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Pat Hanley, of Glacier Line Logging, designs a custom tower to solve his harvesting issues

By Roy Anderson

For seven years, Glacier Line Logging of Kalispell, Mont., used conventional line logging equipment. Then in 1990, owner and fourth generation logger, Pat Hanley, was looking at a harvest unit that required intermediate supports, but there were no trees big enough to serve that purpose. Necessity, the proverbial mother of invention, caused Hanley to consider designing a twostage yarding system.

Hanley thought he could station a machine at the break, yard the wood to that point, and then use another yarder to bring the wood to the landing. He knew the problem with his idea would be transferring each turn from one yarder to the next. So he came up with another idea — mounting a loader on the intermediate tower that would be capable of grabbing the logs and rotating them around, so they would be within easy reach of the upper yarder. If one were to watch such an operation from directly above, the tower/loader would pivot around while carrying the logs from the lower side to the upper side, much like watching the second hand sweep around a clock’s face from 12 to 6.


Designing the Tower

Convinced that both of his ideas could work, Hanley sat down and drafted scale drawings of the machine that he saw in his mind’s eye. A four-post tower would be mounted directly to a Caterpillar 227 carrier, equipped with a Pierce front end and grapple. Key to making the idea a reality was mounting a rotec bearing at the top of the tower that would allow the tower and loader to rotate, while at the same time, keep the skyline sheave in lead. Hanley and Brad Gorton, of Townsend Equipment in Kalispell, spent three months building the machine in the spring of 1990.

The drums in Hanley’s creation came from a used machine in British Columbia that was notorious for breaking down at the wrong time. Thus, the BC machine’s previous owner nicknamed it Lucy in reference to the Kenny Rogers song lyric “you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.” Since Hanley’s invention inherited the drums from the BC machine and because he was unable to come up with a better name, Hanley’s tower/loader combo became Lucy.


Bringing Lucy to Life

Pat Hanley, owner of Glacier Line Logging of
Kalispell Montana.

Lucy went to work in mid-1990 and she worked well for Hanley through 2000, when he decided to give her a makeover. The changes included switching from the Caterpillar carrier to a Komatsu 300PC. In addition, the height of the tower was increased to 50 feet to accommodate a 60-foot reach long boom that was added to the Komatsu. The long boom idea stemmed from a machine that Hanley picked up in 1997 — a used Komatsu 300 Dash 5 that was equipped with a 65 foot boom. Three years of using that machine taught Hanley that the long boom worked great because it could easily reach beneath the yarder and feed logs to the delimber, deck logs, load trucks, and even do a little shovel logging.

Mounting the long boom on Lucy meant more innovation. Typically, a loader has a slight angle in the main boom and a straight stick boom. Lucy’s loader needed clearance to more easily work around the tower, so Hanley had a straight main boom and angled stick boom custom-built by Pierce Pacific Manufacturing, Inc. of Tualatin, Ore. Hanley said he was initially concerned that such a design would be too weak, but after six years of operation he doesn’t have any complaints and he says, “The reach is awesome!” Another key piece of equipment in Hanley’s operation is the mobile tailspar mounted on one of Glacier’s two Timbco 445 Harvesters.

Another key piece of equipment in Hanley’s operation is the mobile tailspar mounted on one of Glacier’s two Timbco 445 Harvesters.

Another difference, between Hanley’s original concept for Lucy and the way he actually uses the machine, is that Lucy is almost always at the landing rather than positioned as an intermediate yarder. Hanley quickly realized that having the loader mounted on the tower allowed the operator to grab the logs in the chute and feed them to Hanley’s Denharco 4500 telescopic boom delimber — a setup which eliminates the need for a dedicated loader operator on the landing to feed the delimber.

A mobile tailspar is another critical component of Hanley’s operation. The custom-made tower is mounted on one of Hanley’s two Timbco 445 Harvesters. Lucy’s skyline cable is anchored to the tailspar, and three guy lines off the back of the tower are secured to nearby leave trees. Hanley likes this system because it only takes about 20 minutes to move Lucy and the Timbco from one skidding corridor to the next, and it also allows them to harvest virtually right up to a property boundary.

On the day we visited, Hanley was working on Plum Creek’s Dye 1 harvest near Ashley Lake about 15 miles west of Kalispell. Doug Crowell, who normally works as a faller but was setting chokers on the Dye 1 job, also likes the Timbco tower because pulling a stump is a rarity, which means there’s little down time.

Hanley’s other crew members on the Dye 1 job included Dennis Urban, who has been running the Timbco harvester for Hanley since 1996, Dave Davidson, who has been operating the delimber for the past seven years, and Tom Hanley, Pat’s son, who splits setting chokers and running the yarder with Joe Crowell.

Hanley says both Davidson and Urban are great employees, but they’re close to retirement, so a big concern of Hanley’s is finding some quality, young employees willing to work in the woods. Unfortunately, a lack of skilled workers is symptomatic of the Inland West’s entire logging industry. For the time being, Hanley’s 20 year old son Tom is bucking the trend, but he remains uncertain about logging as a career.

Overall, Hanley is very satisfied with his current array of equipment, noting that, most importantly, Lucy’s flexibility allows him to handle almost any type of timber and terrain. His average production is about four truckloads per day — not too bad for a Glacier!


Dave Davison operates the Denharco 4500 telescopic boom delimber for Glacier Line Logging on Plum Creek’s Dye 1 timber sale near Ashley Lake, Montana.


Dave Davidson has been operating the delimber for Glacier Line Logging for the past 7 years.



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This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2007