Company takes delivery of mega-sized machine

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MORBARK.
Kramer’s Land Clearing in Indiana recently took delivery of this Morbark 50/48B. Weighing more than 100,000 pounds, it is believed to be the largest whole-tree chipper ever built.

“I don’t believe in buying equipment that’s too small for the job. I’d rather go in overrated, rather than underrated,” says Brett Kramer. That is why he recently purchased what is believed to be the largest whole-tree chipper in the world for his company, Kramer’s Land Clearing, based in Indiana. The Morbark 50/48B sits nearly 37 feet long and 12 feet wide, and is powered by a C27 Cat diesel engine rated at 1,050 hp. It carries 300 gallons of hydraulic fluid. When the 400-gallon fuel tank is full, the machine weighs in at 104,000 pounds, the heaviest ever built by Morbark.

The machine features a cab and loader. “We put the Morbark 500 loader on it, which has a 23-foot reach and is larger than we normally use,” explains Ed Dodak, assistant sales manager with Morbark. “We also went with a 330
EL undercarriage that’s 18 inches longer
to provide more torque, and is 9,000 pounds heavier than the normal 330 L
undercarriage.”

Kramer’s Land Clearing will use the Morbark chipper to clear land for natural gas pipeline rights-of-way, highways and interstates, as well as electrical transmission lines. It’s not a piece of equipment designed to assist in the clearing of a half-acre house lot. “We’re clearing big areas,” Kramer explains. “As big as the machine is, it’s a little hard to get it into any kind of small job.” He doesn’t expect the size of the machine to pose a huge challenge in terms of trucking, and says there are two or three trucking companies bidding to move it from job to job, whenever necessary.

At press time, Kramer was operating the chipper on a 10-acre railway clearing job. Crews were removing the largest, marketable timber and stacking the rest—mainly 8 to 10-inch trees—into piles with a track excavator. “The grapple on the chipper is 50 inches wide and whatever size bundle it can grab a hold of, the chipper will definitely eat. We put a 65-foot-long cottonwood that was 30 inches wide at the stump through the chipper and it was gone in a minute and a half. That machine is unbelievable. I’ve never seen a thing eat wood the way that thing does.” The cutting drum is 48 inches in diameter and 50 inches wide with 10 staggered knives.

Some line clearing jobs take place in confined spaces where it’s difficult to get access with semi trailers in order to take the chips out, “but, on the right job, we’ll take all the chips out for fuel wood,” says Kramer.

Not surprisingly for a purchase of this size, and cost, Kramer spent a great deal of time shopping the market for a machine that met his exact needs. Though he runs a number of other businesses in addition to land clearing—including a residential tree services company, a ditch spraying/ground-clearing company, a pipeline right-of-way mowing/maintenance company and a trucking firm—Kramer made multiple visits to different manufacturers to discuss chipper options before making his decision.

“Morbark put a lot of ingenuity into the machine. They spent a lot of time with me figuring out how I wanted everything to run,” says Kramer. “For most chippers on tracks, you have to track and run your loader functions separately. I told Morbark that I wanted it set up where I could track and swing, pick up stuff on the go, all at the same time. They were able to work that out, and that was a major plus in deciding to buy this machine.” Dodak says the unit is set up with Morbark’s control functions, but can be switctitle to Cat or John Deere control functions with the touch of a button and no need to change over hoses.

There were also a number of other tweaks made to provide the exact equipment setup Kramer needed. “We trimmed down the infeed on the front, and moved the fuel tank and hydraulic tank a little on the back to be able to get down and up steep inclines without the back dragging,” he explains. “It gives good clearance, which we need because we get into all sorts of different terrain.”

The 50/48B features a huge 48-by-50-inch cutting drum, as well as a loader with a 23- foot reach and 17,500 lifting capacity at 10 feet from the machine. The unit is powered by a 1,050 hp engine. The cab can be hydraulically lowered for transport and raised for improved visibility during operation.

The cab features a full array of creature comforts, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of the cab, from an engineering perspective, is its ability to be hydraulically raised and lowered. “The cab can be lowered right over the track in transport position, and then when the operator gets in the cab, lifts up about 4 or 5 feet so you can see all around the machine and see the discharge. We also widened the cab a little and made the windows bigger to improve visibility,” says Dodak.

Inside is a monitoring system to view temperatures, pressures, clutch systems and engine performance to maximize performance, adds Dodak. “We can even diagnose the machine from the factory. We can dial into the machine when it’s out in the field to see what’s going on.”

Morbark provided three days of training for Kramer upon delivery of the unit. Kramer personally operated the 50/48B for the first few weeks to get the systems fine-tuned, pressures adjusted, etc. He says the break-in period went smoothly.

Kramer has two other track chippers, which are smaller Bandit 1850 models, but the Morbark isn’t the first piece of mega-equipment he’s purchased. “I’ve got a 1,000 hp Bandit 4680 horizontal grinder, and that was the very first 1,000 hp one built on tracks built in the United States,” he says. He also has a Bandit 3680 towable grinder with 650 hp and owns the biggest stump grinder available, made by Rayco.

“I can clear so much cheaper per-acre with that chipper than I can with a horizontal grinder,” Kramer explains. “If you take a feller buncher and it can lay down 4 acres per day with one operator, then you have the chipper following behind with one operator, and finally a stump grinder
following behind that, you have three operators and three pieces of equipment and you can clear more acres per day than any crew can with a horizontal grinder.”

The 50/48B weighs in at about 104,000 pounds when the 400-gallon fuel tank is full.

Kramer acknowledges there are limitations that come with any chipper. “You can’t put dirt through it the way you can with a horizontal grinder. With a horizontal grinder, you can throw stumps in there without a problem. With the chipper you have to count on your stump grinder and forestry head coming through behind you to tidy everything up.”

Though he has plenty of experience with large, high-powered machinery, even Kramer is surprised by the capabilities of the Morbark. “It will pick up 17,500 pounds 10 feet out in front of the machine,” he says. “I’ve picked nearly 30-inch-diameter trees, the entire tree, and dragged it up to where we can cut out the logs and then chip the rest. This thing will do some serious timber in a day.”

Patrick White is a freelance writer and editor who is always on the lookout for interesting and unusual stories.