Battling The Elements Year-Round

May 2009 Vol. 64 No. 5

Though smaller than traditional track tractors, the RTX1250 units were able to effectively cut through the frost and boast some big production rates to help Henkels & McCoy stay on schedule. The machines’ direct drive motor systems help increase cutting efficiency. “On good days, we came close to trenching 3,500 feet per day in severe winter conditions,” Walters says. “All days are different. Some days we didn’t get much, and on other days it really opened up.”

And when it came time to tie in the pipe, the tractors’ maneuverability proved beneficial. Jinkerson and Walters utilized the machines to help dig out a large bell hole for access to welding the pipe. Because of the machines’ unique quad track design, crews were able to approach and position the units along the edge of the ditches and road crossings. The quad track system has relatively no breakover point, which allows for full power to all four tracks and maximizes tractive effort and stability by maintaining four point contact with the ground.

“Again, a traditional track tractor trencher would have been great in some instances, but we could not have moved it to a tie in area,” Jinkerson says. “With a huge trenching machine, you can only get so close and then you have to pull it out. Without these tractors, we would have been stuck with hammering or pounding out the dimensions of the bell hole with either a hammer or some other inefficient tool.”

Success in three steps

Once Henkels & McCoy crews had chosen the right equipment, it would seem everything else would fall right into place. However, the arctic temperatures and resulting ground conditions continued to pose challenges for the team during the winter months.

As they began cutting the ground with the rockwheel, they soon realized they would need to separate the topsoil. To do this, Jinkerson and Walters chose a scarifier to trim off the first 8 to 12 inches of topsoil in the rural areas where much of the work was being performed. “In agricultural areas it’s extremely important to perform topsoil separation because you don’t want the topsoil and subsoil melding,” Walters says.

Once the topsoil had been shaven off, the RTX1250 units followed, performing a couple of passes to open up the trench. While the rockwheel performed extremely well in cutting though the frost, one thing contractors must keep in mind is that ice affects the attachment’s steel carbide teeth much differently than rock.