John Deere Forestry climbing league

Even the best and strongest harvester technology is of no use if the machine gets stuck because of lack of traction and an inability to transport it to the logging site. And there are certainly many sites like this in different parts of Europe and the world.

That’s why John Deere is now introducing the steep terrain beast, the long-awaited 8-wheeled option of the 1270E IT4 harvester capable of operating in previously unimaginable terrain. Its 8WD maintains maximum grip on the forest floor with unforeseen stability even in the most difficult conditions.

To put the new machine’s capabilities to the test, it was given to a pre-selected group of elite operators in the United Kingdom (UK). Throughout Autumn 2013, they tested the machine hands-on in some of the toughest logging conditions on Earth with challenging terrain and crop conditions.


The first one ever to test the 1270E IT4 8WD was David “Weasel” Marshall, a true professional with more than 25 years of experience as an operator. He tested the machine in the forests of Kidland Lee, a remote forest area lying just south of the Scotland-England border in the heart of the Northumberland Cheviot Hills.

Known locally as the land of the far horizons, the area represents a challenge as the infamous Sitka spruce plantations are planted on a 35-degree slope—a challenge in which David Marshall was facing with his 1270E for local contractor Walton Logging.

As the new 8WD machine arrived, he had already been progressing at good speed through the 20,000 cubic site. The magnitude of the slope meant that harvesting had to be tackled downhill. But the arrival of the 8WD machine turned the situation upside down, allowing the slopes to be tackled in an uphill direction.

“Simply the best machine yet,” said Marshall. He pays particular tribute to the stability and astonishing climbing ability of the eight-wheeler.

This occasion also represented Marshall’s first operation of the IT4 harvester and he was hugely impressed by the productivity of the machine when compared to his current 1270E.


From Northumberland, the eight-wheeler travelled north to the Moorfoot Hills, close to the Scottish Borders town of Innerleithen, to be further tested by local contractors Dick Bros Ltd. Currently owning eight other 8WD harvesters, it is fair to assume that they know something about the capabilities of these machines. The worksite at Leithen Water proved another daunting task for the 1270E IT4 8WD.

Like many UK operators, Gary Humphries’ introduction into forest machine operation came via an excavator-based harvester back in 1990. He is regarded as a steep-ground specialist by his employers. He currently drives a recently delivered 1270E. Hands-on, he was impressed by the ease in which the eight-wheeler tackled the 35-degree slopes adjacent to the peak of Blackhope Scar, an impressive 651 metres above sea level.

“The level of stability is completely different to the current 6WD models,” Humphries states. He was also amazed with how easy the worksite became at the controls of the
new 1270E.


The next recipient of the 1270E was Colin Cairns, currently operating a new 1470E IT4 for Selkirk contractor Elliot Henderson. He got the opportunity to test the 8WD machine on a challenging site close to St Mary’s Loch in the Ettrick area of the Scottish Borders.

Here, the worksite encompassed slopes in excess of 42-degrees and the 1270E performed admirably on slopes up to 37-degrees.

Having been used to the larger 1470 machines for many years, Cairns was hugely surprised at the capabilities of the 1270E and reported that production and boom power were very close to his current machine.

Climbing ability, however, was “in a league of its own” —no doubt aided by the purpose-built DuraxleTM balanced bogie, which provides additional nine per cent down force when compared to conventional bogies in this range.

The additional balancing force provided by the machine, matched to the specifically adapted band tracks, creates a level of grip simply unforeseen on a forest machine.


The Ardnamurchan Peninsula (which means headland of the great seas) is the most westerly point on the UK mainland. Shaped by molten volcanic rock from 1,000 million years ago, the area of Ardgour lies in the territory of the clan MacLean and offered the most remote worksite for
the 1270E.

Here, the Glen Scaddle worksite undertaken by CSP Forestry offered a series of challenges—wet, steep, stony, loose ground, mated to mixed hardwood and softwood crop and a lack of brash.

Perhaps it was just as well that the man at the controls was Billy Kemp, a professional used extensively by the local Deere team to test new products and provide feedback on new equipment. A self-proclaimed ‘1470 man’ Billy has completed some of the most demanding sites in Scotland with a variety of John Deere equipment over the past 20 years. His current charge is a pre-series 1470E IT4 machine with over 2,000 hours.

Over a two week period the entire site was completed, including areas that had been set aside for extraction by winch. The most challenging area of the site was a 50-plus degree slope on loose, stony ground, and this was tackled downhill with the 1270E!

“Downhill stability is unbelievable,” Billy Kemp exclaims. “I honestly don’t know whether I could have done that in a 1470E. The machine just sits there and you don’t need to worry about what is happening behind you.”


With the challenges of the west complete, it was time to move north to Aberdeenshire, a real stronghold of the UK forest industry. Clashindarroch Forest is the largest in Aberdeenshire and also the highest, so access becomes a problem for part of the year as logging operations give way to cross-country skiing—not a pursuit common in the UK!

The route into the widespread forest opens up to the famous Tap O Noth, a historic fort built on top of a hill overlooking the nearby Moray Firth.

The site had been initiated by Pinewood Harvesting, with Michael Taylor having completed a portion of the site with his current 1470E. This proved an ideal test enabling access to the harvesting racks immediately, where the 1470E had met its match.

Once again the 1270E coped admirably with slopes measuring in excess of 35-degrees. As part of the testing in this area, another well-known ‘test operator’, Barry Morrison, took to the controls to provide feedback. He is well accustomed to harvesting large timber with his current 1470E IT4, with stems in excess of 4 cubics, on a slope in excess of 30-degrees which would prove too great a challenge for most machines, but not for the 1270E!

With a look of amazement, Morrison reached the top of the hill and then for good measure turned the machine around to test downhill stability in the large crop!

“My 1470E would never have gone up there,” Morrison reported.

“And the downhill stability is unbelievable. The machine simply does not give up!”

He was very impressed with how the CH7 boom handled the huge stems, noting that the differences between the CH7 and the CH8, which he is more accustomed to (on his 1470E), were much less than he had realised.

A long road-trip then ensued as the machine headed south to the harsh environment of the Brecon Beacons in Mid-Wales—an area more famous for testing British Special Forces than forestry machines!

The Penbont worksite undertaken by local contractors Malcolm & Evan Davies yielded a substantial Norway spruce crop averaging close to 0.7 cubics per stem.

Being used to a 1270E IT4, Evan Davies quickly familiarised himself with the eight-wheeler and set about the 35-degree slope with some relish!

In the shadow of the imposing Pen-y-Fan mountain, the machine again performed admirably. Davies was particularly impressed with the climbing ability and downhill stability of the machine, commenting that the site would have been a major challenge for his current 6WD machine.

In addition to the obvious climbing advantages, the machine also offers a 39 per cent reduction in rear-axle ground pressure when compared to the equivalent, and this was also very noticeable in all of the UK tests.

It was not without some sadness that the machine left UK shores to return home to Finland for final testing. But a lasting legacy has been left in the forests of the UK. The 1270E IT4 8WD will soon be a common sight in these parts.

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