Truckin' Memories: Single-rider goes 34 tonne

MACK ATTACK: Barry Walsh's then new 500hp Super-Liner with what is a rarity today, a single-rider log in Tasmania's high country.
MACK ATTACK: Barry Walsh's then new 500hp Super-Liner with what is a rarity today, a single-rider log in Tasmania's high country.

IN AN age of so-called political correctness, there is a resistance to even talk about logging and the industries that surround the harvesting and processing of timber.

The do-gooders that complain the most usually do so from a house with highly polished timber furniture and flooring, quite likely taken from a denuded orangutan habitat in South East Asia.

I love working in timber country. The scent of gum trees, the wildlife and even the roar of a chainsaw as it bites into the living flesh of a tree sacrificed for what some of us might see as a greater purpose.

Bottom line is that I have never faded from the opportunity to experience and write stories about loggers in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand.

The people who work in the forests define the meaning of salt-of-the-earth. Well, they do to me anyway.

One story that comes to mind was set in the mountain country of Tasmania 30 years ago, a story about the loading of one log that probably will never be seen again.

"We are going to get a single-rider," Barry Walsh told me from beside his, what was then, a brand-new Mack 500 hp Super-Liner.

"The log's a bit rough but should go 28 tonne," and despite his attempted nonchalance Barry was a little excited.

The term single-rider refers to a log that is a load in itself, one log, one load.

In the Super-Liner we climbed mountains, the view looking down on Tasmania, the Fury and Macintosh Valleys, rivers winding thousands of feet below.

We came around the final corner, and the log was waiting, huge and ponderous, held on a ramp by a bulldozer.

"Not a bad stick, is she?" Barry said as he jumped down out of the truck.

This was to be tricky work, loading this big log on the side of a mountain.

Barry turned the truck around, and unhooking the jinker, jerked forward and spread it out, locking the pole into position.

He then reversed alongside the log under a great towering machine used for loading log trucks in these mountains areas.

But this machine was not big enough to load this log by itself and the bulldozer bellowed into life and pushed the great log while the loader, black exhaust streaming high into the mountain sky, lifted and pulled.

It took longer to load the single-rider than a normal load. The big log had a slight kick in it and had to be shuffled around until it sat reasonably square on the jinker.

Barry threw a chain over the log at the tri-axle, however he did not chain down the front.

"A log like this should have a little movement in it," he told me, "otherwise the whole rig is too rigid and hard to handle on the road. Anyway with its weight she is not going to go anywhere."

The single rider turned out to weigh 34 tonnes according to the on-board scales, considerably more than the estimated 28 tonne legal load.

The road was wet and slippery around the ramp and the 500 horses did not do a lot of good when Barry eased out the clutch and the drive wheels started spinning.

The bulldozer came up behind and the combined traction soon had us moving on the bush track.

A few years ago I reported the sad affairs of loggers in Tasmania and I am glad I experienced happier times.

So as far as memories go that big Tasmanian 'brownytop' gum tree is an old stick the image of which I will always carry.

Topics:  memories truckin'

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