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by Nick Drew  |  Wed 15 Jan 2020

Red & Grey All the Way for Welsh Contractors

Another look back at one of my previous articles that appeared in Earthmovers Magazine, bringing it to life on the internet, unedited and with alternative photos and video.

Based in the glorious location of the village of Trefeglwys in Powys, Wales, family run business Powell Developments Ltd, was founded in 1995 by Colin Powell and his wife Mandy. Back in those days the business was predominantly engaged in house building and some agricultural construction works in addition to buying land to build on as an independent house building developer.

Red & Grey All the Way for Welsh Contractors

With the downturn in the economy in 2006/7 the housing market declined and as such Colin decided to diversify into other sectors. He and his wife had long had an idea to develop a log cabin style holiday letting business within the grounds of their 80-acre farm and as a result Luxury Lodges Wales was established initially starting off with two log cabins imported from Finland. Once the economic climate improved the company moved back into house building and property development which they continue to do to this day.

Like so many others in the groundworks and house building sectors Colin’s first machine was a venerable JCB 3C, in this instance a 3CX model, this was later joined by a Manitou telescopic handler. In the year 2000 a Bobcat mini excavator joined the fleet; this was followed in 2004 by another 360-degree excavator which was the company’s largest at the time an 8-tonne class Kubota.

With the move back into property development the firm has been boosted by more family members, namely Colin’s son Ryan returned to the business some 3 years ago, and he was joined by Colin’s son-in-law Dan Humphreys both of whom are machine operators and skilled groundworkers. Making up the core of the workforce is highly experienced groundworker Emlyn Jones, who according to Colin, can turn his hand to anything and is a great asset to the business. The company has 5 full time employees including Colin’s wife and a wider number of sub-contractors who are brought in as and when they are needed.

Around 2 years ago Colin was looking to upgrade their existing Kubota 8 tonne midi excavator and visited the Royal Welsh show to see what was on offer, Colin takes up the story, “In my mind I had already narrowed it down to either another Kubota, as in all fairness, it had served us well, or a Takeuchi as I had been very impressed with the smoothness of operation on them. Both dealers were very reputable, but I was swayed towards Takeuchi dealer JDS Machinery of Pencader, by Gary Davies desire for business which is really quite surmountable, he was both keen and, on the button and in addition it’s another long standing family business, so you receive that personal touch which is nice”.

“I met him at the show on the Wednesday and he was at our offices on the Saturday morning, very prompt and wanting to do a deal. To be perfectly honest there wasn’t a lot of difference in the price of the two brands, but I really liked Gary’s approach and desire to get things right for us and the back up has been brilliant, a lot of firms are quick to sell you a machine, but nowhere to be seen if you have a problem. Collectively we have been dealing with Gary for a long time now and had many machines off him, over the past 2 years for instance we have spent around £350,000 with them with the Takeuchi orders and the Thwaites dumpers”.

Having traded in the Kubota, they purchased their first TB290 two years ago and the distinctive red and grey Takeuchi’s have now become the machines of choice for the Powell business. Having been so impressed with the 9-tonne machine, they then invested in a 4-tonne class TB240 and most recently they have purchased a new 15-tonne TB2150R fixed boom model which features a long stick and dozer blade, this latest machine replaced a conventional Doosan DX140LC conventional tail swing model.

According to Colin one of the most popular machines on the red & grey fleet is the TB240, saying, “The boys love that machine, its such a handy size they tend to do everything with it, but of course, like everything its horses for courses and its good to have the new TB2150R on board which offers  us much more capacity for bigger work, like topsoil strip, digging out for roads and sewers, digging footings and bulk earthworks”.

Talking about the Takeuchi TB2150R operator Ryan Powell said, “The machine is absolutely brilliant, so smooth with a lot of finesse and plenty of power when needed, it’s unbelievable really, a real pleasure to operate, for me the Takeuchi’s are without doubt the Rolls Royce of diggers”.

Dan Humphreys who shares the operating with Ryan, was also very complimentary about the Japanese built machines, “I just cannot fault them, very smooth to operate, great all-round visibility, with plenty of room in the cab and easy access for daily checks, our 2150R features the new longer dipper arm too which is handy in our application, I also find the dozer blade really good for pushing out stone when we are doing the roads, makes the whole job a lot faster”.

Earthmovers caught up with men and two of the machines on a site just a stone’s throw away from the main offices in Trefeglwys, where they are developing a total of 43 properties from start to finish. The TB240 and TB2150R were busy on this job while the companies TB290 was on another larger development for 52 properties in Llanidloes.

On arrival at the job the new kid on the block, the TB2150R was busy levelling stone for the road. There is plenty of weight and power behind this stylish and compact excavator which tips the scales at 15.6 tonnes, and like its off-set counterpart the TB2150 retains the German built 4-cylinder Deutz TCD3.6L4 engine which is a Stage 4 emissions compliant unit complete with AdBlue system and DOC unit to achieve the required emissions levels. This engine has a rated power output of 85kw (115hp) @2000rpm. We expect to see a Stage V emissions compliant power pack fitted to these in due course.

As mentioned previously this and all TB2150R models coming into the UK market now feature a preferred longer dipper arm. When first launched the Japanese had opted to fit an unusual length 2.3m stick, but following feedback from UK dealers it was re-designed to a 2.8m arm and fitted with a larger top ram to offer the same breakout as the original design.

Dan Humphreys commented on the machines compact dimensions, “For our type of work this machine is amazing, with the root of the boom being mounted quite a way back and the fact that it only overhangs by 350mm at the back you can tuck it all right in when manoeuvring in between the houses and with great visibility all around its very reassuring when working in tight quarters”.

The Powell’s machine sits on the standard 700mm UK spec triple grouser steel track pads and puts down a decent footprint with a track length of 3750mm and a width of 2690mm. Two top rollers help to prevent track sag and makes for a more comfortable ride. There is peace of mind for the operator too with middle and forward mounted track guides positioned to help keep everything in place.

Ryan Powell was keen to praise the machines stability too, “Sitting on a long and wide track frame enables you too work safely and the machine just remains well balanced at all times, I’ve also been well impressed with its lifting capacity and with the dozer blade option we went for, it offers even more stability when lifting manhole rings and the like”.

“As an all-round ground-working hydraulic excavator, I can’t see how it could get much better than the TB2150R, its just such a capable machine and its not hard to see why they are selling like hot cakes across the country!”

Asked about the potential prospect of kitting up with a range of attachments Colin Powell said, “For the type of work we do we don’t really require much in the way of attachments, but we do keep a keen eye on developments machinery wise, so you never know. Having said that, we have been considering investing in an excavator mounted post puncher and maybe a tilting grading beam for final trimming on the roads. The good thing with our Takeuchi’s is that they are all plumbed up from the factory ready to receive any attachments we might consider in the future”.

The Red & Grey Team, left to right: Ryan Powell, Colin Powell, Emlyn Jones, Dan Humphreys.

Concluding Colin said, “We have been absolutely delighted with our Takeuchi’s and the support and assistance we have had from Gary Davies at JDS Machinery, I think its safe to say that for us, the future is definitely red and grey all the way!”.

Other Businesses

As mentioned earlier the company has diversified into other things over the years and the spin off Luxury Lodges Wales business has proven to be very successful. They started construction of the lodge area within the confines of the family farm in October 2006, and they opened their first two lodges in the June 2007, they now have a total of 7 lodges available and have recently prepared the ground and infrastructure for a further 10 single story lodges.

The diversification didn’t stop there, the entrepreneurial family came up with another business idea in 2011 when they opened 4x4 Parts Online, a business that breaks predominantly Japanese 4x4 trucks for parts which they ship not only nationally but internationally. 

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