We sure like this little village and they have been very welcoming to a couple of vagabonds who don’t spend a lot of time here. We feel guilty – like we’re taking advantage of the community without ever contributing much. So when I had a chance to help the mayor fix the grader I jumped at the opportunity.
Now you might wonder what I know about graders and that would be a valid thing to wonder about. The answer is --- not a hell of a lot but maybe a little more than the mayor. The second thing you might wonder is – what the hell is the mayor doing fixing the grader. And the answer to that is that we weren’t so much fixing the grader as improving it.
Last winter the town foreman moved on to greener pastures and his 2IC has been in charge ever since. As Gary (the mayor) pointed out – all the work seems to be getting done with half the manpower and not only does Richard not book much overtime, he also takes off (unpaid) Friday afternoons to visit his girlfriend. So things have worked out well. But Richard would have been over his head doing to the grader what Gary and I did over the last week. We may have been over our heads too but that never even slowed us down and certainly didn’t stop us.
This is the “new” grader in its bright yellow Champion livery (and not so bright front blade).
The town sold the old grader to my friend “little buddy” Arnold Mayrand in Canora. Arnie will take his standard $1000 markup and sell it on to some other unsuspecting fool. Over the years I bought a lot of stuff from Arnie and so did Rex. One time after Rex had been down on a buying trip Arnie phoned me and said “you know, every time after that Rex leaves here I have to go to the hospital and get a blood transfusion.” But I think Arnie did OK over the years and he was a lot of fun to deal with. I bought a grader from him one time and he phoned a few weeks later to try to buy it back. He was prepared to pay a significant premium too but we kind of liked it by then. I think that’s the town grader in Arborfield now if I’m not mistaken.
Anyway, Arnie bought Buchanan’s grader and Buchanan replaced it with a fairly new Champion 730A. “Fairly new” in this case meaning less than 20 years old. Unlike the city operators who seem to relish dropping a snow ridge across every driveway they come to, here in Buchanan when they plow snow they drop a wing to clear the driveways as they go by. Evidently Arnie’s purchase didn’t include the wing because it was bolted to the new grader by the time I arrived on the scene. The problem that Gary & I were addressing was the lack of an open hydraulic spool to control the wing. Redhead was willing to install the hydraulics for $3200 but we’re frugal here in Buchanan. Our budget was “as little as possible” and we likely came in around $600. Gary had hit on the idea of splitting the circuit that controls the front wheel tilt and using it to control both the wheels and the wing.
The first I knew of the plan was at coffee row where Gary was displaying a hydraulic block with 6 holes in it and an electric solenoid on one end. The topic of conversation was “which holes are connected to which other holes?” and there were a lot of opinions -- A LOT OF OPINIONS. Anyone who has ever participated in small town coffee row will appreciate that there were A LOT OF OPINIONS. The valve had come from Princess Auto and I expect whoever sold it to Gary had explained which holes went together but somewhere along the way that information had escaped. I suggested that I could likely find a diagram online and in fact did find one but there was then some further debate about whether we could believe that diagram. (I never doubted that we could believe it but there was some debate nevertheless.) Finally I proposed that we simply blow through the ports to see where the air came out which is exactly what we did and, not surprisingly, the diagram turned out to be correct.
And this is the snow wing in the down or capture position. Normally it would be raised for plowing and then whenever the operator comes to a driveway it would be dropped to hold the snow and save the homeowner from having to clean up a hard snow ridge.
The plan was to install the solenoid valve in the control circuit to the tilt on the front wheels. We would install the valve so that the circuit would default to the wing but when the solenoid was energized the oil would still flow to the wheels. And that’s exactly what we did. It probably took us a day and a half in total and several trips to Canora for hydraulic supplies but this morning at 11:00 we buttoned up the instrument panel with big smiles on our faces and called the job done.
This is the genuine Princess Auto solenoid that diverts the oil from the front wheel tilt to the snow wing.