17 November 2000

TELEHANDLERMAKER DEBUT

Its quite a jump from diet

feeder to telescopic handler.

But, as Peter Hill discovers,

Redrock has made a more

than creditable attempt at

producing its first farm vehicle

NORTHERN Ireland manufacturer, Redrock Engineering, caused quite a stir among the telescopic handler establishment when its new competitor bowed in at the summer shows this year.

With bold claims of more robust build, bigger lift capacity, more powerful performance and tougher build, mainstream telehandler manufacturers were unsure whether to be concerned or just sceptical.

A touch of scepticism would be understandable. After all, the machine comes from a manufacturer with no experience in the design and production of farm vehicles. Manure spreaders, trailers, silage grabs and diet feeders, yes, but not machines with an engine, transmission and hydraulics.

So the fact that the TH300 turns out to be a purposeful, apparently well-built and sturdy machine, with a powerful and fast-acting hydraulic system and some neat detail design ideas, suggests that Redrock has done its homework and is intent on being taken seriously among farm handler manufacturers.

Rather than competing head-on with existing players, the company has sought to take the articulated steer, central cab telescopic handler concept a step forward. That much is evident from the specification.

Standing on stout 600/55×22.5 Alliance Flotation 331 tyres, the TH300 certainly looks the part. As do the all-important dimensions of the chassis and telescopic boom. And if weight is evidence of substance, then the machines 8.28t is a positive indication.

farmers weekly caught up with one of the first examples at RWF Huxters Filford Farm, Salway Ash near Bridport, Dorset. Supplied by local Redrock agent Brian Anning, the machine succeeds a vintage Matbro Teleram and is used for general loading and handling duties on the beef, sheep and cereals unit.

The TH300 is also part of the Huxter familys contracting team, filling silage clamps, loading manure spreaders, and gathering straw and silage bales, and will be hired out for occasional industrial handling operations.

These diverse tasks and a high annual workload having taken its toll on previous telehandlers at Filford Farm, durability as well as performance was a priority when it came to finding a replacement. Reassurance that the Redrock would be a safe bet, despite the manufacturers lack of a track record with such machinery, came from the familiar components it uses – Perkins engine, Rexroth hydraulic pump, ITL (ie JCB) transmission and axles.

Time will tell whether the company has screwed these components together well enough to deliver reliability. For now, performance and driveability are the main measures of competence.

With 106hp from its tail-mounted Perkins turbo, the TH300 is competitive on power and a decent enough climber of silage clamps, according to early user experience. The four-speed powershift gearbox should be enough for most users, although it lacks the field and road versatility of the six-speed gearbox in Manitous MLA 628.

At 4.9m (16ft), the newcomer falls short of its competitors lift height; by 127mm (5in) alongside the JCB TM270 and a full 300mm (12in) compared with the Manitou. Whether this is critical to the daily field and yard routine depends on individual circumstances.

The TH300 does pip these machines on lift capacity, albeit by a small margin. At 3000kg, the Redrock machine lifts 300kg more than the JCB, 200kg more than the recently uprated Manitou. Marginal differences, perhaps, but a useful contributor to work rates nonetheless.

Thanks to a generous hydraulic pump delivering up to 140 litre/min, the Redrock machine scores well in the speed department. The boom lifts and lowers, and moves in and out, at a sprightly pace. Attachments dump and crowd fast too – and all without having constantly to use lots of thirsty engine revs.

Reactions are a bit too fast and furious when the implement is empty, it must be said. But at least reluctant manure or silage can be shaken off forks and buckets without too much effort; familiarity and controlled use of the servo joystick help an experienced operator keep things smooth.

To hold implements securely, Redrock uses a top hook, bottom clevis combination, with power-operated locking bars making it easy to switch attachments from the drivers seat.

A long crowd ram ensures generous implement articulation – although it also results in a pronounced "hump" on the end of the boom which some operators will complain interrupts the forward view. Manitou has just got rid of this obstruction by switching to a short ram operating through a "Z" linkage on the MLA 628.

Few drivers will have cause for complaint in the cab. With a wide, deep windscreen and low boom mounting, forward visibility is fine. As is the side view through full-depth door glass, and to the rear over the curvy engine cover, despite a wrap-around rear screen that is letter-box shallow.

Practical features include big floor-hinged accelerator and brake pedals positioned dead-ahead either side of the adjustable steering column and angled comfortably for work boots or wellingtons. And access steps made from plates of grippy steel.

The Redrock TH300 trades added bulk for extra performance and supposed durability. It still has to prove itself on the reliability front but, as a first attempt at producing a sophisticated farm handler, it is a remarkably competent effort. &#42

Prominent tail adds to Redrock TH300s 5495mm (18ft) overall length (excluding implement) and generous tyres make it wider than competitors. But the machine remains handily manoeuvrable.

Lift height is compromised a touch by short boom tower but, at 4.9m (16ft), should be enough for all but the most demanding applications. Note generous steps with galvanised finish to ward off rusting, deep and wide glazing of doors and windscreen for visibility.

Redrock TH300

Engine Four-cylinder turbo Perkins – 106hp.

Drive Four-speed powershift with twist grip and push-button kick-down; torque converter; permanent 4WD.

Hydraulics Up to 140 litre/min from crankshaft-driven variable output pump; system capacity 190 litres.

Dimensions Length 5495mm (18ft); width 2470mm (97in); height 2695mm (106in); weight 8280kg.

Performance Max lift 3000kg to max height 4.9m (16ft); 1400kg lift at 2895mm (9ft 6in) max forward reach.

Business end of the TH300 has a long-stroke crowd ram for 165deg implement articulation. Pins are made from high-tensile steel located in bosses with hard steel inserts. Bolt-on end plates locate pins but allow them to rotate to avoid localised wear.