Mike Hand Books

Ontario Industrial Histories

Category: manufacturing

Timberland Log Skidder

8 x 6 drive 35 ton crane carrier unit

In late 1959 I was Chief Engineer for Crane Carrier Canada, manufacturer of heavy duty truck chassis for crane installations. We had just completed our first 8 x 6 crane carrier chassis designed for mounting of a 35 ton crane, and equipped with tandem rear drive axles and tandem front axles, one of which was driven. We had built many smaller three axle carriers with both front and rear wheel drive so use of transfer cases to split the drive lines was familiar territory.

Prototype in plant test area

We got an order from Timberland Equipment in Woodstock to build them a four wheel drive tractor unit capable of working in a heavy bush environment with maximum manoeuvrability. They planned to add a winch and boom for log removal out of the bush, and the inference was that if successful, there was potential for a considerable volume of future business.

Four wheel steer in use

We were excited and put all our efforts to produce a top level piece of equipment. By mid summer of 1960, we had completed the unit and shipped it to the Woodstock plant of Timberland Equipment. It was equipped with a GM diesel engine, heavy duty transmission and transfer case, and Clarke planetary drive steer axles installed both front and rear. We had long been using the planetary axles on our large crane carriers, with the planetary gear reduction in the hub of the axle reducing the load requirements on the drive line and differential, and felt that it was an ideal application in this unit. The rear axle was rigidly mounted to the frame and the front axle was pivot mounted to provide rough terrain mobility. Power steering was set up so that either the front axle could be steered alone or alternately, both axles could be steered for minimum turning capability.

I was very proud of that unit as it left our plant, and even more so when I visited Timberland’s plant a few weeks later to see them testing the finished log skidder before shipping it to their customer. The oscillating front axle and four wheel steer capability gave the required manoeuvrability as they ran it over the rough grounds behind their plant.


Showing front axle oscillation capability

However, our expectations of volume business was quickly dashed as the company, sensibly so, after completing the prototype, decided that now they had the basic design they could produce the complete unit themselves. In service, they quickly realised that in the harsh environment in which these machines worked, driving over rocks and tree stumps, the oscillating front axle design, and the vulnerable elements of the steering linkages on the axles had to be eliminated.

Prototype showing transfer case below frame

A change was made to rigidly mount two non-steering axles to the frame, and the frame was separated into two halves, connected at the centre by heavy duty pivots. This design also provided more protection to the transfer case and drive line. Steering was accomplished using hydraulic cylinders to pivot the front and rear sections of the machine horizontally.

Early production skidder with centre frame joint

Over the next forty years they built thousands of skidders which rolled out of the constantly enlarging plant of their newly established subsidiary, Timberjack Machines,

Tudhope Carriages and Cars

James Tudhope was an aggressive industrialist, building a thriving carriage business from that originally founded by his father in 1874. By 1902, the Tudhope Carriage Co. Ltd. factory occupied a full three city blocks in the downtown area of Orillia.  A separate company, Tudhope Anderson Co. Ltd. was formed, and used part of the existing factory to produce a line of wagons and farm equipment marketed under the name TACO.  In 1907, Tudhope entered the burgeoning car business, building a high wheeled automobile that looked more like a Phaeton carriage than a car. (A mint condition Tudhope automobile can still be seen in the Oshawa Car museum.) This venture died when the plant burned down in 1909.

tudhope car

Tudhope Motor Buggy

The plant, with a carriage capacity of 25,000 units a year was rebuilt without delay, helped by a $50,000 interest free loan from the city. Although his love was carriages, and he had organised a new company under the name of Carriage Factories Ltd., Tudhope wanted to get back into the car business. He made a deal with the US manufacturer to build the Everett 30 car under license. This car, built by the Tudhope Motor Co., turned out to have design flaws in the rear axle and by 1913 the subsidiary was in bankruptcy.

tudhope everitt

Everitt Car

His Carriage Factory company had been merged with three other Ontario carriage manufacturers as Tudhope pursued his dream of a carriage building empire, but the rapidly growing auto business was overtaking him, despite his attempts to be a part of it. Striving to stay alive in the disappearing carriage business, he built bodies for auto makers along with all-weather tops to keep his factories busy. As car manufacturers began building their own covered bodies, Tudhope’s business slowed down, and in 1924, he sold his dream of an empire, Carriage Factories Ltd., to the Cockshutt Plow Co. who merged it into their Canada Carriage and Body Ltd. subsidiary in Brantford.

Four year later, his farm equipment and wagon building business, TACO, was sold and reorganised under the name of OTACO Ltd, and a huge new foundry, ( now part of Kubota) was built in the outskirts of Orillia.  The OTACO name continued to exist until 2007 as an auto seat manufacturer in an Orillia suburb.

tudhope, cars, carriages.

Factory Chimney in Orillia

James Tudhope died in 1936, and despite his ventures into car building, never learned to drive one. His name lives on in Orillia in a downtown park, and for many years towered over the city in white letters on the high brick chimney at the remaining part of his down town factory. In 2000, the chimney was taken down due to deterioration into an unsafe condition.

Tree Harvesting

The Koehring Waterous Co. of Brantford, (formerly Waterous Engine Works. Ltd.), had been a major manufacturer of sawmill and wood processing equipment since the mid 1800’s, with such products as de-barkers, shredders and grinders for wood pulping, From the mid 1960’s, they remade the company into a manufacturer of large self-propelled wood harvesters, introducing the pulpwood forwarder, a rubber tired machine that could pick up and carry loads of eight foot logs. With the acceptance of this machine, their line of wood harvesting machinery was steadily expanded, the engineering group being headed by Canadian engineer John Kurelek.

tree felling

felling head assembly

Among the machines developed in the late 1970’s was the feller forwarder which cut down the trees using hydraulic shears. This damaged the wood around the cut off area and eventually the Forestry Engineering Research Institute asked Koehring to do some research on alternately using a saw to eliminate this butt damage. Under John’s direction, a prototype was placed in the field with positive results. Koehring improved the design, and drawing upon its one hundred plus years of Waterous’ saw making experience, finally developed the Disc Saw Felling Head that could cut through the trunk in seconds. Utilising a 55” diameter, one inch thick disc with bolted on carbide tipped saw teeth around the perimeter, hydraulically driven and mounted horizontally at the lower end of the felling head, it replaced the hydraulic shears. Rotating at 1,150 rpm, it was mounted in a rigid housing that left 90 degrees of the saw exposed, allowing it to cut up to 22” diameter trees. The head was fitted with a wrist mechanism that could tilt 15 degrees either way for cutting on sloping ground.

felling head saw

Disc saw blade

It was an instant success and requests began to come in from other original equipment manufacturers to purchase it for attachment to their own forestry equipment. After much discussion, Koehring made the decision, even though they had patent protection on major areas of the design, to allow such sales, a marketing style they had not previous undertaken. It was a momentous decision as it successfully delayed development of competing designs for some years. Within seven years, the company had shipped over one thousand of these disc saw felling heads.

tree felling

Felling head cutting tree

In 1988, the company was sold to Timberjack Machines of Woodstock, Ontario, a major manufacturer of log skidders. Three years later, Timberjack was purchased by Rauma Repola, a Finnish wood harvesting machine manufacturer. The 100 year old Brantford Waterous plant was closed, and the only product transferred to the new owner’s production was the Disc Saw Felling Head.

Today, the Disc Saw Feller is manufactured by most major wood harvesting equipment manufacturers throughout the world, a tribute to the design and engineering skills of the team at Brantford manufacturer, Koehring Waterous.

http://Iron, Steam and Wood

Factory Working Conditions

Over the last century, great steps forward have been made in the working conditions in factories. In the latter part of the 1800’s, safety concerns were virtually non existent with hazards like high speed belts and pulleys all over the place, no ear, hand or eye protection and poor heating in winter. In one of my books, From Wagon to Trailer, I recount an interview with a man who started work in the factory in the early 1930’s when conditions still did not seem to have improved too much. He told of a man fatally injured when his coat got caught in a line shaft driving the belt pulleys and was spun round and round until the drive could be shut off. And of the painters who worked all day over large paint tanks dipping the finished product with no fumes protection.

Working conditions

Belt driven machines

In the mid twentieth century a well-known novel writer, Thomas B Costain, wrote about a young man growing up in an industrial city in his book “Son of a Hundred Kings”. It is well accepted that the city he based it on was Brantford and the young man’s experiences when first working at a foundry, also accepted as that of the Buck Stove Company, described graphically the conditions under which they worked in the latter part of the 1800’s.

Even in the 1940’s, when I served a five year engineering apprenticeship with a large engine manufacturer, many of the working conditions encountered would be totally unacceptable today. One machine on which I worked doing finish machining on compressor crankshafts, required a constant stream of cutting oil to run on to the workpiece. At the end of the shift, the full height leather apron I had to wear would be soaked in oil to the extent that every night, it was cleaned with trichlorethylene to remove the oil before the next day’s use.

In the forge adjacent to that machine shop, so much soot covered the windows,lights and floor that it was very difficult to see what was going on until one’s eyes adjusted to the dim light. Minimal eye protection was used and hearing protection was zero.

working conditions

Forge department – 1940’s

Even in a relatively clean place, as in this 1880 factory building steam engines, most times the work area would be so crowded that it became hazardous.

working conditions

Engine assembly shop – 1880

Today, health and worker legislation is such that one could no longer find such conditions in most of the advanced nations. In contrast, one factory that I recently wrote about had some of the best working conditions that I have ever seen, and I have been through hundreds of plants in my time. The plant was fully air conditioned, most of the machinery was computer controlled, and the walls and floors one could literally eat off. No, this was not an electronics manufacturer, but a company machining metals and making special assembly machines and tools.

A big step from the “good old days”.

DCI Steel Statue

 

At the front entrance to a modern factory in New Jersey stand three statues. These are unusual in that they are made of a special steel that forms a rust colored coating that protects them with no further treatment. These were cut by a computer controlled plasma cutter with the images downloaded from photos to the computer. They depict one of the founders, recently retired Frank Fisher, a view of the truck container transfer unit, and the system equipment designer, Mike Hand.

container equipment


statues outside DCI plant

Through the 1960’s, I was involved in the early development of containerisation, first as Chief Engineer and subsequently as General Manager, of Steadman Containers Ltd. The company was a leader in Canada in manufacture of ISO containers and of container handling equipment, with systems for use in trucking and for road-rail transfer of containers.

The Trucktainer system was licensed into the USA through General American Corp. and built and sold by Truck Container Systems of New Jersey. When the owner, Carl Winston died, the company was run by his son for a few years and closed. The plant manager of that company, Frank Fisher, partnered with a young marketing graduate, Rustin Cassway and formed a new company to carry on the business in 1989 under the name Demountable Concepts Inc. headquartered in Glassboro, NJ.

DCI

Mike in Steel

This company successfully builds and markets the Trucktainer system equipment, originally designed in the early 1960’s, throughout North America and Mexico. Following the company’s twenty fifth anniversary, the president, Rustin, had these statues made and installed to honor the occasion. Visiting the plant at that time, I was present when the statue of myself was cut when I pressed the switch to start the machine.

It was one of the greatest honors of my career and life, to be recognised in this way as the “father” of their equipment and to see it still made and used internationally after 50 years.

 

For more information about this company see Demountable Concepts Inc. web page

Early self propelled grader

 

The early pioneer equipment manufacturers were never short of ideas to incorporate into their products. Take, for example, this early 1920’s road grader made by the Sawyer Massey Company of Hamilton.

Prior to this, graders were primarily pulled by horses, or later by steam rollers, an arrangement that was not only cumbersome but limited in its capability. How to make one with its own power was their problem, unable to develop their own power unit, transmission and drive axle.

sawyer massey

Sawyer Massey grader with Fordson tractor power unit

What evolved was quite original and effective, and although the concept was only used for some ten years in production, it enabled them to take grader development to the next stage. A standard farm tractor, whose development had reached the stage where they were no longer huge gasoline engine conversions of a steam traction engine, was built into the rear portion of the grader. With the rear wheels and drive axle left in place to power the grader, the front axle of the tractor was removed and replaced with a supporting bracket.

Initially, a Fordson tractor was used, as shown above, and later a McCormick Deering tractor, a product of the International Harvester Company took its place.

sawyer massey, IHC

Sawyer Massey grader with McCormick Deering power unit

Bingo, a first for Ontario, a self-propelled grader

For more, see my book Steam Engines and Threshers

Ruston Industrial Gas Turbines

From 1947 to 1952, I served an engineering apprenticeship with Ruston & Hornsby Ltd., a major manufacturer of diesel engines. My last year was spent at the Anchor Street plant, (one of five plants the company had in Lincoln, England) where the newly formed gas turbine division was housed. There, I worked in the tool room, followed by six months in the tool design office. Spending one year as tool designer there after my apprenticeship, I then moved to Canada to work as a tool engineer at the jet engine plant of Avro. Here, the Orenda engines for the  CF100 fighter were built, and the huge Iroquois engine was being developed for the new supersonic delta wing fighter, CF105, under development at Avro’s nearby aircraft plant.
In 1946, the Ruston & Hornsby board decided that the future of industrial power would be with the use of jet engines, the first of which had been developed by Frank Whittle and his team during World War 2 and successfully applied to power an aircraft. The company recruited one of Whittle’s top engineers, Bob Fielden, to head up a new division to develop and produce an industrial gas turbine. Introducing kinematic design concepts to enable the product to withstand rapid changes in load and temperature without deformation or failure, and with a start up time goal of one minute for the engine, work was begun. When I was transferred to that plant, prototypes were already under test and tooling preparation was underway for production of the TA turbine. This engine was coupled to a 750 kw generator (approx. 1,000 hp) and was marketed for use in remote arid areas ( eg. Pipeline pumping) where a variety of basic fuels could be used.
Development was not without problems, of course, and I remember one day hearing the gas turbine engine whine, which was commonly in the background of our hearing, suddenly increase in volume and pitch. It kept climbing to everyone’s alarm until suddenly it was stopped by a large explosion. Rushing to the test pit area, we found that one of the turbines had sped out of control until the generator rotor flew apart and seized the drive shaft. The sudden stop resulted in the turbine blade rotors disintegrating, destroying the engine. It turned out that a drain in one of the burner housings had plugged and unspent fuel had accumulated and suddenly ignited, increasing the temperature and speeding up the turbine. Unable to stop it, the test engineers hurriedly ran to safety and had to watch, helplessly, the destruction of the engine. Needless to say, a design modification cured the potential for any repeat.

Current turbine plant in Lincoln

Current turbine plant in Lincoln

The TA sold successfully in substantial quantities and today, with the diesel engine production long gone, the gas turbine division is the only part of the once huge company remaining. Larger and larger turbines have been developed over the following fifty years until the largest ones now in production have a capacity for 50 MW (approx. 55,000 hp). First produced under the name Ruston Gas Turbine, the operation is now, after several changes in ownership, the gas turbine division of Siemens, a huge power generation conglomerate.
Production occupies what was formerly the main diesel engine plant in Lincoln.

Former Anchor Street plant

Former Anchor Street plant

The Anchor Street plant where it began life was razed some years ago and is now the site of a housing development.

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