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--  Equipment Profile  --

A Nice Complement

BC’s Amboy Logging is finding the new Timberjack 735 shovel logger complements their existing equipment and is the solution in working wet ground or sensitive areas.

By Jim Stirling

equipprofile1.jpg (86624 bytes)
equipprofile2.jpg (31262 bytes)Eli Hetu (left) and Gib Randall of Amboy Logging and their new Timberjack 735 shovel logger. The 735’s principal job is to retrieve hand felled or bunched timber from sensitive zones and ground, and position it for clam bunk forwarding to roadside.

To Gib Randall and Eli Hetu, their Timberjack 735 shovel logger is the cat’s meow.

It neatly complements their log harvesting system, allowing them to keep the wood moving at times when other operations are shut down. The system is cost efficient and is environmentally responsible, in full light tread equipment compliance with British Columbia’s Forest Practices Code.

"It fits our plans perfectly," summarizes Randall.

He and Hetu are partners in Amboy Logging Ltd., a well-respected timber harvesting contractor based in Quesnel, BC. Amboy employs a highly mechanized logging show to harvest 145,000 cubic metres annually for West Fraser Mills in Quesnel. Amboy is one of the "go-to" contractors forest companies look for when cut blocks are wet and steep and the logging assignment is more demanding. That role has been reinforced since the 735 was added to the arsenal in 1998.

"It just about walks on water," says Randall. Amboy’s 735 was the first to be delivered in BC, supplied and supported by Terratech Equipment in Prince George. The Timberjack 735’s principal job is to retrieve hand felled or bunched timber from sensitive zones and ground, and position it for clam bunk forwarding to roadside. Randall says both West Fraser and the BC Forest Service share his high opinion of the 735’s performance in sensitive ground.

The 735 is a different looking machine because it’s not a tarted up excavator. It’s built for the forest with heavy-duty D6 running gear and a 31-inch clearance high walker undercarriage. Standard 36-inch wide triple grouser shoes ramped fore and aft skim the surface at 5 PSI. The shovel logger’s boom has an unusual articulated geometry with a live heel and Rotobec grapple offering a 10 metre plus working range and 360 degrees of swing. The machine has a load-sensing, fuel stingy, close-centred hydraulic system and the Komatsu turbo diesel power plant can pro-duce 174 hp at 2300 rpm.

Despite all that, Randall and Hetu also appreciate the 735’s versatility. It can be used to load logs or be fitted with a buck-et for road building chores. It can relieve a larger machine in right-of-way logging applications where up to only 30 loads are produced. It can steer clear of code-related problems and bring a smile to a troubled logger’s face.

Amboy Logging began contracting for West Fraser back in 1962. It combines the Christian names of its founders, Ambrose Giesinger and Boyce Carter. Randall has worked for Amboy for 30 years, owned it for the last 17 years and—sensitive to continuity and tradition—has found no reason to change the company’s name.

Logging systems have evolved dramatically in the last three decades and Amboy’s activities reflect the changes. Randall recalls experimenting with the early clam bunk forwarders before feller bunchers became common. The concept appealed to him then and it was filed away. "It was always in the back of my mind."

It was elevated into action after weather and ground conditions would regularly shut down conventional skidding operations. "We went into the clam bunk for-warding system about five years ago. It was quite a gamble but it wasn’t working the other way and we had to do something about it," he explains matter-of-factly. The 735 shovel logger has proved to be the missing ingredient.

Amboy had been using a hoe to move felled timber from sensitive ground in wet areas or adjacent to riparian zones and code classified streams. But he says it wasn’t efficient and generated track problems. "The 735 takes the weather worry out of it," says Randall. And that’s what helps Amboy stay on the job when break up and wet ground force other contractors to park their equipment.

Amboy operates two feller bunchers, a Timberjack 628 and a 950, and both are equipped with 22-inch Koehring circular saw cutting heads. Two Timberjack 933C clam bunk forwarders pick up and move the felled wood to roadside. A pair of Komatsu 300 carriers with Limmit delimber/processors produce clean, decked stems. Incoming logging trucks are serviced by a Komatsu 300 butt‘n top loader. Other mobile equipment includes a TD 25E International and a TD 15.

Amboy usually logs in the wet belt, the deep snow areas of the Quesnel Timber Supply Area in the Wells region in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains. Good sized spruce and balsam with butts from eight inches to 24 are typical in the wet belt. But some stems are limby as a porcupine.

The Amboy team has accumulated a wealth of experience ranging from six to 33 years with the company. And experience is the ultimate teacher. "The key to clam bunk forwarding is the bunching, how you set up for moving the wood," explains Randall. The size and diameter of wood on each cut block has to be taken into consideration, he says. And so does the steepness and variations in steepness; machines must have a sensible return route.

Randall emphasizes the importance of bunching and stem positioning to the efficiency of subsequent harvesting phases. That’s why any operator running a feller buncher on a clam bunk show for the first time spends the initial couple of weeks on the job working with the clam bunk for-warder operator.

He gets to understand first-hand how cost efficiencies and smooth machine operation can be compromised by haphazard timber positioning. That kind of eye-opener is another example of team work, Amboy style. Randall says he tries to set up a block to keep most forwarding distances between 200 and 300 metres. A further 100 metres is still comfortable but after 500 metres costs rise disproportionately, he notes. When longer forwarding distances are used, he recommends loading up to get the volume.

He tries to do the same in wetter ground so there are fewer trips across sensitive sites. The 933s can forward 40 cubic metres when the wood is well loaded and has good length to it. An average is 28 to 30 cubic metres. Randall adds the clam bunks can off-load without using roads if conditions are really wet. "It saves the cost of fixing roads and gravelling. It’s a real asset."

Amboy was working a "picnic block" when Logging and Sawmilling Journal visited its show about 70 kilometres east of Quesnel. The wood was smaller than Amboy is used to and the ground easier. And because of a weird early winter, there was only one foot of snow on site instead of the normal six feet. "In this type of wood we can produce 30 loads a day," estimates Randall. The contractor normally working the claim was off chasing beetle wood. Mountain pine and Douglas fir beetle epidemics are forcing companies in the Quesnel and Williams Lake areas to mod-ify their forest development plans.

The adjacent block for Amboy was get-ting back to normal with slopes in one quadrant approaching 70 per cent. The Timberjack 735 is quite at home on hill-sides. "As long as you’re careful, you can go anywhere you want," says Bryan McIntyre, the 735’s operator. "The key is to keep the weight in between the tracks where it belongs. I’m really pleased with this machine."

Randall makes a point of having the same operators work the same machines. They get to know one another. "It’s like a car, if you look after it and it looks decent, operators have pride in it," reasons Randall. His five-year-old clam bunks look nothing like their age.

Operators will spend an hour between shifts greasing their machine, checking hoses, looking for cracks and troubleshooting any idiosyncrasy identified. "We try to correct a problem before it hap-pens. We’ve had few problems with any of our equipment," says Randall. Operators are also involved with work done in Amboy’s Quesnel shop. The 735 is assured the same consistent level of TLC. That’s appropriate for the machine that makes Amboy’s system complete.

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