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Early Fall HOWA 2012

A hobby that’s working

Equipment enthusiast evaluates compact tractors, then decides Bobcat is No. 1.

Randy Schrauder

Randy Schrauder

Randy Schrauder’s life-long fascination with construction equipment has served him well for more than five decades and earned this comment from his wife: “He doesn’t have a job, he has a hobby.”

Today, at age 68, he’s still an active owner-operator in the excavating business.

“I’ve scaled back to working by myself five days a week, from when I had a dozen guys on the job every day,” Schrauder says. “Now I have more time to do things around here.”

He’s referring to the five acres of land in Wexford, Pa., where he lives with his wife Carol, a retired school district employee. The heavily wooded, hilly property has been in the family since the 1940s when his grandfather, Mike, originally purchased 15 acres in what was then the rural area north of Pittsburgh.

“Instead of going to kindergarten every day, I tagged along with my grandfather and uncle, both named Mike, and learned all the construction trades,” Schrauder says. “Everyone called me ‘Little Mike.’ They didn’t know my name was Randy until I got my driver’s license.

Bobcat compact tractor owner
Randy Schrauder depends on
his CT122 and front-end loader
to help move materials and
maintain his property.

Bobcat compact tractor owner Randy Schrauder depends on his CT122 and front-end loader to help move materials and maintain his property.

“I put in my first lawn when I was in the 7th grade. It was two acres, and unfortunately I didn’t have the type of equipment I later purchased for my own business. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it.”

He later moved on to a long career doing site and excavation projects, ranging from digging a simple residential gas line 60 feet long to a six-level parking garage at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. He was also involved in the construction of several schools, office buildings, hotels and high-rise apartments for the elderly. Among the machines Schrauder uses today are a Bobcat® T180 compact track loader and a 341 compact excavator — a popular combination of equipment often referred to as the Bobcat System.

Schrauder’s property was a farm at one time, growing hay, oats and corn to feed his sister’s Arabian horses. When she left home, the horses went with her, and later 10 acres were sold. Schrauder built a 4,000-square-foot house and large machinery storage building on the upper portion of his acreage; the lower valley is a forest with a creek running through it.

The house has been heated by wood since the mid 1980s, burning up to 12 cords of wood each winter. Schrauder brings trees home from lot-clearing jobs, cuts the logs and stores the firewood in wooden boxes; some are as large as 6 by 4 by 4 feet. He transports the boxes to his house with his T180.

“My furnace burns the wood to charcoal, and then burns the charcoal to talcum-like ashes,” he says. “At the end of winter, there is almost nothing left of the wood.”

In Schrauder’s garage, he stores a truck he built from a glider kit. The cab, frame and front axle came from a factory and he installed the engine, transmission and rear end. He worked on it for 10 months. “The reason the 1980 model looks new is that I am the only person who has driven it,” he says.

Two years of research

What he is driving these days in order to help maintain his property is a CT122 compact tractor, purchased from Bobcat of Pittsburgh.

“I spend a lot of time — usually a year or two — researching a product before I buy,” Schrauder says. “When I decided I needed a compact tractor, I only considered three brands; I didn’t want to waste my time looking at sub-standard machines. In the size range I wanted, the Bobcat model stood out. It weighed 500 pounds more than the others and it cost less.”

As someone who has put together his own truck, Schrauder certainly knows a well-built machine when he sees one. Among the factors that helped the CT122 rise above others:

Front axle thickness

“No other model compares to the Bobcat machine,” he says.

Tire size

“When I park the CT122 next to my neighbor’s similar model made by another manufacturer, there is a very noticeable difference,” he says. “That’s because the CT122 has 12-inch tires on the front and 16-inch tires on the back. The other machine has 8-inch tires on the front and 12-inch tires on the back.”

Power

“There are a lot of hills around this property, and also at my cabin, and the CT122 handles them with ease,” he says.

The cabin is located on 15 acres of land up in the mountains in Clarion County, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh.

“I leave the CT122 up there for the winter to drag logs out of the woods to heat the place and to plow snow,” he says. “Since I don’t go there too often, snow can accumulate quite high and oftentimes there is a hard crust on the top. The tractor with the front-end loader handles the snow very well.”

Schrauder says there is plenty of back-breaking work at both places, and as he gets older, he knows he wants to do less of it.

“The CT122 is saving my back,” he says. “It’s a super little machine. I have been operating tractors for 55 years and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending a Bobcat tractor to anyone.”