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New version Cablecrane in operation
Forestry Memories
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No: 3342   Contributor: Norman Davidson   Year: 1974
New version Cablecrane in operation

Photograph courtesy of David Foot, Surrey.

The location is not known but definitely somewhere in South Scotland and is a rare image of an early prototype Cable Crane system. The type of tower assembly built onto a Massey Ferguson tractor (Reg No OGS128H) is not recognised but could be a prototype tower and cable system by Grant Smith of Killin.

The tower top with double ended pulley bar appears to have a raising or heightening mechanism but that may not be the case. Not sure what the function of the topmost pole or bar performs.

Some of the men appear to be crosscutting the extracted timber into Bowater pulp lengths.

Any information on the winch, the operators and the location would be very welcome indeed.
Picture added on 26 May 2016 at 16:13
add commentComments:
This is a Smiths Timbermaster winch. The Research branch tested one for many months and for some reason decided it was not suitable for use in the FC. A couple of winch operators at Kilmun Forest District, Kyle Armstrong and Jimmy Gillies, asked if they could have it to replace an Igland and this was done. It served for many years although as the FC only had the one or two of this type, as far as I know, spares were always hard to come by. Improvisation was taken to a new level.

The skyline was tightened by a drum on the winch. It came off the tightening drum and went up and through the pulley which is hanging out at the back of the tower. It then went back through another pulley which was anchored, before going up to the top of the tower. As you say there is a bar there. This had one pulley on each end and another underneath and in between was a hydraulic ram which would further tension the skyline by raising the bar. The haul-in drum, if I remember correctly, used the planetary gear system and the haul back, the normal clutch arrangement. The nylon drum was permanently mounted on the tractor.
As the drums were side mounted, it made positioning the winch for extraction much easier as no turning was needed.

The winch was used in many situations for extraction and also in an experiment to see if long racks were an alternative to putting in more roads. Some racks at Gairletter, near Ardentinny, were almost 850 yards long.

I have many photos of that winch in use and will be scanning them and submitting them in the near future.

Added by Andy MacNicol on 29 August 2016.
Another couple of observations. The winchman is not in the operating position. This is in front of the front wheel and the clutches were foot operated. The pedals can be seen in the enlarged picture. He is possibly pulling off slack in the haul-in line for the chokerman.
Also visible in the enlargement is a wire coming down from the pole on top of the tower. It is possible that the pole held the aerial for the radio. Sometimes extra height was needed to improve reception if the chokerman was in a gulley or over a rise in the ground.

Added by Andy MacNicol on 30 August 2016.
Andy, thanks for providing all the detail on this winch and the explanation of all the features. I believe the company still makes cable cranes.

Added by Norman Davidson on 01 September 2016.
No, G & R Smith are long gone, but similar, more modern machines are built by A & B Services in Killin, at the opposite end of Loch Tay from Smith's old premises at Acharn.

I wrote a brief 25 year history of Smith's business for Forestry and British Timber magazine many years ago.

Added by David Shearer on 04 September 2016.
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