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I have a question that has bothered me for years. Why do the groomers need to be such big tractors? I grew up on a farm and we had the same large tractor for ten years. I just find it hard to believe that there is a need for such large tractors to pull these sleds.

thanks for any information, and by the way I think the groomers do a great job. I dont want to start a pissing match here.
 

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I will assume that you are talking about tractors similar to the ones in my Sig. Simple, they do a much better job then any other type of tractor (for our types of trails). A drag full of heavy wet snow can put a tremendous strain on a tractor, now combine that with the fact that you have less then ideal traction conditions. Even tractors of the size we use and have a life of their own when doing major cutting and grooming. In fact, when we had our last, and the biggest drag built, I was thinking we may need to step up one size in HP for the next tractor, or downsize the drag just a bit.

The farm tractors do look much bigger then the Bombardier and Tucker type groomers, but I think the HP ratings are similar. Here it the kicker: Our JDs cost about the same as the Bomb & Tucks, yet the resale value can be up to 50% better. So the return on the investment on a larger farm tractor makes a ton of sense, even for the fact that you have a much larger market to sell it in the end.

Did that answer your question?
 

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Yep. We use heavy farm tractors to groom our trails too. The weight of a full drag of snow up a grade puts any tractor to a test. Traction is also key. You need a large mass to pull the drags through the woods while allowing them to cut and process snow. Some local trails are done with a small drag behind a sled or smaller tractor, but you can't get the same cut, setup and hardness built with these smaller drags.
 

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I will assume that you are talking about tractors similar to the ones in my Sig. Simple, they do a much better job then any other type of tractor (for our types of trails). A drag full of heavy wet snow can put a tremendous strain on a tractor, now combine that with the fact that you have less then ideal traction conditions. Even tractors of the size we use and have a life of their own when doing major cutting and grooming. In fact, when we had our last, and the biggest drag built, I was thinking we may need to step up one size in HP for the next tractor, or downsize the drag just a bit.

The farm tractors do look much bigger then the Bombardier and Tucker type groomers, but I think the HP ratings are similar. Here it the kicker: Our JDs cost about the same as the Bomb & Tucks, yet the resale value can be up to 50% better. So the return on the investment on a larger farm tractor makes a ton of sense, even for the fact that you have a much larger market to sell it in the end.

Did that answer your question?[/b]
The 8120t jd's that neil and I use are 170hp and we run them at 1600 -1800 rpm. The 2000 sno-cat we have is a 165hp cummins,we run that one right up against the governer at 2100rpm. Both units have an average grooming speed of 7mph.You can park the tucker behind the jd and not even know its there,but on a hill with a loaded drag the tucker will out pull the jd,hands down.I dont know about neil's 8120t's ,but ours has studded tracks.With out them it wont pull a loaded drag up the hills on the blue bear,and even with them, you must shift down to 9 or 10 wihich is only 4 mph.The tucker on the other hand , has steel cleats on the tracks and I have yet to spin the tracks on it,its like the energizer bunney!. The drag we use on the 8120t (blue bear) is the same as neils large one except that its 11' wide,I think his is only 10' (?)We do not have the bat wings on ours,I cant imagine how hard that pulls,but I'd like to drive it sometime and see(hint,hint).
 

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I will assume that you are talking about tractors similar to the ones in my Sig. Simple, they do a much better job then any other type of tractor (for our types of trails). A drag full of heavy wet snow can put a tremendous strain on a tractor, now combine that with the fact that you have less then ideal traction conditions. Even tractors of the size we use and have a life of their own when doing major cutting and grooming. In fact, when we had our last, and the biggest drag built, I was thinking we may need to step up one size in HP for the next tractor, or downsize the drag just a bit.

The farm tractors do look much bigger then the Bombardier and Tucker type groomers, but I think the HP ratings are similar. Here it the kicker: Our JDs cost about the same as the Bomb & Tucks, yet the resale value can be up to 50% better. So the return on the investment on a larger farm tractor makes a ton of sense, even for the fact that you have a much larger market to sell it in the end.

Did that answer your question?[/b]
Neil,

Aside from the resale value do the Bombardier do a better job? I have not seen any in a while but when we went the Boyne last year they use them for the slopes and it seems the wide tracks do a nice job.
 

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Neil,

Aside from the resale value do the Bombardier do a better job? I have not seen any in a while but when we went the Boyne last year they use them for the slopes and it seems the wide tracks do a nice job.[/b]
The ones on the ski slopes are identical to the trail grooming units EXCEPT that to pull a drag we must narrow the tracks from 3' to 2',otherwise they will spit driveshafts from the load.The downside or the tucker is that the cleated tracks tear up 4" of base just driveing across it,the 8120 meerly compresses the snow about 2",so if you are working on a thin trail,you are at a disadvantage w/ a tucker ,since you have to cut at least 4" just to cover your tracks in the snow.With the 8120,the pan will fill them 80% with no cut at all.
 

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Its not the wide tracks you need to look at, it is the the HP delivered to the ground, and the machines ability to pull the heavy drags. You can pull a lighter drag, with a smaller tractor, but the result is just 'topping' the moguls, and placing the snow in the valley. All that does is create a smooth trail for the first dozen sleds, then they blow out the softer snow from the valley, and you have the mogul right back. The key is to cut that mogul all the way to the bottom, and start from scratch. The trail will last MUCH longer with that process.

Will the Bombardier do a better job? Maybe in SOME trails, but from experience, not on ours, at all. Our RR grade is notorious for developing a heavy ice base under the snow, no way to stop it. Our first 2 groomers had steel tracks on them, and the RR grade absolutely destroyed the entire drive train of the machine. $9k in repairer /year + 10 hours a WEEK in maintenance are just not acceptable. Our JDs require virtually no weekly maintenance, and the yearly maintenance is under $1K. I have heard from a very reliable source that the SurTrac groomers that some clubs are using, are requiring $3-5 thousand dollars of pre-season maintenance on machines that are only 2 years old. In my opinion, that is unacceptable to the program as a whole. If farm tractors with tracks can be used successfully on those trails for an overall reduced cost, and at no performance disadvantage, I think we should be doing it. I would add that the Bombardier just was not built or designed to pull the heavy loads of a drag. They are designed to work on a skihill.

Another advantage to sizable tractors is using large mogul-busting front blades. I do not personally have experience with the Bomb, but I don't think you can use the .plow type blades in this regard on a regular basis. Our system will effectively give you 2 grooms, in one pass. I am going to scare Turbo with this one: We successfully groom at a higher speed then he does. Typical grooming, in normal conditions, will be minimum of 8mph, normal of 10, and on the higher end of 12mph.

Turbo:
We have 2 drags, one 9' wide with 4' of wings, for a groomed surface of 13', the other 10' with 4' of wings from a groomed surface of 14'. We have generally gentle grades so our tracks are not studded, I want to see yours sometime. As soon as we get enough snow to make moguls, get you butt up here and drive one of these babies, you are always welcome!
 

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Its not the wide tracks you need to look at, it is the the HP delivered to the ground, and the machines ability to pull the heavy drags. You can pull a lighter drag, with a smaller tractor, but the result is just 'topping' the moguls, and placing the snow in the valley. All that does is create a smooth trail for the first dozen sleds, then they blow out the softer snow from the valley, and you have the mogul right back. The key is to cut that mogul all the way to the bottom, and start from scratch. The trail will last MUCH longer with that process.

Will the Bombardier do a better job? Maybe in SOME trails, but from experience, not on ours, at all. Our RR grade is notorious for developing a heavy ice base under the snow, no way to stop it. Our first 2 groomers had steel tracks on them, and the RR grade absolutely destroyed the entire drive train of the machine. $9k in repairer /year + 10 hours a WEEK in maintenance are just not acceptable. Our JDs require virtually no weekly maintenance, and the yearly maintenance is under $1K. I have heard from a very reliable source that the SurTrac groomers that some clubs are using, are requiring $3-5 thousand dollars of pre-season maintenance on machines that are only 2 years old. In my opinion, that is unacceptable to the program as a whole. If farm tractors with tracks can be used successfully on those trails for an overall reduced cost, and at no performance disadvantage, I think we should be doing it. I would add that the Bombardier just was not built or designed to pull the heavy loads of a drag. They are designed to work on a skihill.

Another advantage to sizable tractors is using large mogul-busting front blades. I do not personally have experience with the Bomb, but I don't think you can use the .plow type blades in this regard on a regular basis. Our system will effectively give you 2 grooms, in one pass. I am going to scare Turbo with this one: We successfully groom at a higher speed then he does. Typical grooming, in normal conditions, will be minimum of 8mph, normal of 10, and on the higher end of 12mph.

Turbo:
We have 2 drags, one 9' wide with 4' of wings, for a groomed surface of 13', the other 10' with 4' of wings from a groomed surface of 14'. We have generally gentle grades so our tracks are not studded, I want to see yours sometime. As soon as we get enough snow to make moguls, get you butt up here and drive one of these babies, you are always welcome![/b]
Our MMW drag was patterned after your 10' unit,I actually came up,took pics and measurements of yours with mark,had no need for the wings but 11' wide was a given requirement.
Our 8120 has a different style of front blade than neils,ours is a lacross that I widened and put a more ridged trip mechinism on.It does not have a pan like his.We do have one like his,but its on the jd 7730 that we use on the cranberry trail.The lacross will shave mogules and pull down berms,but not as well as the one mark builds with the pan.The front blade on the tucker is really only good for pulling in/down corner rails.Its not flat across the bottom and will trip like a snowplow if used in hard moguls.
I agree 100% with his evaluation of the 8120 vs the surtrac and snow cats.The 8120t is a real grooming machine,user friendly,low maintanence,and fun vs work to drive.Visability is unequalled,day or night.Its definitly my first choice.Too bad they quit building them,its just like everything else,they get something that works, and some dumbass engineer has to try and make it better,and cant,so they just build something different.
Ive driven the Cat Challengers,New hollands,jd 7730 and Tucker snocat,or "the Tonka Cat" as I call it,the 8120t still comes in first.
We have too many hills and switchbacks to do that kind of speed,one place on a seasonal rd for about a mile we can run in 14,but thats it.
I will make an appointment for that ride!

john
 

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Another reason for track tractors have to be so large is that the 8120t @ 170 HP was the smallest factory track tractor made by JD and for this year you have to bump up to an 8230t @ 200 hp for the smallest factory track JD. To buy a smaller wheel tractor and add tracks like maybe the Soucy system would cost about $40,000 just for the tracks so your smaller tractor can end up costing more dollers. The big disadvantage to the Cat CH and JD T line is they are very heavy with a weight of about 25,000# without the drag or front blade so if you have some soft and bottomless (read swamp) areas on your trail you can have some serious flotation problems with a 25,000# ag tractor versus a 10,000# tucker so even though the JD may be the best tractor when you look at purchase price, cost to operate, wrench time, and resale, if you can't get through your trail without getting stuck it won't work, and that is why you see the other machines on the trail and not all JD T's, every area has different needs for machines. When we put our tucker on the trail in Dec. I was able to go through soft areas of our trail that the Cat had yet to go this year and still would not go afterwords. We have had these heavy machines stuck bad before and it is not good. I am not against the JD and Cat I like them actually, I am just trying to show why that even though they are so good, not everyone has a trail system that they will work on. These machines work well on about 99% of our councils trails but I'm not sure I would want to leave out of Seney for a day of grooming on one.
 

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Another reason for track tractors have to be so large is that the 8120t @ 170 HP was the smallest factory track tractor made by JD and for this year you have to bump up to an 8230t @ 200 hp for the smallest factory track JD. To buy a smaller wheel tractor and add tracks like maybe the Soucy system would cost about $40,000 just for the tracks so your smaller tractor can end up costing more dollers. The big disadvantage to the Cat CH and JD T line is they are very heavy with a weight of about 25,000# without the drag or front blade so if you have some soft and bottomless (read swamp) areas on your trail you can have some serious flotation problems with a 25,000# ag tractor versus a 10,000# tucker so even though the JD may be the best tractor when you look at purchase price, cost to operate, wrench time, and resale, if you can't get through your trail without getting stuck it won't work, and that is why you see the other machines on the trail and not all JD T's, every area has different needs for machines. When we put our tucker on the trail in Dec. I was able to go through soft areas of our trail that the Cat had yet to go this year and still would not go afterwords. We have had these heavy machines stuck bad before and it is not good. I am not against the JD and Cat I like them actually, I am just trying to show why that even though they are so good, not everyone has a trail system that they will work on. These machines work well on about 99% of our councils trails but I'm not sure I would want to leave out of Seney for a day of grooming on one.[/b]
I think you are right on with this. We got the tonka basically because the connector is so tight ,with the new sections and different route, that the jd and cats couldnt get thru w/o barking up everything.
 

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The amount of snow you get makes a big determination too. In the Baldwin area and south, we only groom with wheeled tractors. We had a BR180 with tracks, but preferred the wheeled tractors. If we were in a higher snow spot, our decision would be to have a tracked unit. I've groomed with 8-10 inches of fresh powder numerous times with the wheeled tractor without issue. If it was 12-18 inches like they get in the northern snowbelts, we may have some issues until the sleds pack the trail in. We have chains for all three of our units, but currently have not needed them. Depending on how much ice this warm up creates, we may put the chains on for the additional traction.

On the BR180, the front blade was not good for cutting moguls. Like stated above, you could take the high side out of a corner or fill holes with it, but running down the trail trying to cut didn't work. One the front of our Case MTU130, we have a huge Dingleman blade that will cut anyting!

Bottom line, each club needs different equiptment based on how much snow and their geography.
 

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Its not the wide tracks you need to look at, it is the the HP delivered to the ground, and the machines ability to pull the heavy drags. You can pull a lighter drag, with a smaller tractor, but the result is just 'topping' the moguls, and placing the snow in the valley. All that does is create a smooth trail for the first dozen sleds, then they blow out the softer snow from the valley, and you have the mogul right back. The key is to cut that mogul all the way to the bottom, and start from scratch. The trail will last MUCH longer with that process.

Will the Bombardier do a better job? Maybe in SOME trails, but from experience, not on ours, at all. Our RR grade is notorious for developing a heavy ice base under the snow, no way to stop it. Our first 2 groomers had steel tracks on them, and the RR grade absolutely destroyed the entire drive train of the machine. $9k in repairer /year + 10 hours a WEEK in maintenance are just not acceptable. Our JDs require virtually no weekly maintenance, and the yearly maintenance is under $1K. I have heard from a very reliable source that the SurTrac groomers that some clubs are using, are requiring $3-5 thousand dollars of pre-season maintenance on machines that are only 2 years old. In my opinion, that is unacceptable to the program as a whole. If farm tractors with tracks can be used successfully on those trails for an overall reduced cost, and at no performance disadvantage, I think we should be doing it. I would add that the Bombardier just was not built or designed to pull the heavy loads of a drag. They are designed to work on a skihill.

Another advantage to sizable tractors is using large mogul-busting front blades. I do not personally have experience with the Bomb, but I don't think you can use the .plow type blades in this regard on a regular basis. Our system will effectively give you 2 grooms, in one pass. I am going to scare Turbo with this one: We successfully groom at a higher speed then he does. Typical grooming, in normal conditions, will be minimum of 8mph, normal of 10, and on the higher end of 12mph.

Turbo:
We have 2 drags, one 9' wide with 4' of wings, for a groomed surface of 13', the other 10' with 4' of wings from a groomed surface of 14'. We have generally gentle grades so our tracks are not studded, I want to see yours sometime. As soon as we get enough snow to make moguls, get you butt up here and drive one of these babies, you are always welcome![/b]
How exactly, does an icy based trail damage the groomer?
 

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How exactly, does an icy based trail damage the groomer?[/b]
That were I believe the Tucker brand, about 10 yrs ago. They had steel cleats on the tracks, sorry I can't find a picture. Remember these machines were originally designed for much higher snow areas like in the Rockies. The designers concern was traction, and were not worried about a heavy and solid bases that are thin. What happened was the tracks and then consequently the undercarriage and drive-line was basically just vibrated apart. Think of a bulldozer driving on a paved road, same effect.

Indydg:
I can't imagine that a wheeled tractor would do a better job then a tracked machine. They are more versatile however. We had a NH wheeled tractor a few years ago, and no one wanted to drive it, everyone wanted the Cat. With our heavy drags it seemed liek the guys were always fighting the steering, and ended a shift exausted. It got stuck in the middle of the trail more then once. I completely understand your decision to go with a farm tractor over a Bomber, for the reasons stated above.

Good news, I recently had a conversation with our JD dealer and he told me that the JD company has recently approved the use of a 4 piece track kit that bolts right onto the tractor hubs, and it will not void the warranty on the tractor - the reason it was not tried in more in the past. We may soon have another option that will give us the benefits of a wheeled farm tractor, yet the traction of a tracked unit, plus better handling, or 'steerability' I think that is the wost aspect of the JD 8120T tractors, they perform great in a straight line, but corners are another matter. I hate the way the tractor dis-engages the inside track in a corner. You really have to saw-steer it and muscle it around if you are pushing/pulling anything. A 4 piece track conversion on a wheeled tractor would eliminate that problem.
 

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Good news, I recently had a conversation with our JD dealer and he told me that the JD company has recently approved the use of a 4 piece track kit that bolts right onto the tractor hubs, and it will not void the warranty on the tractor - the reason it was not tried in more in the past. We may soon have another option that will give us the benefits of a wheeled farm tractor, yet the traction of a tracked unit, plus better handling, or 'steerability' I think that is the wost aspect of the JD 8120T tractors, they perform great in a straight line, but corners are another matter. I hate the way the tractor dis-engages the inside track in a corner. You really have to saw-steer it and muscle it around if you are pushing/pulling anything. A 4 piece track conversion on a wheeled tractor would eliminate that problem.[/b]

I don't know much about this but I've talked to some people in Chippewa and their New Holland groomers I thought were steered by the skid. The tracks don't disengage, but the hydraulics pivot/steer the tractor. Maybe I'm wrong. But I'm sure they all do something different.
So the JD's actually disengage eh? I could see that being an issue. I would love to drive one some day. If I lived somewhere up there I would definetly donate my time. That would be great to be able to help make the trails smooth again, and to see the looks of Joy on peoples faces when they come across smooth trails again.

Keep up the good work everyone.
 

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I don't know much about this but I've talked to some people in Chippewa and their New Holland groomers I thought were steered by the skid. The tracks don't disengage, but the hydraulics pivot/steer the tractor. Maybe I'm wrong. But I'm sure they all do something different.
So the JD's actually disengage eh? I could see that being an issue. I would love to drive one some day. If I lived somewhere up there I would definetly donate my time. That would be great to be able to help make the trails smooth again, and to see the looks of Joy on peoples faces when they come across smooth trails again.

Keep up the good work everyone.[/b]
You definatly need a light touch on the wheel of the 8120,and its easy to get stuck on a hill where a turn is involved.You just have to plan ahead and not try to drive it like a truck because it doesnt steer that way..On the other hand,I have been "almost stuck" and saved it with the track disenga
ge thing.If you clutch it and then turn the wheel alternately ,you can realign the tractors path,then start out again in the new direction.Its a little hard to explain ,but basically you wiggle it sideways back to where you want it.When you drive it,you just have to react differently to some situations.
The NH units you are talking about are the suretrack machines,which I personally would not give grage space to.They just seem to always need fixing or tweaking.
 

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Yep, the surtrac groomers are actually a NH tractor where they take all 4 wheels off, and then put the track units on. I hear this is an all day process and not easy, most clubs never change them on/off. Once the tracks are on, there is no steering the tractor by itself, the drag must be hooked up, and the pivot between the 2 is what steers the the tractor. Some clubs swear by them, some swear at them.

The JD 8120s steer by varying the speed of the inside track in a turn. Great straight line pull, and traction, must know how to run them through the curves.

The JD conversion what I was referring to replaces the wheels with 4 tracks, similar to the attached pic (which I think is from a different company) You would steer as normal, and the front tracks would help pull around the corner. resale would be sky high, but Reliability would be key

 
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