Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Wed 27 May 2020

Bison Plant from the Archives

During my visit to Gloucestershire based family business Bison Plant Hire earlier this year, I was delighted to be shown a selection of old photos from Ken and Guy Tomblinís extensive archive collection, some of these were kindly shared with me and Iíd like to present a selection of them in this blog post.

Bison Plant from the Archives

It was 1987 when Ken and an experienced operator friend of his first formed Bison Plant Hire. At the time, French built Poclain machines were considered to be one of the must have machines on the market. Following a successful demonstration period with a 61 model, Ken decided to put pen to paper and order 3 of them.  

Ken said “we liked the Poclain and we had good experience of the product while working at Cambrian Plant Hire so we were well used to them. As luck would have it, some of my other former drivers decided to follow and join us at Bison as the new machines arrived. As we know, most operators love a new machine!”.

Bison’s love affair with the Poclain’s continued after the takeover by Case and they continued to purchase the 61 model, which by now, had its familiar and much-loved red paintwork replaced by the brown & tan Case colours and was renumbered as the 688.

Following the eventual demise of the French built machines, Bison switched to Caterpillar for its backhoe loaders and excavators.

Talking about these machines Ken’s son Guy Tomblin said “The Cat 312’s were dominant when I first joined the business, but I have to be honest, they suffered terribly with some serious reliability issues with later models. This was due to the newer electrical systems that were coming into the machines in those days.  The 312’s would often be back at the dealers for weeks on end as they tried to sort them out!”.

Bison then shipped out all their Cat’s replacing them with the Kobelco 135SR LC’s which they described as complete game changer for the business.  They were one of the first plant hire companies to run these zero tail swing machines in the South West and Guy commented, “It’s fair to say they went down a storm. The operators loved them, they were incredibly reliable and durable and we could sell them easily after 3-4 years, especially to the Scandinavian markets who loved them too”.

Bison have run a wide variety of backhoe loaders over the years and naturally it includes the venerable old JCB 3CX often described as the benchmark for wheeled diggers around the world.

Talking of JCB, Bison were also early users of the British manufacturer’s mini excavators range including this classic 801 model. Most recently of course Bison have turned to JCB once more with an order for 5 new 14-tonne class 140XLC hydraulic excavators. 

Kubota have been popular machines for Bison Plant Hire and continue to be so to this day, this example is the rather “boxy” looking KH-101 model which the photo shows was snapped around 1989.

And finally, we finish off where we started, with an iconic photo of Ken Tomblin practising his golf swing while stood on the bucket of a Poclain 61 excavator.

The Poclain 61 machines had such a lasting legacy on the business, that they are considering finding one to restore to its former glory.   If one can be found at the right price, watch this space!

The Digger Man Blog would like to thank Ken and Guy for sharing these historical photos with us.





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