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Oregon Logger Chooses Varied Equipment

ACME Manufacturing Inc. Carriages Meet High Expectations at Pacific Rim Associates

By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 2/1/2007


PORT ORFORD, Oregon — Storms in the Pacific Northwest in late 2006 ranked among the fiercest recorded in the region during the last century. The coastal and central areas of Oregon are accustomed to regular intervals of high wind, abundant rain and snow, however. Removing storm-damaged timber is part of doing business for many logging or chipping companies.

        From his base in southwest Oregon, Bret O’Brien operates Pacific Rim Associates, a company that specializes in contract logging and road building. Pacific Rim also gets involved with jobs that restore some order after the forces of nature have had their way. “I do a lot of clean-up jobs, rehabilitation,” said Bret.

        “We have both mechanical and yarder sides,” said Bret. “I work mostly for a couple of different companies, Plum Creek Timber and Menasha Forest Products.” Bret and his wife, Dalia O’Brien, own Pacific Rim Associates; he is president of the company.

        It is not unusual to have 12 or 13 different sorts on one logging job, explained Bret. The forests in which his company works contain alder, tan oak and other hardwoods, and mixed conifers, such as spruce and cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock and white fir. The company and its 14 employees cut a considerable amount of Douglas fir.

        Bret puts a great emphasis on selecting equipment that is a good match for his kind of jobs and reliability. When he was looking for a new carriage to run with one of his yarders, he initiated a search based on information he got by “word of mouth.” That information put him in contact with ACME Manufacturing Inc. in Springfield, Ore.

        “A friend of mine was running three of them (ACME carriages),” explained Bret. His friend could not say enough about the dependability and durability of the ACME carriages, he recalled, and Bret was impressed with what he heard.

        He ultimately bought an ACME model S28S carriage, which soon demonstrated its capabilities on job sites for Pacific Rim Associates. When Bret decided to add another carriage later, he went right back to ACME for a model 10.

        Flexibility is important to Bret, too. Machinery that gives his employees flexibility enables the company to take on a wide range of jobs. He owns quite a bit of equipment, and not all of it is in use at any one time. That may seem inefficient to some contractors, to have idle equipment; to Bret, it is just the opposite.

        “I have three yarders but only run one at a time — whichever fits (the job),” said Bret. The choice of yarder depends on the size of the timber to be cut, the direction that Bret wants to pull, and other factors.

        Instead of using skidders to drag logs to a landing or yarding area, logs are attached to cables and pulled uphill or downhill by the yarder and carriage. The logs may be fully suspended or partly suspended. The yarder serves both as an overhead support for the cables and to power the winches that pull the cables. Yarder logging is common in the West, where the terrain is mountainous. It also reduces the need for building access roads.

        Securing logs to cables in the 21st century is part art and part science, just as it has always been. It depends on the expertise of the people working on the ground. It also increasingly benefits from technology, such as the know-how built into carriages. A carriage can pick up slack or let down cable. With a carriage, it is possible to drop cable down at a distance from the yarder or even along the path across which logs are traveling.

        The two ACME carriages Bret owns share some of the common features of all ACME carriages. For example, they are radio-controlled via Talkie-Tooter® and they move smoothly over intermediate supports on cables.

        With its 28 horsepower engine, the 2,200-pound model S28S ACME carriage has a load capacity of 20,000 pounds.

        The ACME model 10 carriage weighs 1,000 pounds and has a 12,000-pound load capacity. It is designed to work with a small yarder, a hydraulic shovel with winches, or a line shovel.

        Pacific Rim Associates uses the ACME model S28S carriage with a Thunderbird TMY50 yarder, normally pulling uphill.

        The ACME 10 carriage runs with a ‘Yoader’ (a combination yarder and loader made by The Jewell/Allied Power Products, Inc.). The Yoader winch shovel is versatile because it can shovel-log and load logs at the landing. “It’s good for short reaches and picking corners,” said Bret. The winch shovel is best for uphill yarding.

        The company also has a Washington model 88 swing yarder. “It’s really good for downhill,” said Bret. “It’s built better for it.”

        The features of the ACME carriages show that the people who have designed and made them have thought critically about bringing sophisticated technology to complex logging environments. “The carriage is easy to brag on,” said Bret. “Wayne’s been really good to work with. They understand logging (because) they’ve logged” before founding ACME.

        Wayne and Tim Van Damme are the brothers who own ACME Mfg. “They’re nice guys,” said Bret, and have provided excellent service.

        Bret has owned the ACME model S28S carriage about two years. When he talked with TimberLine in December, the ACME model 10 carriage had been in use for only three weeks, but it already proved itself. “I went with ACME primarily for dependability,” said Bret.

        The new Acme model 10 carriage also is fast, according to Bret. “I picked up a couple of loads a day,” he said.

        Preventive maintenance on the carriages is fairly routine. “We change the oil,” follow the routine service protocols, and the results are good, said Bret.

        The ACME S28S carriage and the Thunderbird yarder are a powerful combination. “They’ll pull anything a ¾-inch line will pull,” said Bret.

        The ACME carriages have performed according to the expectations of Pacific Rim Associates. “It’s done everything that Wayne said it would do,” said Bret. “The rigging crew is real happy with them.”

        A rigging crew on a yarder logging job performs many tasks that must be carefully coordinated. Their activities are analogous to the crew on a sailing ship. Not only does each person have to be aware of — even anticipate — what another member of the crew is doing, but they cannot rely on being able to talk with one another because of distance and noise. They have to watch out for each other, work safely and productively.

        Traditionally, the essential players in a rigging crew are the hook tender, rigging slinger, choker setters and chaser.

        The hook tender evaluates the terrain prior to set-up of a yarder and rigging system. When logs are being moved, the hook tender monitors the entire system, watching for any strain that must be corrected by adjusting the rigging.

        The choker setters and rigging slinger work where the trees have been felled, fastening choker cables around a log and ultimately hanging the log as though it were in a noose. The fastener on the “noose” is referred to as a bell or choker bell. The rigging slinger works with the choker setters and oversees these operations.

        The chaser works at the landing, directing the removal cables from the logs. When a choker is being used, the chaser pulls it from its sliding fastener to loosen it and open the noose around the log.

        The chaser also bucks oversize logs and gets the cables ready. The company uses Stihl chain saws for bucking and other occasional cutting. “I pretty much stick with Stihl, the 044 — which is now the 440,” said Bret. He likes the brand and model for its power and reliability.

        At the landing, delimbing is done by two Link-Belt stroke-boom delimbers, a model 240 and a newer model 3400 that was just added to the lineup in December.

        Hand signals or whistle signals have long been the means of communicating and coordinating among tenders, setters and chasers, as well as hand-held radios. ACME Mfg. offers customers another option: radio controls. An authorized dealer for Johnson radio-controlled choker bells, ACME can help a logger combine the purchase of a carriage and radio-controls. With this system, a signal sent to the choker from a programming board — by an operator situated some distance from a log arriving at the landing — releases the choker and unhooks the log. The radio controls are best used in second growth timber and require adequate deflection. They work very well in thinning operations.

        Pacific Rim Associates also performs conventional or mechanical logging operations. It uses a Timberjack 635 with a dangle-head attachment for processing. On these kinds of jobs, the company also uses a Caterpillar 545 skidder and a Kobelco 290 log loader.

        “Anything over 26 to 30 inches, we try to take a log out of it,” said Bret. When he reflected on the different types of logging in the East and Pacific Northwest, Bret focused mainly on the differences in the size of the timber and how it affects the entire supply chain of wood products. In the East, “the mills are set up for short wood,” said Bret. “Ours is longer,” and that’s what the mills are set up to handle.

        Pacific Rim Associates does two kind of jobs. It does timber harvesting, and it also performs logging services associated with right-of-way construction. On the right-of-way jobs, the company goes in after the trees have been felled and delimbs the stems and processes the logs. All timber felling and trucking is subcontracted.

        Bret started logging right out of high school. “My graduation present was a pair of work boots and a plane ticket to Alaska,” he recalled. “I graduated from high school on Friday, and on Monday morning I was setting chokers in Alaska.” He stayed in the 49th state for a few months.

        When Bret’s father decided to stop hauling timber and start a logging company, Bret returned to Oregon to work with him. “We used to do a lot of farm logging — salvage logging,” he explained. They worked together for about 12 years. “I bought out his part five years ago,” said Bret.

        It was while working with his father that Bret, a native of Sweet Home, Ore., encountered some of the biggest trees he has cut. It was in a salvage logging job after a large blow-down in a mountain pass in the Cascades.

        Today, most of the logging that Bret’s company does is within a two-hour trip of its current home base in the coastal town of Port Orford, Ore. Small and picturesque, Port Orford has 1,100 residents and a rich history as a port and logging center. It has also become an important area for cranberry farming.

        The Cascade Mountain range rises approximately 120 miles east of Port Orford. The Coast Range is nearer the Pacific Ocean and closer to Port Orford. Both the Cascade and the Coast ranges support rich forests, nurtured by relatively mild weather year-round and heavy rainfall of between 50 and 100 inches annually.

        Besides carriages, ACME Manufacturing offers a full line of ancillary equipment, including pear rings and toggles. Made of solid cast iron, the ACME pear rings are designed for ½-inch to 9/16-inch chokers and shaped to resist bending. In addition to being designed for strength, the ACME toggles are structured to speed hooking and unhooking; they are made for a ½-inch to 7/8-inch drop line.

        There’s a great deal to like about his business, said Bret. “It’s not monotonous. Something new happens every day,” he explained, and he enjoys being outdoors.

        At present, Pacific Rim Associates is Bret’s full-time activity and more. “It pretty much takes up all my time,” he said. “I hunt and fish some.” Bret has a daughter, Heather, and two grandchildren, and two sons, Jeff, who works with him, and Shane, 14, who is in high school.

        He also credited his employees for helping make Pacific Rim successful. “I owe a lot to my crew,” he said. They have helped the company grow over the years. “I really appreciate them.”


 






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