Hermann and Ernst Eggers, the fourth generation of timber growers at Eggers Boerdery in Mpumalanga, have a range of Bell Equipment machines, including five old 1766 haulage tractors and a new Kobelco SK220XD excavator.
In 1903 their great-grandfather Ernst Eggers arrived in South Africa from north Germany to pursue better opportunities. A master craftsman, he worked in the building industry in KwaZulu Natal before venturing into cotton and some mixed crops farming.
In the 1930s, he moved his family from Bishopstowe near Pietermaritzburg to the Mkhondo (Piet Retief) area and planted timber. He also farmed with pigs and had a Holstein dairy stud.
Their grandfather, Johannes, took over the farm and, in the mid-70s, bought Bell loggers, which at that time were constructed with round tubing. Bell 1206 haul tractors followed in the 1980s.
Hermann and Ernst’s father, Berthold (Bertie), followed in Johannes’ footsteps. Their sister Inge lives in KwaZulu-Natal.
“When I returned to the farm after studying forestry at Stellenbosch University, we resumed actively growing and harvesting timber. I recall buying our first Bell 225A logger in 2003,” says Ernst.
“That machine is still used daily, despite its chassis having seen some 26,000 hours of service along with three refurbished engines and some work on its boom.”
Eggers Boerdery grows gum, wattle and, on a smaller scale, pine. The Eggers brothers have divided the work, with Ernst taking care of silviculture and planning and Hermann, a forestry graduate from Nelson Mandela University (formerly Saasveld), handling the harvesting and timber haulage.
They transport pulp logs to Richards Bay. Pallet wood goes to sawmills around Mkhondo along with pine saw logs. Some of the pine also goes to a mill in Eswatini. Wattle bark is sent to NTE at Iswepe.
“We run five Bell 1766 haul tractors, some of which we bought on the pre-owned market. For a good reason, they are very hard to find,” Ernst comments.
Image above: A Bell 225A logger loads one of the unstoppable 1766 haul tractors at Eggers Boerdery
“Bell Equipment has perfected this machine as a haul tractor configuration, especially when it comes to diesel consumption which is low at between seven and eight litres an hour, even when hauling 20 tonnes of timber.”
Hermann adds, “You can’t find these Bell 1766 Haul Tractors on the pre-owned market as people simply don’t want to part with them. We had refurbished one and, as a test, advertised it on a popular sales platform where we had enquiries from as far as Zimbabwe.”
The brothers agree that despite the 1766s age, Bell Equipment still supplies spare parts, which stands them in good stead and adds significantly to the machines’ longevity and reputation.
“Without these Bell 1766 haul tractors, we couldn’t move our harvested timber to where it needs to be to get loaded onto long-haul transport. We have the reliability of the Mercedes Benz 366 motor to thank along with that Allison transmission which just doesn’t break,” Hermann says.
“We made minor modifications to the haul tractors, like replacing the rigid axle with an independent one. We’re pleased that Bell is now fitting it to their new haul tractors,” Ernst adds.
Eggers Boerdery also runs four Bell 225A loggers that perform various tasks, from loading felled timber infield to stacking and loading at roadside depots. Their fuel burn of between six and seven litres an hour is welcome.
Other Bell machines include a 315SK and a 315SL backhoe loaders (TLBs). “There is always work for a TLB on our farm, and we use them to repair roads, maintain drainage ditches and furrows and a host of other tasks,” says Hermann.
“Their versatility is their greatest advantage, and with two big tools at hand, they are indeed convenient, even hauling our agricultural tractors out of the mud when they get stuck.”
Despite the handy versatility of the TLBs, large rocks in the roads and the need for more harvesting capacity prompted the Eggers brothers to look for another multi-purpose solution. They turned to Bell Equipment for assistance.
“After consulting Daniel van Huyssteen at Bell, we opted for the Kobelco SK220XD-10 excavator. It is a boon for our general maintenance and harvesting operations,” explains Ernst.
The 22-tonne excavator with its one cubic metre bucket has a superior hydraulic performance and adds value to the Eggers’ timber harvesting applications.
“No machine can run forever without replacement parts, and we have a bin system in our workshop where we buy a new part from Bell’s Piet Retief branch whenever we use a stock part. Bell’s mechanic, Stephan Coetzer, is quick to handle all our servicing under warranty which gives us peace of mind,” says Hermann.
Source: WoodBiz Africa Magazine