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History of Long Reach Excavators

The phrase” long reach excavator” was first coined in the 1970’s by the then Chairman of MHJ Ltd, Richard Melhuish who operated the UK’s first hire fleet of these new and innovative hydraulic excavators.  

Richard Melhuish

MHJ’s initial entry into the long reach market was the Hymac 580 BT “Waterway” machine, designed with a long reach arm to allow it to work and around  waterways. These early machines were produced by Hymac and built by Powell Duffryn. The successful use of hydraulic operations changed attitudes towards hydraulic excavators and for the first time positioned them as a serious alternative to the more traditional long-reach draglines designs.

Vintage Hymac digger - long reach excavator for dredgingAround the same time Priestman and  Ruston Bucyrus Variable Counterweight machines, or commonly called VCs, started to become popular. However, the work VC machines could achieve was inherently constrained by design limitations. This helped push the popularity of the fully hydraulic ‘long reach’ machines. Their use steadily increased, especially with the arrival of more reliable Hitachi and Komatsu machines from Japan. These Japanese designed machines used far higher quality hydraulic fittings and connectors to ensure leak free operation, especially important when working on and around water due to the environmental impact

The expansion in the use of long reach excavators in the UK has been heavily influenced by Richard Melhuish’s growing business which after 40 years of operation trades as Land & Water Plant Ltd.  Currently, with 55 units, Land & Water Plant Ltd operate Europe’s largest rental fleet of Long Reach Excavators with machines ranging from 3 tonnes right up to the UK’s largest 115 tonne machine.

High reach demolition machines and long reach excavators are often considered the same, however the two products are vastly different.   Long reach excavators are not suitable for the high twisting forces associated with demolition attachments and many demolition machines are unstable at large radius and have to be fitted  with cut off devices that restrict their operating radius.

Long reach machines excel at dredging operations where large quantities of material needs to be removed from a river or lake bed while the plant stays dry above water. The longer the reach of the excavator the more material can be accessed from one location which is exactly why this type of machine is essential for dredging canals, rivers, marinas and lakes.