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Timberjack 560 Skidder

Four years in development, Timberjack's new 60 Series skidders combine new technology with evolving environmental imperatives. BC logger Larry Wookey appraises the 185-hp TJ 560. The rhythms of past and present fuse along the Grease Trail Main.

By JIM STIRLING
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

A new Timberjack 560 grapple skidder executes a turn across soft, steep terrain to deliver its cargo to a landing. The scene flashes back to a couple of hundred years ago when Native people walked the Grease Trail paralleling the Kispiox River Valley in northwestern BC. The medium of commerce between coastal natives and their interior brethren was not timber but eulachons- tiny, oily saltwater fish. In those days, the eulachon was in great demand. Today, the mixed-species forest on the interface of coastal and interior conditions possess a greater value. But be it eulachon or spruce, then or now, careful handling is a pre-requisite.

The Timberjack 560 is designed for just that at a time when mechanical efficiency and performance must blend with minimal ground disturbance. Timberjack 60 Series Skidders represent another time-honoured tradition: the company has a 35-year history of skidder manufacture. These latest products are the results of four years' research, development and field testing, using input from logging contractors, machine operators andTimberjack dealers. There are eight models in the product line ranging from the 360 size (148 hp) to the 660 (215 hp) in various configurations. The Timberjack 560 dual-arch grapple skidder working off the Grease Trail Main logging road is owned by Larry Wookey Enterprises Ltd. of South Hazelton, BC. And he's been pleased with the machine's features and performance. He demo'd other skidders before opting for the Timberjack 560.

"I was looking at the quality of the skidder, something that could do a good job and had greater operator comfort," summarizes Wookey. He knows that if an operator has a good working environment, the machine functions more efficiently and production is optimized. "I wanted what the operator likes; he needs to be comfortable. He's my main man."

Fitting that bill in the hand falling, skidding-to-landing operation is Don Mazier. He's garnered 15 years of skidder operation experience and knows of what he speaks. "I like the visibility on the 560," he says. The cab is 35 per cent larger than similar-sized skidders with 67 per cent more window area. It's quiet - if you discount the cassette radio - and comes with standard air conditioning and heating systems. "We had to pry Don out of it," recalls Wookey with a chuckle, "and his wife liked it because he kept his clothes clean."

Mazier says the controls are easily accessed and he's complimentary about the performance side of the 560. "It pulls better with a nice shift for smoothness. Because there's no time lost with shifting, it makes for faster turns."

That ability is courtesy of a modulated soft-shift transmission requiring a simple bump of a lever to shift into the selection of six forward and three reverse speeds.

"The hydraulics are faster than the other skidders we tried. You can open and close the grapple right now," continues Mazier. A closed-centre hydraulic system provides the power on demand for increased function speed.

An accumulator keeps constant pressure on the 120'' Timberjack bunching grapple head so the machine keeps moving and doesn't lose stems. "That's a real plus," says Wookey, whose operation must routinely skid a range of wood sizes. Our wood probably averages 18'' to 20'' but we get some trees 4' through the butt. "We have lots of surprise rot," adds

Wookey, although the standing timber often looks deceptively sound. On this show he was running a disappointing 80 per-cent pulp wood quality. "I think the 560 is the right choice of skidder here for our size of wood,'' he says. The Cummins six-cylinder engine cranks out 185 maximum hp, enough to handle heavy, wet hemlock with the ease of dry spruce. The machine's wheel base is longer over the front frame, helping distribute the load weight from the rear to front. "You can hook onto a drag and move away easier with it because of the better weight distribution with less ruts and ground disturbance." That is an essential feature in light of the BC Forest Practices Code; the mills and the forest service insist on a soft footprint. The 560 exerts a front and rear ground pressure of only six psi. Wookey was to run 73x44.00-32 16-ply rubber fore and aft with chains. "The machine climbs really good and the stability is quite good but the big tires back and front will help. That along with the standard heavy-duty axles and differentials."

Wookey feels the big tires may extend the summer logging season, which is good news in light of a wet summer that has sharply reduced working hours. Some contractors in the Hazelton area hadn't had more than six consecutive days of operating time between February and September because of break-up, a non-existent spring and a wet summer. Continuing classes covering the latest regulations and updates under the ever-evolving Forest Practices Code have further interrupted the working season.

Wookey's 70,000 m3 contract with Repap British Columbia Inc.'s Carnaby sawmill is a 60 to 65 per-cent winter harvesting operation. "I think we will gain productivity with the bigger tires," adds Wookey. "I think this machine will work better."

Productivity is dependent on terrain, species types and ground conditions in Wookey's operating areas. There aren't the the kind of uniform conditions here to enable you to reasonably expect to produce X truck loads per day. "We bunch for what the machine will pull in the ground and over the terrain," points out Wookey.

He's mindful of that when he designs block lay-outs. "I try to work the front and back of the sale and build landings to minimize skid trails but keep the landings busy." Landings are restricted to 0.3 hectares in size under the Code. The 560 fits the situation well with its speed, ability to make tight turns and quick load releases that reduce machine movements, notes Wookey. "It's also a safety advantage. We are constantly concerned about safety with the skidderman, loaderman and buckerman all working the same small landing," he continues.

The Forest Practices Code requirements have placed an increased emphasis on planning and coordination between licencees, forest service, environmental agencies, the logging contractor and his machine operators. "We're all out here to do our best and we won't push it, for example, in wet weather conditions," says Wookey.

His new 560 grapple skidder complements a Timberjack 480C machine. "If the downtime on the 560 is anything like the 480 it'll be real good. We've had nothing major with that machine." Wookey's other equipment includes a Clark Ranger 667 cable skidder; two Cat D7s and two D7Gs; a 966 loader; a JD 644E loader; and an 892 excavator/hoe chucker. Wookey Enterprises also runs three Kenworth 800S tri-axle logging trucks and an International tridem.

Wookey says he also looked at the service end and parts availability when selecting the 560. "We do get really good service from Terratech in Smithers and Prince George," credits Wookey. Terratech Equipment Inc. is the Timberjack dealer. And, he notes, having the same iron means maintaining a smaller parts inventory. Timberjack 60 Series Skidders have the preventive maintenance feature of a tilting cab. They rise hydraulically 45 for easy access to the transmission, pumps, hoses and for cleaning out debris.


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