WEST COAST NA­TIVES

New Zealand Logger - - Contents -

Foresters make a plea for rules to be changed to al­low se­lec­tive log­ging to con­tinue. South Is­land writer and log­ger, Jim Childer­stone, meets up with the Coast­ers.

BUT THIS ISN’T THE SORT OF TRUCK I’M used to driv­ing. This is a lot bet­ter, you can go any­where within rea­son, a lot more places than a nor­mal log truck.

It’s like a cross be­tween a log truck and a forwarder. Sat in the plush cab, it’s more like a truck be­cause you have a proper steer­ing wheel, not the joy­sticks you find in mod­ern for­warders, and you’re al­ways fac­ing ahead, not hav­ing to turn around to load the bunk with an on­board crane.

It even drives like a truck. Bet­ter than a lot of trucks, ac­tu­ally. Very easy – put it into D, take the elec­tronic brake off and you’re away.

All the con­trols are on a panel switchboard to the right, which is where you’ll find gear se­lec­tion, in­clud­ing but­tons to hold it in what­ever gear you choose and it won’t go any higher, which pre­vents the auto mak­ing un­nec­es­sary gear changes on the hill and stops it from goug­ing ruts in the track.

Other switches on the panel are for the rear diff-locks and the cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial to en­gage the front axle, plus things like at A/C, wipers, lights etc – Tony reck­ons the lights are great for early morn­ing starts.

You don’t need any switches for the re­tarder be­cause it works au­to­mat­i­cally through the gear­box to help slow the Bell on a steep hill. Would have been good to try that on a steeper tack.

And there’s a big red emer­gency stop but­ton just above the con­trol panel if you need to kill every­thing quickly

So not much to re­mem­ber at all.

The seat and the driv­ing po­si­tion are ex­cel­lent and the fore/aft and rake on the steer­ing col­umn makes it very easy to get com­fort­able for an 8-hour shift at the wheel.

When un­der way, there’s lots of vi­sion ahead, es­pe­cially look­ing down over that steeply slop­ing bon­net and through nice deep win­dows to the side to keep an eye on the edges of the track. Three heated mir­rors on each side of the cab cover dif­fer­ent rear and down­ward an­gles, which I es­pe­cially like to use when re­vers­ing – I’m old school and while the rear-fac­ing cam­era is good when you get up close to the loader, I pre­fer to rely on the mir­rors for ma­noeu­vring.

Run­ning out from the skid to the cut-over with an empty bunk you tend to no­tice any rougher places on the track through the firm sus­pen­sion, es­pe­cially go­ing over the cor­duroy. And the steer­ing is quite touchy when it’s empty, too.

It feels a lot smoother when you’ve got weight in the bunk. Con­sid­er­ing the amount of wood on board, you’d never think you had 30 tonnes. The engine pulls strongly and it’s ex­tremely quiet, you hardly no­tice it. There’s lots of grip from those big fat tyres go­ing up the short in­cline and it pow­ers up in the right gear.

Com­pared to a forwarder, this is a lot sim­pler and a lot smoother. But say­ing that, a forwarder is de­signed and built to go out into the cut-over and its de­sign re­flects that, whereas the Bell is built to drive over tracks.

I know it can get up to 50km/h top speed but on this short stretch of track I only man­aged to get into third gear and I felt like I was honk­ing. I’d love to ex­pe­ri­ence it on a long flat road in sixth gear.

Have to say that I’m a bit en­vi­ous of Tony and reg­u­lar op­er­a­tor, Dale. I could be tempted back into a truck again if I had some­thing like a Bell TH403E as my daily drive.

NZL

Above and left: Stan Bar­low

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