International Harvester S8A Skidder

IH S8A Skidder

Kevin Ferguson, Ferguson Custom Cut and Skid, Sharbot Lake, Ontario, Canada has made this photo of his trusty International Harvester skidder available for inclusion on this site. In the 1970's a large variety of manufacturers charged into the rubber tired log skidder market. Few survived, and IH was not one of them. Marketing success often had little to do with the quality of the machine. This machine was in all probability just as good as the survivors in the business, but you will have to do a lot of looking to make an official siting of one of these. I think I recall seeing one or two of these machines in the last 30 years.

This machine features a D-360 --6 cylinder 102 hp engine with a front mounted hydraulic pump. The transmission is a power shift with 4 speeds forward, two levers and an internal brake, which sets automatically if the engine quits or idles or the transmission pressure fails. Rockwell axles and planataries are featured along with a Gearmatic 119 winch. The Gearmatic 119 is an updated and much improved version of the Gearmatic 19 which appeared on smaller and older skidders. The Gearmatic 119 is a much loved winch while the Gearmatic 19 is a much hated winch. The difference is the control system. While both use an eternal band for a brake and an internal expanding friction for power, the controls on the 119 are power assisted and work right. The Gearmatic 19 had a brake fluid control system with a double acting 'master cylinder' with a handle on it mounted in the operator area. Shove the lever forward and this released the band brake, pull the lever back and the driving frictions were engaged. If brake fluid leaked on the frictions your arm wasn't strong enough to wind up the logs. Park the machine for a weekend in the rain and the drum would rust a little and the brake would drag. This was a super problem because this winch had no power unwind (except manpower). The brake band was a double wrap around the drum with the second wrap being the activator. When you wound up the winch it turned through the brake so there was no issue of 'catching' the load after winding up the winch. With the 19, the first order of business Monday morning was to hook the winch line on to something big and run the winch line all the way out and drag the skidder back to the object a couple of times to polish up the brake drum. Then you could use it. Luckily this was resolved on the 119 which is well regarded in the industry.

Kevin opins that the Gearmatic 119 is the only way to fly, and that the Eaton Winch found on Timberjacks is something that you would find in K-mart, and suggest that the slush drive Clark Winches (skidder an all) would do best stuffed in a mud hole. Never mind that Clark doesn't make skidders anymore. There are some 'Rangers' around however. The Ranger (formerly a model name used by Clark) is currently manufactured in Tualatin, Oregon. They have similarities to the old Clarks, but that is about it.

Kevin further shares his experiences with the tires: "When I bought the old skidder,it had the high rubber, 18.4 x 34 LS2. When I needed new tires [almost immediately] everyone told me I should go for the lower wide rubber, which meant I would have to buy wheels as well. (That would be 23.1 x 26 tires) I had had no stability problems up till then, so I cheaped out and put nice shiny Firestone Forestry Specials on the old lady, [high rubber] and have had no problems and all sorts of ground clearance. I recently had to run a friend's 225 Timberjack for a couple of days which was set up the same as mine, and I can see why those guys in the red machines hate the high rubber. I have never been in such an unstable bastard in my life. My old IH is heavy, with a low center of gravity, and excellent visibility."

This writers response to Kevin is that I am not sure it is the tires---To my observation the weight of the machine is a big factor. This writer is short on experience with Timberjacks but have have a few Garrets around. With a Garrett, the difference between the 75 horse model and the 200 horse model was the engine. The latter would jump up and down and spin the wheels and snort, or at least you hoped it did, because if the tires ever got traction it would twist an axle or a driveline just for the heck of it, and if the axles didn't break it had plenty of power to pull more than it would or could stay rightside up with. Apparently it never occurred to Garrett that they should build a bigger heavier frame and put stronger axles in a more powerful machine. Oh well.

- - Updated 12/31/2012
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