Forty-five years ago, entrepreneur Louis Duellman took someone’s advice to heart: purchase a Bobcat® skid-steer loader and go into business for himself. Today, Louis is 79 years old and can say it was one of the best decisions he ever made, paving the way for a long career that he has since turned over to his son, Paul.
It all started in 1968 when Louis visited the Minnesota State Fair and had his first look at a Bobcat skid-steer loader. It made a lasting impression. So when someone suggested that Louis start his own company, he thought it was only logical to buy the original and the best — Bobcat. Louis is a veteran of the Korean War who purchased his first loader in 1969, an M600, from Bobcat of the Coulee Region. Through the years, Louis purchased more than 50 Bobcat loaders and attachments from his local dealer.
The Fountain City, Wis., native says one of his first jobs was a construction project in LaCrosse, where he worked with his M600 for 23 weeks, backfilling and hauling sand, putting in long days and making a name for himself in the community. In addition to construction, Louis operated his M600 to clean out cattle barns for area farmers. Working for Burlington Northern, he cleaned up after train derailments even while some questioned how much he could do with his Bobcat skid-steer loader.
“People said I was nuts, that I would never make a living out of it,” he says. “Boy, were they wrong! My Bobcat loader was the only machine that I took to my jobsites.”
In all, he helped clean up after 15 derailments, working in the marsh and mud, to collect items such as tires and soybean meal. In one instance, Louis needed a replacement loader after his was damaged in a building fire. His Bobcat dealer delivered a new machine at 4 a.m. to make sure Louis could work the same day.
Success in these applications led to many more construction-related projects, and soon Louis’ son Paul wanted to join his dad’s business. Paul learned the ropes of operating equipment from his father and helped him expand into other forms of construction projects. Today, Paul oversees the day-to-day operations of the company — Louis Earthmoving and Landscaping — and has as much, if not more, dedication to Bobcat compact equipment as his dad. That loyalty to Bobcat is one of the main reasons why the company owns a trio of Bobcat equipment today — an S590 skid-steer loader, T590 compact track loader and an E35 compact excavator.
Machine for any condition
Adapting to evolving technology and new compact equipment has contributed to the family’s success. For example, the company previously operated rubber-tire skid-steer loaders until it tried its first compact track loader in 2001, a T190. Paul says the compact track loader’s rubber tracks perform well in soft ground or sandy soils found in the area. Prior to purchasing the T190, he and his father would use over-the-tire steel tracks, but they were not conducive to driving across streets. “One day we’d need them and the next day we didn’t, so it was on and off all the time,” Paul says. “Once we tried the T190, we ordered one because of the improved traction and minimal ground disturbance.”
Today, jobsite conditions dictate which machine is needed, skid-steer or compact track loader, and the two machines work hand in hand to complete projects for the Duellmans. Paul says the compact and maneuverable machines are the right size for projects such as working inside of pole sheds and factories, where a larger machine won’t fit. His Bobcat machines and attachments often remove concrete from inside of factories and carry the material outside to be disposed.
Positive first impression
Paul purchased a new M-Series S590 and T590 together, and he is impressed with the latest generation of Bobcat loaders. “There is no comparison between our previous loaders and the new M-Series loaders,” Paul says. “It’s night-and-day difference. There is more room inside the cab and better all-around visibility. The sliding windows on the side are nicer and it’s easy to pull the knob and slide the windows open. The loaders are quieter, too.”
Quieter is exactly right. Sound levels in new M-Series loaders are reduced by 60 percent from the previous generation. That translates to improved operator comfort for Paul when he’s in the machine for an extended time. Additional comfort features in Paul’s loaders include an enclosed cab with air conditioning and heat, suspension seat and a radio. “I’m in the machine a lot and it has become my office.”
Both the S590 and T590 have a vertical-lift-path configuration, which Paul says is particularly useful when he is loading dump trucks. He says he prefers the vertical lift path because of the additional lift height and reach, and he can easily see through the top window when he’s dumping material over the truck’s side.
E35 in the mix
As the Duellman’s company grew, so did its need for a variety of compact equipment. The family purchased a Bobcat excavator and recently updated from its first excavator to a newer M-Series E35 compact excavator.
There are times when Paul pairs his E35 with one of his loaders to complete projects faster than he could with just one machine — commonly known as the Bobcat System. “We’ll operate the Bobcat excavator and a loader together when we are installing a septic system,” he says. “I’ll dig the trenches with the excavator and backfill with the compact track loader. The machines are so light that they don’t leave much of an impression on the ground, requiring less repair work when we are finished.”
To get the most out of his compact excavator, Paul purchased several genuine Bobcat attachments, including an auger, clamp, grading bucket, trenching bucket, hydraulic breaker, plate compactor and ripper.
Paul says the Hydraulic X-Change™ mounting system for the E35 allows him to quickly switch attachments for improved productivity. For example, he says he will use a trenching bucket with pin-on teeth if the soil is rocky. When he’s done, he switches to the grading bucket with its smooth finish so he can work right next to the sod and not tear it.
“The Hydraulic X-Change is a big timesaver,” Paul says. “I don’t even have to get out of the machine. I just flip the button, detach the bucket and put the other bucket on.”
As the Duellmans carry on their family tradition of construction expertise in Wisconsin, one thing is for certain: Bobcat is their preferred brand of compact equipment, and will be for years to come. Even as Louis transitions into retirement, he still enjoys operating Bobcat equipment right alongside his son.