In A Class By Itself

Trenchers... skid-steer loaders... compact excavators... loader-backhoes — the construction machines carried by many rental centers fall in well-defined categories that are well known by equipment users. That's why when something completely new comes along, it attracts plenty of attention.

The family-operated Taylor Rental store in Newtown Square, PA found that out earlier this year when it added a new compact excavator tool carrier to its equipment fleet.

At first glance, the Ditch Witch XT850 looks like a compact excavator, but closer examination reveals it to be unlike any other product on the market.

The XT850 has a digging boom and bucket on one end and tool carrier component on the other. The tool carrier can be equipped with many types of interchangeable attachments, making the machine a multi-purpose product that can excavate and perform multiple special jobs.

The machine's patent-pending configuration also sets the XT850 apart from any other construction machine and permits offset excavation adjacent to streets, fences, buildings, and other surface improvements.

"Its reception has been very positive," says Ed Miller, Sr., who with his brother, Charles, owns the rental business. "In the first few months, we have rented the machine to landscapers, several types of contractors, golf courses and homeowners. It has been out on rental at least four days of every week since we placed it in service. And we have had several customers who have taken it out several times."

All who rent it have nothing but praise, Miller continues.

"They like how easy it is to operate, and many say they are surprised at how much power it has," he adds. "Customers tell us its size is perfect because it gives them the ability to work in very tight places. And they like its versatility — several have taken it for a day and kept it for a week because they found it could do so many different jobs for them."

One repeat customer for the XT850 is David Dodge, owner of Premier Builders and Premier Platform Tennis, Bryn Mawr, PA.

"It's a great little machine," says Dodge. "We use it for light excavation work, digging foundations and other digging jobs. We like the way it can get into small areas where it's impossible to take a bigger unit, and the ability to do offset digging. On one job I was able to literally work an inch from a house and not damage the house or foundation. It is much more versatile than my skid-steer loader, and it has a lot more power than people might think."

The track-mounted XT850 is powered by a Kubota 26-hp liquid-cooled diesel engine.

The swing post for the excavator is mounted on the end of a pivoting arm that pivots beneath the floor of the operator's station, under the seat, offsetting the entire excavator assemble. To offset dig, the arm is pivoted to a side from the center pivot and the excavator swing post is swung in the opposite direction. The system provides maximum excavator sweep from side-to-side of 260 degrees.

At the back of the machine, hydraulically powered attachments mount on a dual-arm component. They connect to a universal, quick-couple mounting plate, permitting the use of attachments made by most other suppliers. Popular tools include auger, trencher, vibratory plow, tiller and tamper. With a loader bucket, the machine is a compact backhoe-loader on tracks. There are more than 70 Ditch Witch attachments that fit the machine.

The operator's seat rotates to front- and rear-facing positions, depending on which component is being used. Basic excavation and attachment operation and ground drive are controlled by two multi-function joysticks mounted on the seat. Control functions are changed with a mode switch.

Taylor Rental stores operate under the franchise division of the True Value Company and serve light contractors, homeowner and party rental as well as accessory sales items. The Millers have operated the Taylor store since 1972. Ed Miller Jr. is the store manager.

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