John Deere rolled out its first H Series wheeled cut-to-length forest machines at an extravagant event in Finland last month. Forestry Journal used the opportunity to catch up with some of the British operators who have been lucky enough to get behind the controls already. 

Customers invited to the event in Helsinki heard that John Deere had put machines through their paces ahead of the launch, with over 8,000 hours of real-world test time.

Forestry Journal was able to speak with a few of the UK operators who had been selected to try the 1270H harvester out on site. With its power making it comparable to the 1470H, it’s expected the 1270H will be the most sought-after new model for the UK market. Speaking to Robbie Robertson, who put it to work at Walkerburn in the Tweed Valley, it was easy to understand why.

“It was an awkward site with a lot of big windblow, so a good test,” he said. “It’s very, very impressive.”

Robbie has a lot of experience with John Deere and currently runs a 1270G. He said he was especially impressed by the 1270H’s stability, crane power and three-pump system which means the operator can drive, work the crane and work the head at the same time without slowing down.

“The new crane has a lot more power, which you notice in the windblow,” he said.

“There was a big difference in what I could cut with the H and what I could cut with my own machine, simply through stability and crane power.

“You’re not fighting as much to pull trees out. You can travel with your crane out to the side and it won’t tip. There’s a lot more time saved that way and time saved by having that extra crane power. Instead of having to fight the trees, you just grab and throw them.

“The new computer system has a very nice interface, making it easy to use.”

Graham Sharp tested the machine for three weeks on steep hills in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

He said: “I was very impressed with it. It’s very stable on steep hills. I was taking it up 34-degree slopes and it was climbing no problem.

“They’ve shortened the dipper arm so the head’s up off the ground while climbing. And it’s got a lot more power on the crane, making it more like a 1470.

“Filling the diesel is easier, with it around the back. The filling points for the fuel and urea are all in the same place and far more accessible. You can fill it from one side.

Forestry Journal: : Many customers were able to get their first look at the new machines at the launch event in Helsinki.: Many customers were able to get their first look at the new machines at the launch event in Helsinki. (Image: FJ/John McNee)

“It’s not needed much attention from mechanics. It’s got 300 new components in it, so has done very well for what is practically a new machine. I think a lot of folk will be looking forward to them coming.”

Douglas Paterson had the 1270H for three weeks at Loch Garve, just above Inverness, on another steep, rocky site. He described it as the most stable machine he had ever driven.

“It’s brilliant,” he said. “You can drive at full reach with a tree in the head and it won’t lift a wheel. I would say every downside with the G has been fixed. One of my big issues with the G was the crane height. The lifting height was really poor. I did a lot of steep ground and struggled with the G because the dipper was so long. Now they’ve redesigned it so it’s more like a 1470 – a longer extension, but the dipper’s shorter. It makes a massive difference when working difficult ground.”

Roy Thorburn only got to drive the machine for a week and said he didn’t want it to leave.

“I can’t say anything bad about it,” he said. “It’s improved in every area, as far as I can see. It’s got rams instead of a frame brake, so the stability is top notch.

“I drive a 1470G at the moment and before that I was on a 1270G. I’ve always thought the current 1270 was a great machine, but a bit lacking in crane power.

The new one has resolved all that. It’s comparable in crane power to the 1470.

“Everything was improved. Feeding power on the head, crane power, stability, smoothness of the crane. It’s not a revolutionary difference, but the overall package is much better. It’s everything you’d want. I feel like they’ve listened to what people have said and the improvements they’ve made over the 1270G are the improvements you would want.

Forestry Journal: The new H216 head is designed for large-size-class harvesters and will replace the previous H270 head.The new H216 head is designed for large-size-class harvesters and will replace the previous H270 head. (Image: Supplied)

“It was quite a rough site, all slopes. I left some of the steeper rows because I knew the machine was coming. I did the steepest part of the job with it and the climbing ability was phenomenal. It was sailing up 30-degree slopes. I believe there’s been a change to the transmission from the older machines and that was quite evident.

"It did climb very well and was pulling windblow out as easily as a 1470G. There’s definitely a big difference.”