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First Impressions 635H Swing Boom Skidder

BTB visited Lumby, British Columbia to speak with long-time logging equipment operator Reg Dyck of Mercer Forestry Services to get his thoughts on the 635H swing boom skidder.

Mercer Forestry Services contracts to Interfor Lumber, out of Grand Forks, BC. Reg has worked for Mercer for six out of his 30-plus years in forestry. “Logging has changed, and so have the machines,” Reg comments.

“No longer do we work eight hours in daylight on gently sloped mountainsides. Now, much of our work is on very steep terrain, with 50 to 80 percent grades. And almost half of our shift is done in the dark during winter. New methods and machines have allowed us to harvest timber in these challenging conditions safely. Block layout plans, careful system checks, brighter lights, more versatile machines, and cable assist make it possible. Not to mention an experienced operator with nerves of steel,” Reg adds.

On the day of our visit, Reg is operating the 635H swing boom skidder on a small, 2 500 cubic metre cut block with a 50% grade. The skidder is tethered to a large remote-controlled winch at the top of the hill fitted to an old Tigercat feller buncher. The winch provides up to seventeen tonnes of pulling force. The 635H is pulling downhill to bring bunches to the processor at the landing below.

BTB: How did you get into the forestry industry?

Reg: I like operating machines. I farmed before I got into the woods, working on dairy farms. Then I started working a day shift at a sawmill. One day one of the chainsaw operators didn’t show up, so they asked me to fill in. It then turned into working almost around the clock, five days per week. Night shift at the sawmill, day shift in the bush with the chainsaw. I would sleep all weekend. I did what I had to do to get into the bush and get my foot in the door. When everything went towards mechanical logging, I wanted to jump on a grapple skidder, so I did that. I like rubber-tired machines. I’ve tried different track machines a few times, and I just always come back to the skidder.

BTB: How many hours are on the machine, and what were you operating prior to this?

Reg: I got the machine six weeks ago, and it has 236 hours on it. Prior to this model, I was operating older Tigercat models and John Deere skidders. I have been running skidders for 30-plus years now. I have been all over the province; pretty much operated every kind of skidder on every kind of terrain. I have been in it since it was done with a cable winch hook-up. I probably operated one of the very first Tigercat skidders that ever came out.

BTB: How do you compare the H-series machine over the G-series?

Reg: It’s a big improvement. The H-series model has a much more comfortable and user-friendly cab, the comfort of it, roominess, and visibility. The seat is very comfortable and easy to swing around. My two-way radio location, when I’m buckled in, is a bit too far away. But other than that, it’s nice to have the extra room. Also, the diff lock indicator light on the controls is a huge improvement. Thank you, engineers! And the climate-controlled cup holder is a nice perk.

BTB: How do you find the 220 degree Turnaround® seat? Do you use it?

Reg: I use it all the time. I wish it were 360 degrees. But it is a far improvement over just having the front and back drive positions.

BTB: What are the benefits of having a swing boom?

Reg: It just makes the machine versatile. It reduces the need to have a hoe chucker up the hill to put the piles in place. I can do it all myself. I can grab a pile on the left and put it together with one on the right without having to really change where I’m travelling, which is such a huge advantage. In addition to that, the grapple is quick and powerful. I think it really shines. I almost wouldn’t go back. It is also very well-lit for night work. It has powerful and responsive hydraulics. It is the best suited and nicest machine I have ever run.

BTB: Have you noticed a productivity increase with the swing boom machine?

Reg: In this kind of application, yes.

BTB: Is this your first time being winch-assisted?

Reg: I did one other site before this. I have only done 25 hours tied to a cable. It feels good. It’s just that extra security you need when you are on the side of a hill. I have done work on ground just as steep, coming down on your own. Tethered feels better.

Now, much of our work is on very steep terrain, with 50 to 80 percent grades. And almost half of our shift is done in the dark during winter. New methods and machines have allowed us to harvest timber in these challenging conditions safely.

— Reg Dyck

BTB: How do you know what you can do with the machine on the more challenging terrain?

Reg: It’s nothing that you can really explain. You just feel it in the seat of your pants, and you know if you can go down into the steeper grade or not. That’s why it is challenging. Something you normally wouldn’t be able to do with the amount of traction that there is; it’s a whole different world with cable assist.

BTB: Are there any Tigercat- specific features that make your job easier or more comfortable?

Reg: The cab is quiet. That makes my job a lot easier at the end of the day. It just takes a lot of stress off me. And you don’t need to play your stereo as loud over top of the machine noise.

BTB: How has it been working with Inland?

Reg: There is very good communication between us and Inland.

BTB: Do you have family that also work in the woods?

Reg: My son is a heavy-duty mechanic for Inland’s West Kelowna branch. And the other kids work for hotels and banks. I mean, I get up at 2:00 am, so I go to bed at 7:00 pm at night. And it is twelve-to-fourteen- hour days. There are not too many kids that want to do that.

BTB: What is your go-to music to listen to in the cab?

Reg: Mostly talk radio. Glenn Beck on channel 111. He’s on every morning. He is informative and entertaining. And sometimes a little bit of CBC.

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635H Swing Boom in Action

Watch a 635H swing boom skidder working winch-assisted on steep terrain at a logging operation near Lumby, British Columbia. The rear bogie axle provides improved traction and operator comfort.

swing boom bogie skidder on steep slope

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