The first Trans-Gesco 475 feller buncher in Western Canada has found a productive home with contracting operation Dowling C Monette Logging.
By Jim Stirling
Joe Monette’s decision to acquire the first Trans-Gesco 475 feller buncher in Western Canada reflects his attitude toward forest harvesting equipment. “The guys at Trans-Gesco build a machine with 20,000 to 30,000 hours of useful life,” he explains. A machine built to last and continue performing under real world conditions. That means engineering a solid, well-thought-out tilting buncher. And one with the added advantage of incorporating customized features. That combination of benefits suited the principal in Dowling C Monette Logging Ltd just fine. Some 760 operating hours later, Monette had no reason to second-guess his decision to go Trans-Gesco.
The buncher, matched with a 24-inch Quadco 360 degree hot saw, is continuing to work well for his operation based in 100 Mile House, in British Columbia’s South Cariboo Region. And dealing direct with the machine’s manufacturer means Monette can pick up the telephone and talk with Trans-Gesco’s president or other executives and specialists to hash out any problems that may arise. The manufacturer/contractor relationship forged that way has worked out very well, says Monette. The TG 475 also contributes a welcome diversity to Monette’s stump-to-loader logging equipment fleet.
The buncher has the versatility to harvest larger stems growing on demanding terrain. The diversification dimension is a somewhat comforting benefit, adds Monette, given the phalanx of uncertainties darkening the forest industry’s skies in BC. “We’ve always had an affection for tilting bunchers. Our ground goes from flat to 50 per cent slopes, some with rock, and up to four feet of snow at higher elevations. So we wanted a tilter with good liftability and limited tail swing,” says Monette. Knowing what is needed in a buncher comes from hard-earned experience, an attribute the Monette family has accumulated in abundance. Dowling Monette, Joe’s dad, began in the industry running portable sawmills in the 100 Mile region.
He was the first to take a rubber-tired skidder into the Mackenzie area in 1968, a John Deere 440 along with a D6 Cat. Back in the Cariboo, Dowling sub-contracted skidding using Timberjack 209 and 360 machines. He became the principal contractor for McMillan Bros based in Lone Butte. Ainsworth Lumber eventually bought out McMillan. Recently, West Fraser Mills in turn acquired Ainsworth’s Chasm Division. Last year, Dowling C Monette Logging Ltd harvested about 75,000 cubic metres for West Fraser at Chasm. It supplemented that with additional volumes on a pulp licence and worked for the Ministry of Forests. The diversification angle again.
The Trans-Gesco 475 complements an interesting array of equipment assembled to handle the company’s overall volumes. The company’s other bunchers are a pair of Timberjack 2628s.Grapple skidding is performed by a John Deere 748E and a Clark 668F while a Timberjack 933D clam bunk contributes high capacity drags. There are two stroke delimbers: a Cat with a Denharco DT3500 and a Komatsu equipped with a Denharco DT4400 extreme with feed rolls. Other production machines include a Hitachi EX 300 log loader, a 4300 Link-Belt butt ‘n top, a TD 20G for road building and a Komatsu 250 for general purpose work, including brush piling, building road and road deactivation.
The TG 475 is equipped with a QSL 9-litre Cummins electronic engine. It combines ample power—330 hp at 1890 rpm—with good fuel economy. Monette says the machine burns about 35 litres an hour. “The machine has a closed loop hydraulic system. It’s a totally full-functioning machine. It can simultaneously run everything or anything,” points out Monette. IPS tuneable hydraulics are controlled by voltage and allow the operator to choose the speed of machine function from inside the cab.
Faster in smaller wood, for example, slower with bigger stems. A second 23-gallon hydraulic reservoir acts as a reserve. It’s tied into the main reservoir and feeds fuel through five-micron filters. Monette says the feller buncher has a big lift capacity, approximately 29,000 pounds at 15 feet, and an impressive dual drive swing capability. The machine has a D7 size extreme service undercarriage. The track frame is bolted on from the side, not the bottom, for easy access, he notes. Trans-Gesco re-designed the boom for Monette to fit a bigger wood profile, providing it more depth and a reach from the pin to 30 feet. The buncher weighs about 83,500 pounds. Monette says Trans-Gesco doesn’t believe in “parasitic counterweights.”
Instead of packing otherwise useless weight around, the machine uses the hydraulic fuel tank and a fuel tank on either side to fulfil the counterweight function. The fuel tanks hold 1,800 litres, one on the bottom and an additional one on the machine’s upper structure. There’s about a 200-gallon hydraulic oil capacity. Pumps can provide 285 gallons a minute of total oil flow. “The machine uses melanite cylinder rods, which are three times tougher than chrome and we feel add to the longevity of the hydraulic systems,” adds Monette. Monette says Trans-Gesco has built contingencies into their machine. For example, it has both manual and electronic gauges and two night switches to help eliminate problems when troubleshooting.
The operator’s cab is spacious enough to permit new operator training and offers superior visibility and lighting. The 24-inch Quadco head is doing an excellent job for them, reports Monette. At his request, Trans-Gesco bevelled the edges of the disc plate creating a cleaner cut. The head’s full rotation ability provides the head with dexterity and flexibility picking up and accurately positioning stems. Monette says the head design is more than adequate to deal with most of the wood encountered in his traditional operating areas. “Only about five per cent of our volume is above .7 cubic metres a tree.” That was reflected in the block Monette’s crew was working in this fall.
The approximately 80 hectare site east of Lac La Hache was uncharacteristically level. Even more unusual for a lodgepole pine forest in the BC Interior was the health of the stand. It had little defect, butt rot or mountain pine beetle infestation. Monette says the pine averaged .22 to .23 cubic metres a tree with few big stems in the stand. Not that the presence of big stems would have presented any problems to the 475. Operator Stan Kaluza, who’s as attuned to the sounds of the machine’s functions as to his favourite music, had the Trans-Gesco purring along the edge of the stand in the machine equivalent of not raising a sweat. Watching it quickly yet smoothly cut trees and position the bunches at the optimum angle for the skidder operator was a satisfying sight to Monette. It confirmed the 475 has found a productive home within his operation.
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