One of Alistair Young’s most enthusiastic customers is Hugh Macqueen. Starting out in the contracting business on his own account after leaving school in 2001, Hugh subsequently joined R A Laird Contractors at Ballinluig, to the north of Perth.
Laird already operated a fleet of Valtras and Hugh started out with a brand new T131, carrying out a range of seasonal tasks including scrub cutting with a side-arm flail mower in the winter. From that point, he takes up the story…
“In 2011, I left Laird’s and went back home with the Valtra ’bug’,” he recalls, “starting out on my own account again with a 55-plate T180, doing a variety of farm work and the occasional construction job.” This machine was the mainstay of the business for several problem-free years before being replaced with a 09 T202. This, in turn, was succeeded by a new T194 and joined shortly after by new T174.
“The 194 went straight out on hire to work on the construction of the Corriegarth wind farm, which is quite local to us,” Hugh explains. It was traded in two hard-working years later, with 5000 hours on the clock and was entirely problem-free, with the exception of a compressor belt replacement.
Then, in 2017, the Macqueen fleet was boosted further with the arrival of a S294 reverse-drive model. This was put straight to work on another wind farm project – this time involving the installation of 66 turbines at Stronelairg, above Loch Ness.
“The terrain there rises to over 800m above sea level,” Hugh states, “and is notorious for its harsh winters of snow, frost and high winds.’
The principal tasks on this job involved low-loader work – pulling plant and equipment the 14-plus uphill miles – dust suppression using 3000-gallon tankers, and spreading aggregates on the roads with a purpose-built 5m width grader. In addition to that, there was a good deal of snow clearing in the long winter months, using V-ploughs and a pair of Westa snow blowers.
“The S294 came home at the end of January 2017,” Hugh reports, “and came off-hire in August 2018, having clocked 4000 hours. The new T194 SmartTouch arrived in the December and has completed 2500 hours so far. The SmartTouch has definitely been a huge step forward from the old-style armrest.”
The T174 looks after the farming side of the contracting business, where it’s joined by a T151 carrying out a range of tasks, apart from sowing cereal crops and spraying.
“The S294 joins in with the farm duties over the summer,” he says, “taking its turn with the triple mowers and hauling silage – together with a bit of site work, in tandem with a 24t dump trailer and 30t low-loader.”
Hugh adds that all the tractors will be back on snow-clearing duties over the winter, ensuring access to seven different wind farms around Loch Ness over the period between November and March.
Asked if there are any aspects of his Valtra tractors he would change, Hugh points at just two: “Firstly, I’d like to be able to carry out a Cat Burn-out without having to call out a fitter. And, second, the S series – while being a really good tractor – would benefit from a cab re-design.”
“All our tractors and most of our machines come from Alistair Young Engineering at Dunphail,” he says.
“Dealer back-up is a major thing for us and the support we receive from them is second to none. I know that if there’s a problem at all – any day, any time of day – or night (yes, it has happened!) – that somebody will answer the phone and it will be sorted asap. That, to me, is as important as the machine itself.”