Compact Equipment

SEP 2018

Compact Equipment is a magazine dedicated to equipment owners and operators of small, nimble, tool-carrying construction, landscape and ag equipment — such as skid steers, mini excavators, compact tractors, generators compressors and beyond.

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38 Compact Equipment SEPTEMBER 2018 The original "endless conveyor ditch-digging machine" introduced 70 years ago by Charlie's Machine Shop in Oklahoma and called a "Ditch Witch" had a molded iron tractor seat on it for the operator. But many next-gen- eration DW machines were walk-behind models. Today, trenchers with seated operator platforms are top-of-the- line machines. The Ditch Witch RT1200 can even enclose the operator in a heated and air-conditioned cab with front and rear windshield wipers and pressurization to insulate against noise and dust. Ditch Witch's first trencher was powered by a 7-hp en- gine and cost $750. By comparison, the Toro RT1200 has a 121-hp Cummins diesel under its hood. It carries al- most 50 gal of fuel and moves on 18.5-in.-wide rubber tracks via a four-speed shift-on-the-fly hydrostatic trans- mission. The big trencher is, in other words, a sophisti- cated tractor unit and a world apart in technology — and price — from Ditch Witch's progenitor machine. Big is popular. Ditch Witch itself manufactures an equivalent 121-hp machine, the RT125 Quad, with a four-cylinder Deutz diesel Tier 4 Final engine. These large, mobile, digging machines feature tilt frames to keep the sides of trenches aligned with the vertical. They have front-and-rear steering for a relatively tight turning radius despite their size (an RT125 is a 7 1/2-ton machine, without attachments). Vermeer's competing big model is the RTX1250 with a Cummins engine that bumps up to 127 hp under load. Like some competitors, the RTX1250 can roll on tracks or tires, with end-users switching interchangeable axle hubs and mounting one or the other. Vermeer has an exclusively-steel-tracked, plow-only model, the XTS1250. With steel tracks on, the XTS1250 weighs more than 19,000 lbs. "The XTS is a market-driven addition to our line," says Savage. "Customers wanted increased traction and productivity on the cross-country runs." These big trenchers are among the manufacturers' best- sellers each year. In fact, Vermeer's RTX1250 is its most popular seated model. "More and more projects need the quad tracks because it can operate more days out of the year despite conditions," says Savage. "It's a very produc- tive machine and very operator friendly, which is signifi- cant given the labor shortage. It shortens the learning curve for operators." Yet Vermeer's 74-hp trencher, the RTX750, also is a top- seller for the manufacturer. Ditch Witch's most popular ride-on trencher is even smaller, the RT45. It is a 49-hp unit weighing just 3,200 lbs that has dominated the rent- al market for decades. A generation of DIYers grew up knowing only the RT45. "It's the right size," Thompson says of the popular trencher. "It is compact enough but powerful enough to get a job done." While the biggest trenchers indeed have grown large, they also have advanced in engineering. Crab steering gives larger models better maneuverability. Multi-posi- tion rear mounts let operators choose where to position their trenching bars or vibratory plows. Swivel seats with arm rest-mounted controls enhance line-of-sight opera- The Ditch Witch RT125 has tilt frames to keep the sides of trenches aligned and front-and- rear steering for a relatively tight turning radius despite its size.

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