This month saw MEWP operator training being carried out on our final TF (Tele Fly) model MEWP. Since the introduction of the TL17M, a 17-metre Tele Lift MEWP in late 2014 and then the 14-metre model in mid-2016, Redmond Gary Australia has been phasing out production of the TF series.
Our final TF machine is a 14 metre (TF14M) that will be going into operation in Rockhampton and surrounding areas. The team at Ergon’s Rockhampton depot were happy to pose with the EWP to mark the milestone. This is the first RG machine for this particular crew and they couldn’t wait to get it on the road and into service.
The TF series MEWPs came from humble beginnings and grew into a well-respected fixture in the Australian market, popular with operators and maintenance providers alike.
In the late 1980s Redmond Gary was approached by Sydney Electricity’s chief engineer. We had been supplying them with cable drum trailers and other cable handling equipment for some time and he was impressed with our designs and the quality of our workmanship. He suggested we look at manufacturing Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs).
At the time Abbey Equipment was the big player in the market and he thought there was room for some competition. Although Redmond Gary had no experience in manufacturing MEWPs, we considered the prospect but ultimately deemed it to be too difficult having had no experience in insulation systems.
About two years later we were lucky enough to be put in touch with an engineer who had just left Abbey Equipment. He thought Abbey was not producing any new designs but instead kept modifying existing designs and calling them new models. Redmond Gary were able to employ this engineer to carry out market research and come up with an entirely new MEWP design concept that was considered radical at the time.
Redmond Gary designed a new machine targeted towards electricity authorities. Design and manufacture of the prototype took two years, after which the first MEWP model, the TF13M, was driven around to all electricity authorities and prospective customers demonstrating the new machine and its capabilities. At the time, the new telescopic boom with fly jib was a radical new design as all the other machines on the market were knuckle-boom machines. Some people loved it while other people hated it.
It wasn’t until 12 months after we had completed the design and built the first machine that we received our first order. Redmond Gary had put all of its finances into this new venture and for a while it looked like it was going to be a failure. A failure that would have bankrupted the company. What we didn’t realise at the time was that most electricity authorities and councils had to budget for capital purchases so while there were authorities that liked the machine and had intentions of purchasing one, it took around 12 months for them to generate the appropriate approval and place the actual orders.
The first TF13M MEWP that was built to order has sold to South East Tree Services also in April 1994. After 12 months of promotional work and demonstrations, the prototype MEWP was sold to Ulan Electricity in August 1994. After the prototype TF13M was completed, Redmond Gary expanded on that design work and completed plans for the TF16M model, selling the first machine in August 1994.
A few of the early MEWPs were purchased by Telstra as well as electricity authorities throughout Australia. One of those authorities was South East Queensland Electricity Board or SEQEB (known today as Energex). Energex were impressed with the MEWPs they had received, however, they felt there were a few shortcomings with the design and work practices. They sub-contracted KPMG to investigate their work practices and the equipment they were using. The resulting report was supplied to Redmond Gary with recommendations to increase the fly jib by 600mm in length so the far side of a 12’ cross arm could be reached and to make the main boom go vertical to improve access.
Despite these changes requiring significant engineering input, they were taken up and two new models, the TF14M and TF17M, were produced. The first TF17M was delivered to Energex in August 1996. The machine was mounted on a Freightliner and featured a new locker system designed by Energex engineers. At that time, Energex gave their MEWPs nicknames and this machine was named “Granabilly”.
The TF series MEWPs have changed significantly over the years, however, the configuration of the machine remains the same. Some of the changes that have been implemented were the introduction of the 33kV turret insert, changing the hydraulic system from pilot operated hydraulic control to single radio remote and later to dual radio remote. In addition, significant work was done on the insulation to give a maximum rating of 5kV, 33kV, 132kV precipitation (rain). Even now, the TF series MEWPs are the only machines in the world that can meet this insulation rating. In addition, changes to the Australian Standards over the years have made these machines safer.
The production and delivery of our final TF machine has been bitter sweet, however, we know our TL series MEWPs are a worthy successor.