SON OF THOR swing into ACTION
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.
The move to a slightly smaller processor has been dictated by smaller wood in the forest currently being harvested by Rosewarne crews.
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 found it a handicap.
Below: The John Deere 648L drops off more stems for the 3156G to process.
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.
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 oil.
Above right: A safe set of stairs to reach the rear-entry cab, though the entrance through the guard posts is a bit tight. Improved hydraulic performance, compared to the D-series model it replaces, deliver good swing and slew on the new 3156G.
This forest is the winter harvesting home for Rosewarne Crew 82 – even with water partially surrounding the skid site work continues unaffected.
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.