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Interior Cable Challenge

Yard downhill at distances out to 1,500 feet? When cable contractors shied away, sawmiller Jack Bryden bought a yarder and tackled the job himself.

By L. Ward Johnson
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

In 1990, when Jones Ties and Poles (1978) Limited, a privately owned sawmilling and logging company in Rossland, BC got a 28,000m3 small-business timber sale, owner Jack Bryden had no idea where it would lead his company. Six years later, with the sale nearly complete, Bryden has added a resaw center, kiln drying, and a planer to his sawmilling operation, and has joined a growing fraternity of light-line cable loggers in the BC Interior.

Admitting to a life-long interest in sawmilling, Bryden, who was born and raised in Rossland, says he got sawdust in his veins while working with his Dad, who, for most of his career, operated a small portable sawmill in the Rossland area. Bryden says it took him a while to realize his destiny. "Right after school, I went to the Coast and started working in the woods, but by 1975, I had enough of that and returned to Rossland to work with my Dad in the sawmill."

Cable In 1978, Bryden heard that Russell Jones, who had operated a sawmill in the Rossland area since the early 1950s, wanted to sell his company, Jones Ties and Poles, so Bryden scraped his money together and purchased the plant, located a few miles south of the community. "It was a pretty simple operation, consisting mainly of a large circular saw headrig and carriage for sawing ties. We're still using that same saw, although it is scheduled for replacement this year."

At first, Bryden produced ties, mine timbers and lumber for the Cominco plant at Trail, but when some Americans came looking for white pine furniture stock, Bryden decided to change direction. During that transition period, he cut a bit of everything, but the white pine market quickly proved the most promising and he decided to commit to that species exclusively.

Although white pine is available in the area, it is scattered throughout the regular timber stands, and Bryden found it difficult obtaining enough white pine to keep his operation going steadily. He decided the solution was to trade with other operators in the area, but first he needed some timber. When the 28,000m3 small-business sale came up at Ymir, a small community near Salmo, Bryden got his wish.

With the award of the sale in 1990, he struck up a deal with Atco Lumber at Fruitvale, BC and with Pope and Talbot, a large integrated operation in the West Kootenays, to trade the other species, including fir, hemlock and balsam, for white pine. With a more secure supply of white pine, he added a resaw bandmill to his production line, dehumidifying dry kilns and planing facilities. Bryden was now in the white pine furniture stock business. Jones Ties and Poles currently processes 13,000m3 a year of white pine, to produce furniture-grade lumber in sizes 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, as well as 4x4 stock and veneer cants. According to Bryden drying is a very important consideration in producing furniture stock, since the wood must be dried down to a moisture content of 10 per cent or less, and the drying must be consistent.

The plan's entire production is sold to 22 furniture manufacturing shops throughout BC, which employ approximately 235 people. Veneer cants are sold to MVP Veneer, at Kamloops, BC which employs 17 people. "This is a value-added operation at its very best," says Bryden, who is proud of his contribution to the economy.

Bryden started logging his small business timber in 1991 and at first he was able to use conventional ground-skidding systems. That soon changed however, when the ground turned steep. Since the roads were already in place, there was little opportunity to change the logging plan, which left changing the logging method as the only alternative.

The site was a steep hillside with the road located along the bottom. Since permission could not be obtained to build more roads, wood had to be moved downhill over distances up to 1,500', across areas with poor deflection. It was definitely a cable logging show and a difficult one at that, since it might be necessary to employ intermediate supports to get enough lift. Bryden put out the word that he was looking for a cable logging contractor, but after a while, it was obvious nobody was going to bid on the job. Yarding distances, the fact that it was downhill yarding, and the possibility of having to employ intermediate supports were dissuading factors for cable logging contractors in the area.

Realizing that if he wanted the timber sale logged he would have to do it himself, Bryden began looking at the lineup of small-line cable logging systems. "I must admit, I didn't know much about cable logging, but after looking around a bit I started getting the idea. Then I heard about a cable logging demonstration over at Nakusp, so I went to see it. Owren Yarding systems out of Prince George, BC were demonstrating their Owren 400 yarder and it seemed tailor made for my application."

Cable The Owren 400 is a fully hydrostatically driven, four-drum yarder with separate circuits for each drum. This configuration gives excellent control in downhill yarding applications, and brakes are not needed. The winch includes a mainline drum, a slack pulling drum, a haulback drum, and a skyline drum. With this configuration, the yarder can operate in either running skyline or standing skyline mode. This is a unique feature, since many yarders can only operate as standing skylines.

Line capacities on the Owren are 1,320' of 1/2'' cable on both the mainline and slack pulling drums, and 1,640' of 3/4'' cable on the skyline drum. The haulback can hold up to 2,600' of 1/2'' line. Pulling capacity is 13,230 lbs. and since the winch is completely hydrostatic, line speed can vary from zero to 1,574' per minute.

The yarder also includes a rig-up line which holds 2,600'of 5/32'' cable; a straw line with 2,600' of 5/16'' cable; and four guy line drums that each hold up to 165' of 5/8'' line. You can also use 3/4'' line for guy lines. Business end of the yarder is an Owren mechanical slack pulling carriage, which weighs in at a light 250 lbs. It carries 100' of 1/2'' cable. Made by Trygve Owren Ltd. of Lillehammer, Norway, this yarder is mounted on a Kockums (now Timberjack) 850 forwarder. The tower is raised and lowered hydraulically and when upright, the unit is 42' high from the ground up.

Total weight including the carrier is 52,900 lbs., which makes it lowbedable on the highway. Without the carrier the unit weighs 23,150 lbs. Another unique feature is the remote-control desk. Configured as a full control panel with two joysticks, this unit can be removed from the machine to operate remotely. It has 125' of cable, which enables the operator to locate in a safe place where he can see the entire operation and unhook the turns when they come into the landing.

Although it is ideal for downhill yarding because of the hydrostatic drive on the winch, it is also suited to selective logging and thinning operations and, where required, intermediate supports can be utilized in either running skyline or standing skyline configurations. Parts and service are readily available in Prince George, where Owren Yarding Systems Ltd. is located, and the company maintains a good supply of parts on hand at all times.

Cable "One thing that really attracted me to this unit," says Bryden, "is the training program they offer. They provide two weeks of on-the-job training when you first get the machine and another follow-up week a few months later. We had two people here training for the first two weeks - one in the woods and one at the machine - and they really helped in getting us started. They were from Norway, and they were very knowledgeable about the machine and cable logging in general. We'd have had a lot more difficulty getting started without these two fellows. One of them will be back in a week or two to help us fine-tune our operation and then we'll be on our own. But it sure helped to have the benefit of their expertise to get started."

Bryden says they didn't need intermediate supports on this show. "We were out a long way, but the machine yarded without any trouble so we haven't had to use intermediate supports yet. The hydrostatic system on the winch is a real asset in downhill yarding. It's safe and it provides flexibility other configurations don't. I can't imagine doing this downhill block with any other type of machine. The light rigging is also a real asset - especially on the steep hillsides we work on - because it's easy on the crew."

Bryden hired John Beaulieu, a local logging contractor, to run the machine for him. Beaulieu had no previous experience with cable systems, but he says the crew caught on pretty fast. "None of us had any experience in this kind of logging before this machine showed up, but the crew worked hard at it and they've caught on fast. I think everyone is convinced this is the wave of the future for our area and we're all eager to learn it. I think knowing cable logging is a real asset for anybody in the logging business here."

Beaulieu says they were slow at first, but now they regularly produce 100 m3 a day. "We keep getting better and better all the time," he says. "I don't know where we'll end up, but so far we're still improving. Considering that we've only been at this since the middle of May and considering that we all started right at the very bottom, I think we're doing well."

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