Launched a decade ago to much acclaim, Ponsse’s Elephant King has been sold across the world and earned the Finnish firm plenty of plaudits – and a recent online showcase demonstrated its capabilities. Jack Haugh reports.

THE king is dead, long live the king! Not the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in Finland, where a monarch last reigned more than 100 years ago, but in a small village in the country’s rural heartlands, the sentiment is not uncommon; only its sovereign is strictly of the forestry persuasion.

In Vieremä, a municipality of just 3,000 people and 310 miles from Helsinki, machine manufacturer Ponsse reigns supreme. It’s sold thousands of products to hundreds of logging sites across the world and for a decade the Elephant King has held sway over the royal court. 

As the most powerful machine in the company’s forwarder range, it’s earned a reputation for its “superior level of comfort, economy, and efficiency”, whether it’s being put to work in the Russian snow or the heat of the Brazilian sun.

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It’ll handle the wind and the rain no bother, too, which is a good thing because, during a recent showcase event, broadcast live from Ponsse’s headquarters, both threatened to dampen the party mood. 

Not that this was ever going to be enough to spoil the day as Juha Haverinin strode through the greying autumn setting and proudly declared: “Hello and welcome to Vieremä!”

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The first thing viewers unfamiliar with the machine might have noticed – other than the weather – was its sheer size. It’s big. So big, in fact, the wheels alone very nearly towered over Juha and Santiago Posada, who joined him for the event, as they made their way underneath it and towards the camera. Just how big is it? At 13 feet, it’s – rather aptly – about the height of your average elephant.

In real terms, though, the Elephant King has been designed to carry heavy loads with ease. On its eight wheels it can handle up to 20,000 kg of timber (or one sei whale), 2,000 kg more than its ‘little brother’, the Elephant, and more than its Elk, Buffalo, and Wisent siblings.

Forestry Journal: Juha, left, and Santiago Juha, left, and Santiago

“Today we have an introduction to our biggest forwarder, the Elephant King with the K121 loader,” Juha, a product manager at Ponsse, went on. “Today’s Elephant King is going to Sweden. It is very popular with our Swedish customers. But also, when we are talking about forwarding, in plantations and eucalyptus countries.

“What do you think, Santiago [sales training and support specialist]?”

“Yeah, for sure, it’s the most popular,” he replied. “It’s the most preferred for our customers; such as Brazil and Uruguay. Our customers always choose these types of machines.”

One of the most notable hallmarks of the Elephant King is its Ponsse Active Crane, a loader–control system for forwarders. With the Active Crane system, the operator controls grapple movements instead of individual functions, lightening the workload. Active Crane is easily controlled using two levers, one of which controls the grapple height from the ground and the other the direction of movement.

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But, Ponsse say, the forwarder has always been packed with a whole lot more. There’s the K100+ and K121 loaders – “designed for heavy-duty machines” – the Active Frame – “which eliminates, in particular, any sideways movement directed at the operator” – and the Ponsse traction assistance winch – which helps users achieve high productivity on steep ground.

“Elephant King is the biggest forwarder we have in our production nowadays,” said Juha.

“The K121 is available with two different extensions. Single extension with an 8-metre–long reach and a double extension with a 10–metre–long reach.

“There are a lot of different options you can choose, depending on the conditions where you’re using the forwarder in the field.

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“This machine has a short, rear frame, meant for the Nordic countries, and a double-extension crane.

“When we are talking about plantations and the forwarder they use over there, we have longer rear-frame options available.”

Elaborating, Santiago added: “This is the new type of crane which offers a completely different type of engineering and different kinds of grapples, for example.

“That impacts directly on the productivity of our customers.”

That all sounds promising but what do the customers think? The event featured testimonies from two, one in Sweden and another in Uruguay, both of whom have been thrilled with the Elephant King’s performance.

“I have been driving a Ponsse Elephant King at Alsjokulla Skogsentreprenad for about a year,” operator Martin EK said from his cabin. “I have been driving forwarders for about 20 years in total.

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“The Active Crane is very good. I believe it helps maintain higher production for a longer period of time. You don’t need to make any unnecessary loader movements.

“I am very happy with the K121 loader – long reach, 10 m, strong. No hoses, tubes, or things like that in the way. It works really well together with Active Crane.”

As anyone who’s ever spent any time out in the field knows, comfort is also king. So, how does this Elephant King get on?

“The machine is very comfortable. We have Active Frame; that means it copes well with obstacles and sideways leaning and it’s smoother across the terrain.

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“The visibility towards the load space and loader is very good. We believe that we have gained increased capacity after we chose the Elephant King.

“It is most likely down to the loader being able to handle a larger grip. The service is brilliant.”

Juha and Santiago were then back to talk viewers through the engines. In short: they’ve all been designed to meet the specifications of any market, including the European Union, Russia, and South America. So customers won’t have to worry about meeting Stage V regulations or the local equivalent.

They do, however, have to worry about dealing with all sorts of terrain. No more so than the rolling hills of Rocha, in Uruguay, and Walter Calcerra, from the company Lecal SRL, praised the Elephant King’s durability when his testimony appeared on screen.

Forestry Journal: Walter shared his experiences with the Elephant King Walter shared his experiences with the Elephant King

In rather sunnier surroundings than Martin’s clip, he said: “We haven’t been working for long here in the mountains but we’ve noticed that the crane has a lot more power here, where everything is on a slope.

“When the equipment is working downhill with the weight of the loader and the load uphill, we can see a big difference.

“Something else we’ve noticed about the equipment is that when it’s loading uphill, the weight distribution, with the longer chassis and the rear bogie placed further back, there is better weight towards the front of the equipment and there is a lot more traction when pulling away.

“We’re using an Ergo with Synchrowinch and the Elephant King forwarder. The slopes we’ve worked on here, from what the Ergo has registered, are a gradient of up to 35 degrees and, so far, the forwarder has been removing the wood with no problems.

“The comfort of the seat has clearly changed, its position, and the seatbelt system. This has been well-received.

“I have just spoken to an operator who is doing the same number of trips as before but is less tired. And we’ve noticed, in terms of efficiency, that we can load more wood per trip. We’ve had a very good experience with Ponsse.”