Gears, gears, and more...

Discussion in 'Experienced Truckers' Advice' started by Hammer166, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. Hammer166

    Hammer166 Crusty Information Officer

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    After reading the 'Ten Speed Eaton' post and all the talk about two-stick trucks, it occurred to me that many of you will never see some of the more
    complicated trucks out there. So ...

    Back in the late eighties I came off the road and went back to the oilfield working for a rig moving outfit. I ran a gin truck, a truck with winches and an A-frame that's used for lifting and moving equipment.

    These trucks were beasts! KW called them Brutes. Butterfly hood, steel plate fenders, floorboard about chin-high, 320 inch wheelbase, triple frame. With our front bumper of 1/2 plate and drillpipe (which out-weighed most cars) and a bed of the same plate, these weigh 49,000 lbs. Power was Cummins NTC400 with a 15 speed main and 4 speed auxiliary.

    For those who don't know, a 15 is a 10 with a low low range (deep reduction). Those low gears were used rarely and carefully as that amount of torque multiplication could easily break things. (normally axles, right at the flange).

    Both boxes were 'turned around.' This is old-school overdrive. The gears were rearranged so that the top two gears switched positions. This resulted in an overdrive top gear up and to the right in the shift pattern. This also allowed a truck with 6.88 rears to run almost 70 mph. (I tried not to think about how fast that rather large driveshaft was turning!) in low low low, you could sit and scooch faster than the truck could move!

    The other reason for two trannies was pto operation. By driving the ptos (3) off the aux, the main box could be shifted to control pto speed. Except for very high loads, the main was kept in the top 5 gears. Shifting the auxiliary to low and using the lowest high range gear was perfect for moving around location, equivalent to about 3rd in a road truck. One pto was two speed forward, the other 2 single ratio.

    Your day was spent sitting sideways in the seat, left arm steering and shifting, right arm out the roll-down back window running the winch controls. The main (#1) winch was controlled by a lever next to the jump seat (worm perch). #2 (the most used) was a lever that pivotted at your elbow about as long as your forearm. Pull for up, away was down. #3, which controlled the guy wire for the gin poles, adjusting their height, had it's lever high and far right side of window (looking from back). on the right vertical frame were to air switches for the winch dogs, which release the drums from the drives. The bottom right side had 2 old style parking brake levers (you know em, snap over center, twist end to adjust tension) which controlled the winch brakes on #1 and #2. #3 used an automatic brake. Just behind cab at bottom of window were the levers for the drum brakes. The trailer brake lever (Johnny bar) was not spring loaded and operated all the brakes.

    The main winches were in tandem, #1 forward and higher. #3 was below bed level right front corner. #1 used 1 inch cable and ran to a sheave at the back of the bed, up to another at the top of poles and hang down. #2 was 3/4 inch and ran in a tunnel under bed, then up to pole sheave. #3 was 5/8 inch and tripled for strength.

    This beast could lift 50K lbs and move it around. The poles had to be near vertical and steering was iffy with that much, but it could be done.

    One of the coolest things about this setup was the ability to grab gears in reverse. I can still back up comfortably at 15 -20 mph. You learn to back a 30' Foot trailer with a 320" tractor, normal equipment is nothing.

    By far the most awesome sight with these rigs was two of us side by side pulling an oversize 100K + lbs load up a sandy or muddy hill. We'd get as far as we could away, lay our poles way back, get everything in high gear, and start winching at full throttle. To see two of these monsters with their front ends bouncing between 5 and 10 foot in the air was incredible. And quite a ride if you were in one. Never could get my worm to ride one out, he was scared of heights and from inside the truck, 20 degrees feels like vertical! (it was spooky to look out the side window and feel like you were looking down from atop a trailer). Add in shorty straight pipes and it made quite a show.

    I enjoyed that work , but the hours sucked and the pay did too! 2 guys trying to nap in an A cab KW is not a lot of fun. A lot of those guys stick with it for years, but bigger and better things were calling me.
     
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  3. d-man57

    d-man57 Light Load Member

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    Interesting story, sounds like you had your hands full with that one.
     
  4. GasHauler

    GasHauler Master FMCSA Interpreter

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    There's lots of different types of set-ups when you work off road. Even some of the transit mixers (cement trucks) had gears that you wouldn't see on a on-road truck. I too have worked in the dirt but my favorite was the scaper. There's nothing that can compare with the power when you're filling the bowl and have both motors working to full power. Then to take that load and run as fast as you can to the fill area. It's a young man's job but lots of fun.
     
  5. heyns57

    heyns57 Road Train Member

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    Are these skills disappearing from the oil patch, the mines and the forest? I don't know where an employer could find workers to operate two-stick trucks or anything that was not hydraulic or automatic. I love to watch demonstrations at the antique equipment shows. Before hydraulics, a dragline operator could really dance. Some of us think we are really something if we can "float" the gears in a ten-speed. Believe me, it is child's play.
     
  6. Muleskinner

    Muleskinner <strong>"Shining Beacon of Chickenlights"</strong>

    As a person gets older,the memories grow fonder.LOL....I remember working the oil patch in sw Wy with my hand stuck out the back window with ice forming on my glove and trying to hear/see/second guess what the swampers were signaling me to do....I really thought I was a big boy then and crapping in a field full of tall cotton.I ain't sorry for one second that I did it and loved it at the time,but I ain't sure I'd want to do it over again.:biggrin_25523:
     
  7. Hammer166

    Hammer166 Crusty Information Officer

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    Funny you used that word, heyns57, dance. Almost put a paragraph on the dance in that post. And that's what it was. Sitting there last night writing, I could still feel where each control was and how they felt. I drove that truck 20 years ago for not quite a year. Mind you lots of 80 and 100 hour weeks in the there, but 20 years. And I can still feel that dance. Catch the Brownie just here as you release the clutch and she'd drop in neutral. Drop your fingers this far below the wheel to catch the brake as your other arm slips the winch in gear. Like it was yesterday!!!

    And old-timers in cranes? You ain't kidding! Had one old man that could move a load in a perfectly straight line, which doesn't sound like any big deal. Except, as it sounds like you know, the boom tip is following a three dimensional arc while he's doing it. He'd stab beams through openings like they were on rollers! They said he was by far the easiest guy to swamp for. No worries of getting jerked around snubbing his load! He was a joy to watch, I know.
     
  8. Hammer166

    Hammer166 Crusty Information Officer

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    Hey, Muley! Oilfields booming again, my friend. And I'm bout as tempted to go back as I am to go look up my everybody-but-me-in-her-britches ex-wife! :)

    It was fun. It just wasn't that fun ;) (and that applies to her and the job)
     
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  9. Muleskinner

    Muleskinner <strong>"Shining Beacon of Chickenlights"</strong>

    Here's my tale of the oil patch and my time with the winch trucks.I hired on at 18,just fixing to turn 19,as a backhoe hand and ran a "new" 580c...cab/heat... I had it made....I was a super slick hand(it wasn't my first time on one and I loved running them),I knew my job and within a few short months already had my name out as a hand worth hiring.The "big boy's" took me under their wing and told me the next step was learning to be a Catskinner and if I got good, I could get my money up even higher(the stupid thing was,I was making enough money and should have stayed on the hoe).I agreed and they called the owner out there and told him I wanted to spend some time learning a dozer and would it be ok if they transfered me over to one.He asked me if I'd ever ran one and I told him I'd ran JD 440's for my old man a few times and thought I could handle one no sweat....He eyeballed me and then took me over to one of those D7 17a (or 3t.Been to long ago) and said start it and show me something...I climbed up in the seat all ####y and went to looking for the key switch:biggrin_25524:...After he let me look like a total numbnuts (and he finally quit laughing) he told me to get down,showed me the pony motor,how to start it,build oil pressure and then start the bull motor....He said this is a cable rig and I know you've never ran one so here's what you don't do...DON'T let the blade drop and catch it with the cable because it will snap it sure as can be....I'm giving you one cable break and I'll show you how to change it,the next one you'll be changing by yourself and on YOUR time AND NO BACK DRAGGING of any kind unless you want to buy the cutting edges out of your own pocket.....He told me to take off and make a finish cut for a couple hundred yards ,spin around and come back...I kicked her in gear,dropped the blade all the way down ,took the slack up on the winch and took off like big money....I done great,for about 20 feet(lol) and then I adjusted the blade up a hair(which skipped) and then over compensated and made a little gouge,which made another one and another one....I spun around and done pretty much the same on the way back to him.Got off and stood next to him and looked at the cut....It looked like a #### washboard,awful looking mess and then he said one of the funniest things I'd ever heard in my life(later on the way home it was funny that is,After it sunk in)."Boy,that don't look to bad,but you don't have to do all that fancy custom washboard work out here where there's nobody to impress.Just cut her off slick and that'll do"....He never cracked a smile and then like a ####### I said"Yes sir".lmao,what a greenhorn dummy I must have looked like.I wrestled that pos for the rest of that year until I was a fair hand and then fate hit me like a sledge hammer....All the work I had been doing was in the patch building access roads before the rigs moved in and taking care of locations while they were there and then restoring the ground after they were gone....I came in one day and there were winch trucks lining one of the roads to a rig I knew they were going to be tearing down...I'd never seen a rig move and to say it impressed me would be an understatement....I watched five lines doing what they shouldn't be doing with swampers running in,around,over and under cables and equipment of all shapes and forms....I loved it and thought after that the only class in the oil patch was the winch truck drivers.....I quit a #### good job to go to work doing that.LOL.....I ended up enjoying float trailer work the best and stuck with it for awhile,but I'll never forget that first move with those big trucks standing up under a strain and all the excitement...many 80+ hour weeks later it wasn't so exciting and it #### sure wasn't fun anymore.I sure missed that nice ,quiet cab on that 580c backhoe more than once and finally went back to it.Those were some good days tho' and what amazes me is how young we were and how much we got done with primitive equipment....I look at my nephews today who are way older than we were at the time and most of them still live at home,no jobs and play playstation when they are awake.
     
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  10. Muleskinner

    Muleskinner <strong>"Shining Beacon of Chickenlights"</strong>

    I'm tempted for about 15 minutes out of the month,but then I break wind and it passes.:biggrin_2559::biggrin_2559::biggrin_2559:
     
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  11. Hammer166

    Hammer166 Crusty Information Officer

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    When I think back on those days, I wonder how we managed to drink that much liquor while working those hours and getting by on 4 hours of sleep for weeks at a time, and still think we were having a good time?!?! And lived to tell about it!

    Can you imagine getting kids now to work a roustabout crew digging ditches? Or unloading a trailer of cottonseed hulls, by hand? My brother and a good friend both run businesses in western OK. They tell me they can't even think of drug testing their help because anybody who can pass a pee test already has a big-dollar oiley job. Seems the days of catching the crew sharing a heater in the doghouse are thankfully long gone. Thanks for sharing your tale of "How'd I get myself in this mess?"
     
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