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Tigercat tough

The uptime, tough construction and ability of Tigercat’s new LH870C self-leveling harvester to handle the steep terrain on the BC Coast have all made a big impression on logger Jared Douglas.

By Tony Kryzanowski

Tigercat’s new LH870C self-leveling harvester working in the steep terrain on the BC Coast (above). The cab on the LH870C is capable of tilting 20 degrees forward, seven degrees rear, and 16 degrees side to side from centre. The machine also has a longer track frame and wider stance, which helps with its stability.

Jared Douglas’ reputation as a cautious and productive self-leveler harvester operator working on the West Coast has helped this young logger get a quality start as an owner/operator. Douglas is part owner of Suncoast Logging Ltd, based in Campbell River, BC. Douglas is presently harvesting wood in the Bute Inlet area, about two and a half hours northeast of Campbell River, an area known for its steep slopes—and large logs. The logs are destined for the sawmills of forest company Interfor. The Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar logs average about three feet in diameter at the butt and, in some cases, the operator can be working on up to 60 per cent slope. The area also gets a lot of rain, so working in wet ground conditions is a constant concern.                                   

Suncoast Logging is banking on a new Tigercat LH870C self-leveling harvester. As with most start-up companies, Douglas is the owner/operator with a spare operator that can be called upon whenever he’d like to take a couple days off. Otherwise, he’s parked behind the controls of the harvester to achieve production targets and make the payments. There was no question that his first purchase would be a self-leveler because of his previous experience.                 

“Once you operate a self-leveler, they say you’ll never go back,” says Douglas. “I’d rather be level all day when I’m working. It’s more comfortable.” Because of the size of wood on the Coast and the amount of slope, he says that up until recently there were a limited number of self-leveling harvesters offered by equipment suppliers that were heavy enough to work productively in this environment. That’s why Douglas appreciated Tigercat arriving on the scene—it provided him with some options. Ultimately, he saw numerous advantages, being a start-up company, to purchasing the company’s LH870C selfleveler.                                   

One advantage was its versatility. As a self-leveler, it is capable of harvesting wood in areas inaccessible to non-levelers and capable of falling wood on rights-ofway or in cutblocks. It can also work as a harvester/processor or strictly as a log processor. As a sub-contractor, he wanted to have the ability to take on a variety of contracts.                                   

Another obvious advantage was the size of the leveling cylinders. Douglas says snapping leveling control cylinders is a common problem with this style of harvester, and given some of the remote locations where he works, he needed a harvester that could withstand the workload.                                   

“The cylinders on the Tigercat LH870C are probably four times the size of cylinders on other self-levelers on the market,” he says. “I’m out in camp situations and I can’t be snapping tilt cylinders and replacing them. It’s a big job. I want uptime all the time.”                 

Being self-leveling, the Tigercat LH870C is capable of harvesting wood in areas inaccessible to non-levelers. It can also work as a harvester/processor or strictly as a log processor, giving logging outfits the ability to take on a variety of contracts.

One aspect of the leveling system is that it has tapered roller bearings to prevent play, which ultimately contributes to less wear and tear. The Tigercat self-leveling mechanism uses only two cylinders compared to three on other units. Douglas says this does limit how much he can tilt from side to side, and it’s been a learning curve getting used to it. But he’s willing to make that sacrifice for its “beefier” construction. The cab is capable of tilting 20 degrees forward, seven degrees rear, and 16 degrees side to side from centre.                                   

He adds that the carrier has a dual body undercarriage, and the clearance is not as high as other models on the market. However, it has a longer track frame and wider stance, which helps big time with its stability. “It also has more counterweight, which also makes it a more stable machine.” Given the amount of rain the area gets, he says stability is an important safety issue.                                   

It comes equipped with a Cummins QSL9, 300 horsepower Tier III engine. Douglas says he’s very impressed with its fuel economy, as his Tigercat harvester burns about 30 litres per hour, as compared to the 40 to 45 litres per hour of the competing self-levelers he has operated.                                   

The fan speed on the cooling system is matched to the cooling demand for reduced fuel consumption and improved cold weather operation. It also has a reversing cycle that keeps the intake area and heat exchanger cores clean. The air intake is located at the rear of the machine for reduced debris loading in summer and icing in winter.                                   

The LH870C can be equipped with Tigercat’s Efficient Reach (ER) boom, but Douglas says he opted not to use that configuration because it didn’t seem particularly suited for his working conditions. Because the ER boom is designed to move straight out, he says it seemed more suited for working on flatter ground. It didn’t provide him with the reach flexibility he needed for working in a hilly environment. He has 30-foot reach with his conventional, two-piece boom, and he has equipped the harvester with a Waratah 626 head.                                   

“I’ve operated a lot of Waratah heads so I’m familiar with them,” says Douglas. “They are very productive and are built tough to handle the big wood. Overall, I believe this head will last longer. And if anything does go wrong, they are easy to work on.” He adds that Waratah has also provided exceptional service support and is often available at odd hours over the phone if he has any questions.                                   

After 1,500 operational hours, Douglas says he has only had a couple of hours of unscheduled downtime with both the carrier and head. The head is able to cut wood up to 36 inches in diameter, and in some circumstances, Douglas says he wishes he did have a smaller head.                                   

However, by having a head able to handle larger diameter wood, it gives him the option of taking on those types of contracts.                                   

Douglas adds that the weight of the head is a major component in the overall operation and stability of a self-leveler, so he made sure he purchased one that suits his production needs and working environment. This Waratah head weighs in at 10,700 pounds.   

Depending on ground conditions, he averages between 800 and 900 cubic metres per 10-hour shift. Douglas adds that the hydraulic power delivered by the Tigercat carrier to the head is exceptionally good and really helps with production. The feed speed on the head, even with this larger diameter wood, is about 4.5 metres per second as compared to three to 3.6 metres per second with other carrier and head combinations that he’s operated.                                   

In terms of cab comfort, Douglas says there is plenty of room, and what he appreciates is the 1.5 inches of Lexan glass as an added safety measure, since he heard of another operator who died as a result of a piece of chain flying through a harvester cab window. The upper carbody also comes with a water tank and pressurized hose to clean off windows so that good visibility can be maintained. In terms of serviceability, Douglas says it is easy to access grease fittings: they are all in one spot. Tigercat has also designed its “C” series with a common platform for a variety of forestry applications, which results in common service parts and technical training across a wide range of products. The carrier is also designed with a fully retracting clamshell-style engine enclosure combined with a swing-out engine access door and tilt-out pump access compartment to access all major components.                                   

Douglas says the Tigercat/Waratah package was more expensive than other combinations, but he is hopeful that he will earn the extra cost back in higher production and improved uptime. His intention is to keep the Tigercat selfleveler for at least 10,000 hours. “In the long run, I think it will deliver,” he concludes.