substantial processing head. Watching Derek Graf operate the equipment for a while, however, soon dispels the image. The harvester handles a variety of wood sizes with the same fluid ease. It extracts each stem from the bunched piles, lops off any rot or defects and delimbs even the largest pine with disdain. It measures each piece and delivers the resulting processed sawlog to the appropriate pile for loading. Matching the Madill 1800 harvester with a Waratah HTH 624 harvester head is proving a winning combination. “It’s done what we’ve wanted and more,” reports Tom Neufeld after the first 500 hours on the machine. He oversees Tom Neufeld Trucking, a log harvesting and hauling contracting business based in Houston, in west central British Columbia.

The Madill 1800 in its element in the BC Interior. From the left are: Tom Neufeld, Ron Neufeld, operator Derek Graf and Madill territory manager Everett Owen.

Neufeld appreciates the fact that the 1800 is a purpose-built machine, sidestepping the need to convert another carrier to the specifics and dynamics of harvester operation. In addition, he knew what to expect from Madill. They also run a Madill 3800C log loader and a 2210 tilting feller buncher. “We knew what we wanted—and had to have—for a 24-inch head in terms of horsepower, oil flow and swing power to work properly,” relates Neufeld. Getting it in a 74,000-pound machine (with a standard 22 inch attachment) is a bonus, avoiding the considerable cost increase of a 300 class carrier. The 1800’s 5.9 litre Cummins engine produces 205 hp at 2,200 rpm.

The Madill 1800 with the Waratah HTH 624 harvester head has to produce processed on- and off-highway loads with stems ranging from 10- to 76- foot lengths. Accurate stem management is mandated by the mills and reflected in the harvester’s computerized technology.

The timber profile in the Houston region was an additional factor in favouring the 24-inch Waratah head. “We have to deal with a wide range of timber from 0.29 cubic metres to 1.2 cubic metres a piece. We wanted the versatility,” says Neufeld. Recognizing what equipment and machines will complement each other the best comes with experience. Neufeld has accumulated a wealth of that. He’s been working in the Houston area for more than 20 years. As the company name suggests, he started off in the trucking business, including running a dump truck for the highways department. “They paid $13.40 an hour for the truck,” he recalls with a chuckle. Hauling logs seemed a more likely proposition. He started off with two, a Kenworth and Western Star, the manufacturers of the nine main trucks in the fleet today. About 13 years ago, Neufeld bought out a local logging contractor.

Tom Neufeld Trucking now operates a 100,000 cubic metre a year stump to dump contract for Houston Forest Products. “We go on the open market for at least another 40,000 to 60,000 cubic metres through woodlots or timber sales,” he adds. The log harvesting equipment fleet has grown to accommodate the volumes. Apart from the three Madill machines, the line-up includes three John Deere 748 grapple skidders and a Cat D5; an 850 Timberjack buncher; a Cat 300HD butt ‘n top and a D8. Helping out the D8N with road building chores are a Hitachi 270 road builder, Cat 240 hoe and a 320 which helps earn its keep piling brush in winter.

Years haven’t been average recently, but Tom Neufeld Trucking might typically build up to 20 kilometres of main line and spur road for Houston Forest Products each summer. A reason for the non-average years is the preoccupation of chasing around the countryside harvesting fresh attack from the worst mountain pine beetle epidemic in Canada’s history. The Madill 1800 was assigned a bug-kill harvesting task on a woodlot near Topley recently. The objective was to harvest about 15,000 cubic metres of bug-infested wood. The company was delivering about 1,600 cubic metres a day. The task wasn’t made easier by uncooperative fall and early winter weather. “There was little frost in the ground and it was a case of working from day to day to see if we could keep going or not,” explains Neufeld. The company’s seven tri-drive logging trucks helped there, contributing better weight distribution to move logs from the bush.

The Madill 1800, meanwhile, was not missing a beat. It, along with the rest of the machines, operates on a 12-hour shift basis, including an hour for maintenance. It’s a system that works very well, notes Neufeld. Night shifts are usually avoided. Extra supervision is required at night and if a breakdown occurs, the time needed to get parts delivered can jeopardize the day shift too, he adds. The company maintains its own shop and field mechanic. The 1800 has to produce processed on- and off-highway loads with stems ranging from 10- to 76-foot lengths. Accurate stem management is mandated by the mills and reflected in the harvester’s computerized technology.

The accuracy is enhanced by the steel thumbnails on the Waratah head which grab the tree better in both large and small wood, continues Neufeld. “The Waratah has given us really good uptime.” Neufeld specified some changes on the 1800 which Madill accommodated. They included the addition of a Flexxaire variable pitch fan system to more efficiently remove dust and debris from the machine’s radiator. New guarding was put in place around the cab door. Single, rather than double, grouser shoes were incorporated into the D6 heavy-duty undercarriage. “It gives us the capability of going into the block and steeper ground to recover wood,” explains Neufeld. The standard 16-foot long, 11-foot, four-inch wide undercarriage leaves a light 8.4 psi footprint.

The 1800 hadn’t been called upon to work in deep snow conditions. “I don’t see any problems there with the track power and the machine’s exceptional stability,” continues Neufeld. Indeed, both Neufeld and his son, Ron, also an experienced harvester operator, are impressed with the delivered track and swing power. Madill rates the tractive effort at 65,400 lbs and swing torque at 70,000 foot-pounds. If the elder Neufeld had his druthers, he’d have liked to have a Linde hydraulic system on the harvester. “It’s more operator friendly. You can adjust each function.” But perhaps the best endorsement for the performance of the 1800 harvester and its 24-inch head is the simplest. Says Neufeld: “Would we buy another? Yes, we would.”

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