SON OF THOR swing into AC­TION

New Zealand Logger - - Iron Test - Story & Pho­tos: John El­le­gard

THE TREND TO­WARDS BIG­GER AND MORE POW­ER­FUL forestry ma­chines has be­come so preva­lent over the last decade, it’s al­most a sur­prise when a log­ging con­trac­tor de­cides to head in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

So, when Whangarei-based Rose­warne Ca­ble Log­gers looked to step back from the two big John Deere 3754D pro­ces­sors that have served it well for more than five years and pur­chase a pair of smaller ma­chines, the im­me­di­ate ques­tion was why?

Af­ter all, North­land has a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing some of the big­gest wood in the coun­try and that was the rea­son owner, Lars Rose­warne, went with the 46-tonnne John Deere 3754D model – which bal­loons to over 50 tonnes with the pow­er­ful Waratah 626 head taken into ac­count – in the first place.

But times have changed. Much of the big wood in the corporate forests has been har­vested and the piece sizes have come down since those 3754D pro­ces­sors went into ser­vice.

BIG is just not nec­es­sary any more.

The new pro­cess­ing stars on the Rose­warne skid sites are a pair of John Deere 3156G swing ma­chines, the next model down from a 3754G, which oc­cu­pies a slightly smaller foot­print, is around five tonnes lighter and hy­draulic per­for­mance is sim­i­larly di­alled down to match its po­si­tion in the mar­ket­place.

They are the first of this par­tic­u­lar model to go on sale in New Zealand and among the first of the new G-se­ries swing ma­chines to ar­rive here, fol­low­ing their North Amer­i­can de­but at the DEMO Show in Bri­tish Columbia late last year. So that def­i­nitely marks out the 3156G for an Iron Test ap­pear­ance in NZ Log­ger.

An­other rea­son for our in­ter­est is hang­ing off the end of the dip­per arm on both of Rose­warne’s new ma­chines – the lat­est ver­sion of SouthS­tar’s top-of the range pro­ces­sor, the QS630, which now fea­tures larger de-limb arms that are tai­lored to suit New Zealand’s wood.

This pair­ing rep­re­sents a very in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion and Lars says there were a number of rea­sons that led to their pur­chase.

“We don’t have the big­ger trees in the forests we’re work­ing and there’s no need for a base the size of the 3754,” he says.

“But there’s still a few big trees on the edges, so we didn’t want to drop down too far – the 3156 seemed like a good size. It’s still very sta­ble for what we’re cut­ting and it’s still got a lot of power, but it uses less fuel.”

And there was no re­quire­ment for a 5-tonne pro­cess­ing head, ei­ther. Plus, Lars has been im­pressed with the de­sign and per­for­mance of the new gen­er­a­tion of SouthS­tars.

Rose­warne crews were the first to adopt the SouthS­tar FD750 felling heads, tak­ing three of the early ver­sions and re­cently ac­quir­ing three of the new mod­els, which Lars says are a big im­prove­ment. One of his crews is also us­ing a QS600 pro­ces­sor and it was that ex­pe­ri­ence which led Lars to look at the larger QS630.

This head weighs in at 4,390kg in­clud­ing ro­ta­tor and link­ages, so it comes in at the top end of ac­cept­able size for the 3156G. But that’s not what swayed Lars.

“All the hoses are tucked away inside the frame and the elec­tron­ics are well pro­tected and there’s very lit­tle like­li­hood of any­thing get­ting snagged,” he says.

With those boxes ticked, the or­der for two iden­ti­cal set-ups was made and the bases ar­rived on the same ship from the States to be fit­ted up with their heads and go to work at the same time in forests not too far apart in North­land. Co­in­ci­den­tally, both the bases and the heads have con­sec­u­tive pro­duc­tion num­bers, hav­ing been built along­side each other in their re­spec­tive fac­to­ries.

The combo we’re tar­get­ing for this Iron Test is work­ing with Rose­warne Crew 82 in Rotu For­est just north of Dar­gav­ille, while its iden­ti­cal twin is fur­ther north, tack­ling Pipi­wai For­est.

This is the win­ter work place for Crew 82 – they usu­ally spend five months here dur­ing the mid­dle of the year un­til the ground dries out in other forests. But 2017 has been par­tic­u­larly wet and even with the ar­rival of spring the ground con­di­tions are among the worst they’ve seen in the seven years work­ing this for­est, fore­man Dave ‘Spud’ Pa­ton told us when we ar­rived on site.

He wasn’t kid­ding. Wa­ter sur­rounds much of the skid site where their new­est John Deere is tak­ing pride of place, re­sem­bling a moat lap­ping up to cas­tle walls. But the skid it­self is dry, so op­er­a­tions carry on re­gard­less.

This is a very green op­er­a­tion, and by that, I mean all the equip­ment be­ing op­er­ated by this crew are John Deeres. No sur­prises there, Lars has been a JD man for years. There’s a pair of JD load­ers stack­ing and fleet­ing the logs pro­duced by the pro­ces­sor, which in turn, is sup­plied by a JD skid­der that col­lects the stems har­vested by a fifth green ma­chine on the hill.

Un­til three months ago, there was an­other John Deere work­ing in this lo­ca­tion – one of the two 3754D/Big­wood com­bi­na­tions. Long­time read­ers might re­mem­ber this ma­chine by its nick­name, Thor, which was the sub­ject of an Iron Test in 2012.

For a number of years, the swing ma­chines pur­chased by Rose­warne each re­ceived a unique spray-painted su­per-hero char­ac­ter that was de­signed to make the op­er­a­tors feel proud of their steeds and take ex­tra care of them. It worked, as dam­age to the bod­ies was lim­ited and the cabs were kept cleaner. Un­for­tu­nately, they have been run­ning out of suit­able char­ac­ters to put on the ma­chines, so the last few have gone straight to work without em­bel­lish­ment.

Pity, re­ally. They do make Rose­warne work sites more in­ter­est­ing vis­ually.

By the way, Thor hasn’t been pen­sioned off to As­gard, just to an­other Rose­warne crew that is deal­ing with big­ger wood. The av­er­age piece size in Rotu For­est is about 1.4, says ‘Spud’, which is ideal for the new, as-yet un­named war­rior.

In­ter­est­ing thing about the new 3156G is that if Lars Rose­warne had wanted a D-se­ries ver­sion of this model back in 2012 when look­ing to buy Thor he would have been fresh out of luck, be­cause it didn’t ex­ist. The nextdown model from the 3754D was a 2954D, cov­er­ing weights rang­ing from 34 tonnes to 41 tonnes. In the lat­est G-se­ries, the 2954D has been re­placed by the 3154G/3156G mod­els cov­er­ing the 37-to-43.5-tonne range,

de­pend­ing on cab and other con­fig­u­ra­tions.

The pair of 3154G pro­ces­sors pur­chased by Rose­warne are right near the top of the op­tion and weight spec­trum, both sport­ing a very tall 62-inch riser un­der the pur­pose-built cab. That puts the to­tal height of the ma­chine to the cab roof at 5,210mm, mak­ing it one of the tallest of any for­est swing ma­chine (the Tiger­cat 880D is still the tallest, at 5,370mm). The John Deere 3154G is even taller than its big­ger brother, the 3756G, by 30mm – though smaller in other di­men­sions.

Be­ing big­ger is not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. When it comes to pro­cess­ing heads, for ex­am­ple, size must be weighed against pro­duc­tiv­ity. It’s a well­known fact that big­ger heads are slower, be­cause it takes more ef­fort to move mass, but the new SouthS­tar QS630 seems to be mak­ing the most of the JD’s up­graded hy­draulic sys­tem.

‘Spud’ says: “Shane (op­er­a­tor) loves it. With that head on it, I’ve al­most got to slow him down. He can fair pump it through. Which is good for a big head that is sup­posed to be slower. And Shane’s only been on the pro­ces­sor for a year. We are do­ing 2,000 plus tonnes a week at the mo­ment and it isn’t hard to hit tar­get.”

That’s good to know, be­cause we’ve asked op­er­a­tor Shane Har­ri­son to shut down for a spell so we can get a closer look at the new ma­chine and it means he can eas­ily make up for any lost time.

Sit­ting on its 1.5-mtre riser, the cab seems even taller when stand­ing next to it. And the first thing that is ap­par­ent is the path­way up to the rear-en­try into the cab has been moved on the G-se­ries. On Thor you had to squeeze be­tween the boom and body­work on the front, but the first steps up have been shifted to the side, next to the cor­ner post. It’s still a squeeze, thanks to the ad­di­tional guard­ing fit­ted in New Zealand as ex­tra pro­tec­tion from way­ward logs.

To ac­com­mo­date the new steps, the shape of the bon­net has changed, but the gen­eral lay­out and the po­si­tion­ing of the en­gine and other com­po­nents is es­sen­tially the same. Ac­cess is im­proved, through a larger drop-down plat­form on the boom side of the ma­chine and a pair of barn-door style pan­els on the op­po­site side. LEDs flood the ser­vice area with light when work has to be done in the dark. Lots of stor­age spa­ces around the body and in the riser for spare chains, bars, oils etc.

And that riser looks to have been re-shaped, with more pro­nounced folds in the met­al­work to make it stronger and re­duce the like­li­hood of dents from con­tact with any swing­ing logs.

The cab has also been re-de­signed and is reck­oned to be 25% larger than the di­rect model it re­places in the D-se­ries, al­though it’s not as roomy as Shane was used to on Thor, the 3754D. Still up there, though.

In Thor, the op­er­a­tor had a spa­cious com­pan­ion­way to the right of the seat but in this ma­chine, the aisle is on the op­po­site side and it’s def­i­nitely a lit­tle nar­rower. But there is good room be­hind the seat for an in­struc­tor or ob­server to stand with the door closed.

It’s de­scribed as a ‘cab for­ward’ de­sign be­cause it is po­si­tioned out over the front of the tracks, putting the op­er­a­tor slightly closer to the ac­tion. Com­pared to a stan­dard cab, it sits 431mm fur­ther for­ward.

Vi­sion from up here is bril­liant and has been made even bet­ter with fewer guard­ing bars over those tall win­dows and the now fa­mil­iar glass panel set into the floor just in front of the ped­als so the op­er­a­tor can see the front of the tracks. There’s an­other glass panel in the floor to the left of the seat, along with a small trap­door for dock­ets to be passed down to truck drivers. That’s not nec­es­sary for a pro­ces­sor op­er­a­tor, but these ma­chines are also used for load­ing and it would be handy in that role.

Shane might have been spoiled for space in Thor, but he’s not com­plain­ing about the work­place in the 3156G. He reck­ons it’s a lot qui­eter, and the new iso­la­tion mounts and air-sus­pended seat make for a very com­fort­able day at the con­trols.

Speak­ing of the con­trols, I mis­took the hand­sets for Sure Grips, but was cor­rected by Ben Ad­den­brooke, SouthS­tar tech­ni­cian, who called in dur­ing our test, say­ing these are Scor­pion con­trols. Ap­par­ently, one of the two brothers be­hind Sure Grips went off to do his own thing and start up the Scor­pion brand.

Iron Tester, Stan Bar­low, will go into fur­ther de­tails on the con­trols and cab en­vi­ron­ment in his col­umn on page 36.

Step­ping back down onto terra firma, Shane also points out the cab now has only four bolts to se­cure it, rather than ten, mak­ing life sim­pler to tilt it for­ward for trans­port­ing. On the mi­nus side, the front plat­form at the foot of the riser has re­duced in size, so it’s not as easy to stand on and wipe the screen – though the big mo­torised wiper mostly takes care of that job.

Shane is, how­ever, very happy with the adop­tion of pow­er­ful LED lights that pro­vide ex­cel­lent il­lu­mi­na­tion for early morn­ing starts.

One of the rea­sons Lars Rose­warne and his team se­lected the John Deere 3156G was its com­bi­na­tion of power and fuel econ­omy.

The new model gains the John Deere Pow­erTech PSS 9.0-litre en­gine in place of the 6.8-litre John Deere 6068H unit that was in the 2954D.

It’s a fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the en­gine that pow­ers Thor, but is de-rated to de­liver 186kW (249hp) at 1,900 rpm, rather than the 220kW (296hp) @ 1,900rpm Shane has been used to hav­ing on tap in the big­ger ma­chine. Still a wel­come 30% im­prove­ment over the 145kW (194hp) pro­duced by the 2954D, which this ma­chine has re­placed in the range. While the US and some other mar­kets get a Tier 4F ver­sion, our en­gine is built to Tier 3 emis­sion stan­dards, so no Ad­Blue to worry about.

The new ma­chine doesn’t have to be re-fu­elled as often as Thor, be­cause it’s smaller and more ef­fi­cient and the 1080-litre tank holds an­other 30 litres of diesel.

An­other wel­come tech­ni­cal change is that John Deere en­gi­neers have man­aged to achieve a 30% re­duc­tion in elec­tri­cal com­po­nents, which they say will help to re­duce electrics-re­lated down­time.

The cool­ing pack­age has been beefed up, too, fea­tur­ing a sec­ondary fan sit­ting in a mod­ule out next to the cor­ner post by the boom and there’s now an auto re­vers­ing fan as stan­dard, to in­crease air­flow and lower hy­draulic op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture. Bak­ing North­land sum­mers used to push the run­ning tem­per­a­tures up in Thor but Shane says the new ma­chine is al­ready run­ning much cooler, which bodes well for the approaching hot­ter weather.

And com­pared to the 2954D, the new 3156G has im­proved hy­draulic per­for­mance to make the most of the power from the en­gine for mul­ti­func­tion­ing per­for­mance, most no­tably in the power boost avail­able to the op­er­a­tor to help with lift and swing.

Other changes in­clude a heav­ier-duty un­der­car­riage and main­frame, de­signed to de­liver up to 67% longer life, ac­cord­ing to John Deere. More ro­bust boom-foot base with larger pins strength­ens the boom con­nec­tion. Bush­ings have been added to the boom tower and boom tip to im­prove joint in­tegrity and sim­plify re­pair.

The new un­der­car­riage fea­tures larger lower rollers and a wider track frame for bet­ter sta­bil­ity. Ground clear­ance is up, ver­sus the 2954D (790mm against 710mm), which is even higher than on Thor, but that’s hardly an is­sue for a ma­chine that spend all its time on the skid.

We ask Shane what dif­fer­ences he has no­ticed since swap­ping from Thor to this smaller base and he says: “Thor was quite an ag­gres­sive ma­chine, com­pared to this. It had too much power in some ways.

“It was fine in big wood but not with this.”

Though he does qual­ify that state­ment by say­ing he misses the huge slew power of Thor and the new ma­chine doesn’t have the same lift, but agrees that what the 3156G pro­vides is more than suf­fi­cient for the job (and they’re both bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous 2954D model). There’s al­ways the Power Boost that he can call on to pro­vide an ex­tra 3700 kpa, or 536

psi, above the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pres­sure.

“Over­all, I’m en­joy­ing it a lot more,” says Shane. “It’s very com­fort­able, you can’t hear any­thing inside the cab – the sound­proof­ing is pretty good. Vi­sion is great, be­cause you sit slightly higher in this one.”

The pur­pose-built boom and arm are marginally shorter than on Thor, but Shane doesn’t miss the ex­tra cen­time­tres, adding: “You don’t need that much length when you are pro­cess­ing on the skid.”

The con­trols fol­low the same pat­tern Shane had set up on Thor and they’re very smooth and re­spon­sive to op­er­a­tor in­put, as you’d ex­pect on a brand new ma­chine. Shane has a choice of three modes – High Pro­duc­tiv­ity, Power and Econ­omy – but prefers to keep the hy­draulic flow di­alled up to drive the SouthS­tar head.

Be­fore we ask Shane to hop aboard and demon­strate the new 3156G’s pro­cess­ing abil­i­ties, Ben Ad­den­brooke up­dates us on the changes that have taken place with the SouthS­tar QS 630 while the head is sit­ting on the ground.

There’s no dif­fer­ence in the main ar­chi­tec­ture or drive per­for­mance. It still runs the orig­i­nal 4x4 roller de­sign driven by a 1,395cc mo­tor with the hy­draulic sys­tem be­ing me­chan­i­cally linked in the cen­tre of the body to lock the dual body wheels to­gether. Com­bined with the large di­am­e­ter drive rollers this drive sys­tem is reach­ing speeds of up to 5.2m/s. Es­sen­tially the de­sign pro­vides a large ca­pac­ity drive sys­tem that is suf­fi­ciently pow­er­ful without sac­ri­fic­ing speed.

The 40” auto-ten­sioned main saw and 30” top saw are also the same as be­fore.

The main changes, to ac­com­mo­date the larger wood har­vested in New Zealand’s larger wood, sees the QS630 now open­ing up wider, to just un­der 1,100mm on the de-limb arms and the drive arms are open to 1,080mm.

Ben says the de-limb arms are not only larger, but bet­ter shaped to suit the char­ac­ter­is­tics of New Zealand’s bulky Ra­di­ata Pines.

“They’ve gone up 100mm and have bet­ter cur­va­ture to hold our larger tim­ber,” he says.

Ad­di­tion­ally, har­vest­ing/pro­cess­ing heads built for our mar­ket also run ag­gres­sive Alpine-style drive wheels, along with an ag­gres­sive mea­sur­ing wheel to cope with the gnarly bark and slip­pery resin.

Un­screw­ing the ac­cess panel, Ben points out the fea­ture that drew Lars Rose­warne to SouthS­tar, show­ing us how the hoses are routed through the chas­sis and emerge be­hind the cen­tre mo­tor rather than loop­ing around the drive arms.

The east-west valve lay­out has the electrics on the front side and the hy­draulics com­ing off the rear side. This makes for user-friendly ser­vic­ing as well as al­low­ing for a more pro­tected hose route, and it has the ad­van­tage of keep­ing oil away from the coils.

“If you crack any valves you don’t get oil over the coils, hence we haven’t had to change a coil in a pro­ces­sor in New Zealand yet,” he adds.

This head is fit­ted with the Dasa 5 op­ti­mi­sa­tion pack­age to se­lect the 11 sorts re­quired in this block by for­est man­ager, Han­cock. But it hasn’t yet been fit­ted with the Star­trax trans­mit­ting sys­tem, so Shane has to down­load the in­for­ma­tion onto a mem­ory stick each night and then trans­mit it to the Rose­warne HQ and Han­cock via his cell­phone.

Shane likes the new SouthS­tar head and he says the two drive mo­tors and new de-limb­ing arms/knives are do­ing an ex­cel­lent job, though the main saw is slower than on Thor’s head, “but we make up the time with the faster de-limb­ing, be­cause you’re not ram­ming the stems all the time”.

And he’s happy to let the Dasa 5 sys­tem make the

buck­ing de­ci­sions, adding: “The Op­ti­mi­sa­tion is work­ing well, al­though it took us a while to get up to speed. I’ve set it up for the knot sizes and it does ev­ery­thing else – it’s all runs pretty smooth.”

Just how smoothly, we are about to find out, as it’s Iron test time. Shane climbs up to give us a demon­stra­tion be­fore Stan Bar­low has a go at the con­trols – with Sam able to stand be­hind the seat in the cab to get a close-up view and per­sonal com­men­tary.

There’s a good sup­ply of stems that ‘Spud’ has cut down, which the skid­der has dragged in for Shane to process and he doesn’t waste much time de­liv­er­ing the first logs to the loader. In the mean­time, I make sure to keep my dis­tance while tak­ing pho­tos, well away from Chain Shot range.

There’s an as­sort­ment of stems on the skid for Shane and Stan to test the John Deere/SouthS­tar combo, some less than 1.00 piece size and some con­sid­er­ably larger.

Al­though the 11.07 reach is some two me­tres shorter than Thor, it

to• doesn’t ap­pear to be lead­ing to more travel on the skid. That’s down the way Crew 82 has laid out the pro­cess­ing and load­ing area, mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is within easy reach of the John Deere 3156G.

It looks very sta­ble too, thanks to the 6,558kg coun­ter­weight on the rear and track frame that is 240mm wider than on Thor. Speak­ing of weights and di­men­sions, an in­ter­est­ing fact I picked up from the specs in the brochure is the ground pres­sure cre­ated by the new 3156G is near enough the same as Thor, even though there’s five tonnes dif­fer­ence in their weights. I won­der if it has any­thing to do with the wider tracks, as there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence in track length and both wear iden­ti­cal 700mm dou­ble grouser shoes.

Shane and Stan have now swapped po­si­tions, and our Iron tester finds it use­ful to have the reg­u­lar op­er­a­tor pro­vid­ing in­put over his shoul­der, con­scious of the fact that he doesn’t want to slow down the flow of wood on this very pro­duc­tive site. It’s al­ways hard jump­ing straight onto an un­fa­mil­iar ma­chine, but the John Deere and SouthS­tar are both in­tu­itive to op­er­ate and af­ter a hes­i­tant start, Stan is mak­ing good progress, as he ex­plains on the next page.

The de­ci­sion by Rose­warne Log­ging to down­size their ma­chin­ery re­quire­ments to suit the wood that’s com­ing through in North­land proves that big­ger is not al­ways bet­ter, it’s the right size that re­ally counts.


This for­est is the win­ter har­vest­ing home for Rose­warne Crew 82 – even with wa­ter par­tially sur­round­ing the skid site work con­tin­ues un­af­fected.

Above left: The new 9-litre John Deere en­gine re­places the 6.8-litre unit used pre­vi­ously. Above cen­tre: Drop-down plat­form pro­vides ex­cel­lent ac­cess to the fil­ters and other daily checks, whilst pro­vid­ing space for stor­age of chains, bars and...

The new 3156G has yet to have a su­per hero painted on its body, like most other John Deere swing ma­chines in the Rose­warne fleet.

Far left: Sit­ting on a 1.5-me­tre riser, the sky-high cab pro­vides the op­er­a­tor with an ex­cel­lent view of the ac­tion. Left: The boom and arm have 2 me­tres less reach than the ma­chine it re­placed in Rose­warne Crew 82, but op­er­a­tor Shane Har­ri­son hasn’t...

The move to a slightly smaller pro­ces­sor has been dic­tated by smaller wood in the for­est cur­rently be­ing har­vested by Rose­warne crews.

Above: Good ac­cess to the up­graded cool­ing sys­tem, plus stor­age aplenty in the riser. Left: Reg­u­lar op­er­a­tor, Shane Har­ri­son, is en­joy­ing the new John Deere / SouthS­tar combo.

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