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A Versatile Machine

Austrian-built Koller yarders are proving their flexibility in thinning and clearcutting operations south of the line.


By Bill Tice
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

The Tie Koller K501 Yarder is showing its diversity in the foothills of Mount Baker near Bellingham, Washington. Two separate logging companies are using 501s in the rough Pacific Northwest terrain - one for a thinning operation and the other for clearcutting.

Mike Archambault of A & R Cable Thinning is currently running a thinning operation on contract for Crown Pacific of Portland, Oregon. The area he is working in is just a 15- minute drive from Bellingham, Washington, 20 miles south of the Canadian border on the Inter-state 5 corridor.

Archambault is currently on his third Koller Yarder and has leased two others on various occasions. He still maintains two of the Austrian-built yarders. The K501, with a tube extension, is his main machine while he uses a K300 for smaller jobs. The tube extension on the K501 gives him a total tower height of 40'.

Archambault's K501 is permanently mounted on a five-ton ex-US Army G.I. truck. He says Koller USA found the 1969 six-wheel drive vehicle with only 1,800 miles on the odometer, and mounted the yarder on it for him. "With the six-wheel drive and the winch on the front with 20,000 lbs. of pull, we can go anywhere," says Archambault.

K501 Yarder

Archambault's K501 yarder is permanently mounted on a five-ton ex-US Army truck.

"The K300 which is trailer mounted and can be set up in 15 minutes', is used on smaller jobs," says Archambault. "It is inexpensive enough that we can use it only when we need it and it does not have to be a working day.

A 45-minute drive from the A & R site, through the rolling farmlands of western Washington, brings you to the small town of Acme, where Kerry Thalhofer and his partners at Eco-Log are working at a clearcutting operation.

Thalhofer, along with partners Gary Zwiers and Tom Comstock, are also fans of the Koller yarders. Working on narrow logging roads, Eco Log finds the K501 saves them on road-building costs, as it is small enough that they do not require landings. Logs are simply piled at the roadside before being trucked to the mill. Their K501 is on wheels and can be towed with a large pick-up truck or their Garrett 30 skidder. For longer trips on the highway, Eco Log transports the yarder and skidder together on the same flatbed truck. "The 501 is ideal for thinning operations but it can work on large clearcuts as well," Thalhofer says.

The five or six 30-ton loads that Eco Log harvests per day is evidence of the Koller yarder's flexibility and adaptability to clearcut logging. At Archambault's thinning operation they harvest approximately four similar-sized loads per day.

Like A & R Cable Thinning, Eco Log also has two Koller yarders. Their second unit is an identical K501 and is working at Lake Cavanaugh in Skagit County, Washington. Thalhofer says he has "worked for 20 years on the big yarders and these 7/16" cables are great," adding "it is like being on vacation."

Zwiers concurred with Thalhofer on the cable issue. "If you want to haul two-inch cable around all day, go ahead. We will take the smaller machine any time."

Eco Log teams the Koller yarder and Garrett skidder with a Link-Belt 3400 loader at the Acme site, while down the road in Skagit County the Koller machine is working with a Timberjack 450 skidder and a 225 Cat loader.

Eco Log bought their first Koller yarder about three years ago and recently purchased the second machine.

Thalhofer and Zwiers started the company in 1992 with just a skidder, and then decided to expand in order to compete with the bigger companies for larger jobs. Five years ago they took on their third partner, Tom Comstock.

From the Acme site, the harvested logs go to a variety of places, with some of the wood ending up at stud mills and larger timber going to mills producing export-grade lumber. The cedar is shipped to the Welco mill in Arlington, Washington.

Zwiers says they are actually working through Olympic Resource Management for the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, which owns the land.

Back at Archambault's thinning site, yarder operator Jim Keimig is busy moving logs up the steep corridor specifically created for the yarder cables. "The 501 is great for thinning," says Keimig. "It's got enough torque and power. Overall, it is a great machine."

Keimig, who has worked on A & R's machine for about a year, also says the yarder is easy to rig up, taking only half an hour to 45 minutes on a good day. He also likes the ease of maintenance and the accessibility to all the parts.

Both Archambault and Thalhofer have been very pleased with the after-sales service from Koller USA in Portland, Oregon. Because of Koller's location next to the Portland Airport, both contractors say they can get parts flown up on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air in less than half a day.

"When we really need a part we often see it in Bellingham just three or four hours after placing our order with Koller's parts department in Portland," says Archambault.

Archambault has been a firm believer in the Koller machines since starting his cable thinning business just over four years ago. He has been to Austria twice to get a better understanding of how the machines are put together and what kinds of techniques the Austrians are using Koller yarders for in their rugged terrain.

"The most important technique I have learned from the Austrians is how to run the cables through an intermediate support to eliminate dragging," says Archambault. "It is a technique that I was originally shown by the Koller USA staff and that we taught ourselves through trial and error, but we were able to fine tune the operation by visiting logging sites in Austria," he says.

"The intermediate support is crucial to our operation, as you work the yarder to death if you don't have one. If you take away the intermediate support, you may as well take away the yarder." Archambault says to use the intermediate support technique you need a couple of loggers who like to climb and rig.

Another impressive feature of A & R's K501 is the ability to yard off either side of the machine because of the tube extension. This means Archambault can harvest logs 360' around the yarder. This is a feature that Eco Log's K501 does not have; however both yarders have downhill logging ability, due to the hydraulic interlock third drum or haulback drum.

"The Koller yarders are known more for their finesse than their strength, so that they are able to take logs that a larger yarder could not get without damaging leave trees," says Archambault.

Archambault is also quick to give credit to his crew for their success. "We have an excellent crew that gives 110 per cent and there is no way we could pull four loads day out of here without them, no matter what we had for equipment," he says.

He also says the engineers did an excellent job before his company even came into the area, by putting an the roads on the edge of a break, making his job easier.

A & R started logging the area a year and a half ago under Trillium Corporation of Bellingham. Several months ago the land changed over to Crown Pacific and Archambault's contract went with it. Larger wood from the site goes to a mill in Marysville, Washington as sawlogs, while pulp-quality logs are shipped to Everett, Washington.

"Our goal is to leave the site better than the way we found it," says Archambault. "That means taking out the diseased and small timber, along with some high-quality wood to make our operation cost-effective while leaving enough for a healthy stand to thrive in the future'"

Koller USA, the North American distributor for Koller, says the latest K501 s are powered by a Cummins 6BT engine producing 165 hp, coupled with an Allison AT 545, four-speed automatic transmission. Line capacities on the skyline are 1,6W of 3/4" swaged cable. The mainline has a capacity of 1,700'of 1/2" swaged cable while the haulback line holds 2,900'of 7/16" cable. The guyline is 145'of 3/4" cable.

The line pull on the skyline is 15,900 lbs. in the tensioning compartment, while the mainline has a line pull of 8,100lbs. at medium drum and a line speed of 1,000' per minute.

Both A & R and Eco Log elected to go with the Eaglet carriage, manufactured by Eagle carriage and Machine of LaGrande, Oregon. The lightweight carriage weighs in at only 1,200 lbs.

Archambault, being the Koller fan that he is, spotted a new machine not yet available in North America while on his last trip to Austria. "I was very impressed with a computer remote-controlled processor/yarder that is definitely on my wish list when it comes to this country," says Archambault with a big smile.


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