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Life on the line...


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#21 dieseldog1970

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:56 PM

So the history of WST in Kelowna, B.C. has been mentioned before...started in 1967 and shut down and moved in 2002 after 35 years of building in the same plant. Even our engineers did not think it was possible to build over 25 trucks in that plant, but during the busiest years (1998-2000), we managed to put out 31 trucks a day!!! And this was building everything from highway tractors to 6900 off-road units and everything in between. In those 35 years, there were only two days shutdown due to job action from the union...that is one heck of a track record in my eyes!!! The commitment from the employees to build the best truck out there showed in every single build...the single truck for the owner-op, to the multi trucks built for the bigger corporations, we cared about each and every one!
But it was not just the employees, this was one company that actually cared about the workers...flower arrangements to your home for the death of a loved one, whatever time off you would need for those arrangements. Helping out employess who were going thru financial or personal issues at home, directing them to various groups or organizations that may offer help or counselling. Even when the market got rough, and we were working 2 weeks and off for 2, the company held back the profit that they would normally get with every sale of their truck...just to help keep moral up among all the employees!! I have never worked for a company like that before, and have yet to find one similiar, you actually felt like a family while working there!! When my daughter was born, one of my co-workers collected close to $300 dollars for me...even from co-workers that I did not know, one big family (although...sometimes dysfunctional with all the different people!).

Just wanted to show what type of place it was to work...rare in this day and age to find a compnay that size that would be behind the workers as much as they were behind the product!!!

more line stories to come.....

#22 dieseldog1970

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 06:51 PM

When we received the SISU planetary axles for our 6900's, they came by boat (6weeks) in a nice big wooden crate...roughly 3 feet deep, 4 1/2 feet tall, and 9-10 feet long. My leadhand asked me to uncrate one of these monsters, so off I go to get tools...crowbar, claw hammer and sledge. I have been working on this thing for about an hour and a half, barely put a dent in this stupid crate, cursing...digging out slivers! Leadhand rolls up, you are doing an excellant job, but it will take you a week to do it this way! Use the forklift....??????.....say what????? Here I thought I would have to be careful, NOPE....open the crate any way you can using the forklift without damage to the parts!!!! BINGO!!! The light goes off!!! LOL So this was our way of using the forklift for various uses, than those it was originally designed for!
Once in awhile we would get a call from mock-up, they need to clean house...we would build "gliders" for them to work on various new hood/cab designs. When they were done, parts were disposed of so that NO-ONE could use them for resell. I had the the opportunity to use my forklift to destroy many a cab, hood, sleeper, whatever....ever had that sick twisted desire to destroy something brand new??? ME TOO...but I got to do it for real!!! Lay new doors and sheetmetal on the ground...strap in and hammer down!!! Bouncing my rig over top of doors and such may not be the most graceful things to do...but you could not wipe that evil grin off my face when I did it!!! Cabs and sleepers were dealt with in the same manner, but we used a two ton concrete block hooked to a chain to hammer them into submission!!!! I found that if you place the block just right on the side of the sleeper, you could cause that nice dark tinted window to go off like a gunshot and have a almost perfect 6 foot spread of glass shards! While you were busy wrecking stuff, it was almost a guarantee that there would be a dozen or so faces in the windows in Final watching the excitement.
Most OEM's need to stockpile sheetmetal for rebuilds due to accidents for a minimum 10 years (IIRC), we had Cab-Co going steady pumping out parts, while I crated them and got them ready for shipping. Any thing that would not pass...yup, you guessed it...DESTROYED!!! I was busy for about three hours crating parts, had about 12 pieces that were bound for the scrap bin, decided to take a break...layed them out on the ground and got on my forklift. Just as I was launching my rig over top and crashing down onto these parts, two engineers came wandering out of the plant...total shock on their faces!!! They must have thought I had totally lost it and had decided to go postal...they quickly turned and headed back inside. Ten minutes later...I am paged over the intercom back to the warehouse to see my foreman...he knew what I was doing and the procedure to scrap parts, but we both got a good chuckle over the newbie engineers that had freaked and scurried back into the plant!! My foreman tells me next time, maybe I should stop cackling like a madman while I do this, I was just making the poor guys more afraid!!!

more soon....

#23 Danno

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 03:57 AM

Very entertaining and interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing it with us!

B)

#24 lapazleo

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 07:54 AM

Indeed , keep it coming!

#25 Jim B

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 08:56 AM

Great stories!

'Cackling like a madman"! I don't care who you are; that's funny.

#26 dieseldog1970

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 04:33 PM

Glad you like the stories Danno and Jim...I am going back and dusting off the cobwebs, thinking of anything that might be of interest to anyone!

Jim B...yes....I will admit that I had way too much fun when i got to destroy things! Kinda like when you goto a demolition derby...just to watch the carnage!!!

Working in that hot Okanagan weather while running a forklift was brutal...all the heat rising up, most time I just wore shorts and workboots under my coveralls. Most of us in the warehouse had large squirt bottles full of water, we would spray ourselves and drive like mad just to get a breeze going...anything to try and cool off!! Dumb things we would do while "working"...playing tag with spray bottles and forklifts...kinda cool till ya put the machine up on TWO wheels!!! :blink: Puckered up and ate some seat covers more than once...you would think that we would be smarter and more mature? NAH...going to blame it on the heat, yeah..thats it!!! ^_^
I remember working at rad build, just plugging away, build them up and listening to the radio....kept finding little black O-rings on my bench...I don't use them?? Where the H E double hockey sticks are they coming from??? It seems one of my co-workers on engine line would shoot these over at me with an elastic band!! We had boxes of them...used to secure the air lines on the shifter tower. He stopped playing when I richocheted one off of his left temple.... :lol: guess i was a better shot!!!

Speaking of radios...most guys had them at their station...tuned into the local radio stations...small ghetto blaster and clock radio's. Everyone EXCEPT for engine line...always had to do one better....full home stereo, 200 watts and two big speakers mounted on the pillars!!! Nothing like annoying the foreman's and front office with some AC/DC thumping out Hell's Bells or Who Made Who....I always chuckled when I seen the foreman racing over to the start of engine line to get that music turned down!! He never was a fan of the classics!!! ;)

more cobweb cleaning.....

#27 baloney

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 05:02 PM

very intersting read . i apreciate it very much. Thank you for sharing your stories with all of us.

#28 dieseldog1970

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 06:24 PM

House sold....have lots of packing to do!! Will add some more when I can...family life comes first, glad that everyone is enjoying my stories, I hope you all stick around!

Thanks again!

Curt

#29 dieseldog1970

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 02:09 PM

In between packing boxes.....heard a interesting rumour regarding WST....a trucker from Kamloops was talking to the local dealer about buying a new Star. Made the comment that he wishes they were still built in Canada...salesman responded that he heard a certain Australian businessman (Peabody??? ;) ) was not very happy with the direction Freightliner had taken Western Star. He was thinking of buying the company back!!!!!! Things that make you go HMMMMM!!!!!!! :D

#30 lapazleo

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 04:16 PM

We can only hope. Look forward to more stories. Good luck with new place.

#31 dieseldog1970

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 08:06 PM

Pack, tape, lift and move....and repeat!! Somebody PLEASE put me outta my misery!!

So....we received all of are parts from vendors, most of the bigger stuff like engines, tranny's and axles were done on a "just in time" delivery system. Everyday would have the warehouse getting parts for the next days build schedule, the warehouse carried all of the smaller stuff, since we also shipped parts to dealers on a regular basis. Suspension, j-brackets, crossmembers and such were kitted outside, lots of stock in various areas around the outside of the plant. Now when I was working at engine prep, part of the job was to put oil pan heaters into the pan, just unscrew one plug, insert heater, hook up harness and your done. Each of the motors that were built were run on their own dyno to make sure that the customer was getting the right horsepower and torque. This was all done at the manufacturers facility, we just bolted them in...part of their job was to drain the break-in oil from each motor...sometimes that DID not happen!!! I had the pleasure of having more than one oil bath, these motors were resting on a two piece rack for safety while being suspended by the overhead bridge crane...oil pan was roughly 5 feet of the ground. And let me tell you...that stuff comes out freakin fast when ya pop open the pan!!! The OEM's must have added a type of dye to it, I remember that it always had a pinkish hue to it...more so in the Cat motors.
Since we had no control of what the vendor sent us, we had to rely on that vendor building it right...which means their employees had to do the job properly, and if you have ever seen a big manufacturing operation like this, then you know that is not always possible. I was working in Final one weekend, I believe I was doing a leak test on the rear suspension, had my ear plugs in due to the impacts guns all around me. A couple bays over was the dyno, this was a chassis dyno that every truck went on, inspectors would run it through the gears, while checking mirrors mounted all over the place to see that all the lights would be working. So this truck is on the rollers, I can hear it even though I have the ear plugs in, then I hear a loud bang!! I look around the area...don't see anything unusual...till I see the dyno operator come around the corner...as he is walking by me I stop him and ask if something had happened. He asks if I heard anything, to which I reply the loud bang...seems a rear end locked up on him...ON THE DYNO!!!! A tow job off the rollers, and a call to the vendor for a replacement diff...not the first time it happened...human error? bad parts? Who knows for certain...but luckily all that got damaged was the rearend. One heck of a way to wake yourself up while working in the dyno...don't know if the operator needed a drink or a change of underwear!!!

I know....boxes won't pack themselves!!!

later...

#32 lapazleo

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 08:06 AM

Cool !

#33 dieseldog1970

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 01:05 PM

Western Star had a contract to build light military trucks for the Canadian Military, these were a 2 1/2 ton truck with parts supplied from various countries. They set up a section of the plant just for the 2200(?) trucks we needed to build, same chassis and cab, but the rear of the truck had multiple configurations (troop transport/medical/communications etc.). We did build some for UN forces, one of two colour choices...olive drab and white! Either one could be upfitted with armour throughout the cab, but the truck did lose 800 lbs. of carrying capacity. Management thought we could market this truck to civilians once we completed the contract, Mr. Peabody had one painted up in a really sharp burgundy, and the guys re-did the interior so that it was not so spartan, he used this when ever he was in town during the winter for trips to the ski hill. The idea never really took of, but they were still looking at getting into the market, so much that a section of the warehouse was set up and the crew went to work...there were only about 5 guys involved. These guys had the pleasure of a non-rushed build, trying out different combinations to see if they could make a running prototype. What they did end up was basically a "rat rod"...but DIESEL baby!!!! The cab was one of the left over Military cabs, not sure if they used that frame or built a new one? I believe that it had a small Cat...3126? 3306?, they used a transmission from a front end loader, single rear wheels, shorty exhaust right off the engine, no hood-just a radiator, and nothing on the rear deck. They had a WHOLE LOTTA fun running it around the yard...this thing would light up the tires with no problem what so ever!!! Not sure what happened to it when the plant shut down, they might have pulled it apart or just scrapped it. The section of the warehouse that they used had 12 foot walls and zero admittance except for authorized employees, although if you were in the warehouse, we could always just use the order-pickers or swing-reaches to raise ourselves up to see what was going on!

more soon....

#34 lapazleo

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 07:26 AM

Neat !

#35 dieseldog1970

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 04:26 AM

So I am going to step out of the plant...a couple of stories involving co-workers and "life outside the line".
My co-worker Mike decided to have a invite only party at his cabin above Peachland, about an hours drive, this way no one would think of driving back while under the influence. First year was around 25 people, small little ghetto blaster on the deck for tunes, simple and easy, Mike supplied the meat and potatoes for dinner, everyone else brought salads and such. After 7 years of parties, the cabin was sold, but it went from that simple radio...to TWO generators, christmas lights strung thru the trees, a 5 disc 400 watt stereo with speakers up high, a record high of 75 people for dinner, and many co-workers booking holidays around this date to help set up and prepare. The empty "wobbly-pop" haul was usually good for 175-200 dollars!!!!
I arranged a day of paintball for a group of guys, nothing like getting to shoot your co-workers in the backside to strengthen friendships!!! I did this on a Sunday, though at least if the guys wanted to go out on Friday, they could still make it for paintball. A great time, would recommend it to anyone looking for a day with your buds, unfortunately, some of my buds ended up getting hurt! I had more than one foreman come up to me the following monday and chew me out cause they had guys missing on their line due to injurys...I just had to say that I was there too, and I made it to work!!! LOL
The company put a Christmas party on every year, bring the signifigant other, dance, eat, and drink...prizes donated by the many vendors. One of the line foreman had a wee bit too much to drink, decided to have a little nap...layed his head on the table and lights out. One of the ladies who worked in the warehouse and a close friend of his, decided to draw a "smiley face" on TOP of his shiny bald head with a nice big, black permanent marker!!!! She would have got away with it too, except in her slightly drunken state...SIGNED her artwork!!!! He came to work on Monday with his head bright shiny red...don't know what he used to get the ink off...turpentine? Palm sander?? I know that he was ticked right off, but had no one to blame but himself for ending up in that situation!! Some of the ladies that worked in the office were very easy on the eyes...these parties were great for them showing up looking STUNNING.....a good topic for the following Monday at work!!!!

more packing.....more to come!

#36 camaroman

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 06:00 AM

Pass the Popcorn, Please!

#37 dieseldog1970

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:56 PM

With all the people you worked with on a daily basis, became good friends with many of them, and when one of your buds had a birthday...there had to be some sort of practical jokes!!
When my buddy Mike (cabin party dude) had his one b-day, the lead hand from frame station took all of his lunch out of his lunch box and proceeded to fill it with about 40 pounds of screw, nuts, bolts, washers and brackets!!! But Mike did get him back, took his lunch box, emptied it, and took it over to lube station. He filled the box half full of water, layed a sheet of paper towel on the bench, "created" a 12 inch long log of axle grease, and rolled it OFF the paper towel and INTO the lunch kit. Lead hand came in, seen all his lunch on top of his box, thought about a bunch of nuts and bolts inside...was not expecting a floating log of grease!!! LOL, He told me he ran it through the dishwaher 4 times and ended up throwing the box out!!! :lol:
Had a young guy in my area who liked to play games, pulling different stuff on my co-workers, who grew VERY tired of his immature games. He would bring his lunch in an old school aluminium box and place it on top of the kitting trailer (metal frame with plywood shelves). This joker had his box screwed down a few times, then really ticked off one of my buddies...who ran roughly 40 screws through the box into the shelf, and took a die grinder and ground off all the phillips heads so it was pretty well impossible to remove without destroying it!!! Joker still did not clue in....another buddy took his margarine tub full of white rice outside during the winter, and packed it full of snow that had been kicked up by passing forklifts...looked like soya sauce...but it wasn't!!!! IIRC, I believe that this joker also got an EXLAX birthday cake made for him on his 21 birthday...heard his evening plans were kinda limited....!!!! ;)
Management was forever trying to make things better...sometimes it failed quite miserably! They thought that engine line and west line should stagger the lunch breaks, first time they did this, we are still working while they are trying to eat with all of OUR impacts and radios going. So we sit down to eat our lunch, one of the guys from engineline decides to make sure that the yoke is secure on the transmission...he grabs the 1 INCH impact and proceeds to rattle it for about 25 minutes...I don't think it ever moved, but man was that loud without earplugs!!! :blink: Our leadhand had a good chat with the foreman and managment and that changed everything back the way it originally was!!! For some reason, engine line could get away with stuff like that...they definately stuck together as a group.
We had one guy who would install batteries, strange guy, threw them up on his shoulder and carried them instead of wheeling battery cart over...we sprayed his shoulder with soapy water when he wasn't looking and pointed it out to him while he was holding the battery...this guy RAN full tilt into the washroom, and jumped into the shower...clothes, workboots, EVERYTHING!!! Yup, got a real good chat from our foreman for that one.....luckily no one was hurt OR fired!!!
Zap straps were good for tying your co-workerss carts, lunch boxes or anything you could think of to chassis's pinned to the line...those carts made for one heckuva a noise when they toppled over and spilt everything out...I was on both the giving and receiving end of that one a few times!!

still more....

#38 dieseldog1970

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 04:32 AM

There was another thread on here with pics of a cab over Star, including brochure photos, back in the late 90's,I went on a road trip down to California with a buddy hauling glass. I remember seeing one these trucks and taking pictures of it (ex has ALL my old photos... :angry: ) somewhere in Oregon. I was all over this like "white on rice" and Monday morning I was asking questions at work about this with my leadhand who had been working there for about 16 years. These cabovers were NEVER built in the Canadian factory in Kelowna, even before my leadhands time. I do not know how many were actually built, maybe someone else has that info? White must have taken their cabover, changed a few things and added the Western Star nameplates...at the time did WST already have that reputation that made them so famous...did White feel they could take more of the sales market if they had a premium cabover to sell??? I have no answers...that was waaayyyy before my time in the plant!!!

Over the years, we had some employees come through the plant that did not last...mostly due to their own fault! Dwayne started in West line North installing batteries, his old little league coach got him a job there. Nice enough guy, just young and dumb (like most of us at that age!), he eventually took over doing propshaft install. They built up this custom creeper that was about 8 inches off the ground and had tool compartments on each side, the foam padding on it was just as thick...a very comfy creeper to work off of. So Dwayne is young, likes to have fun, party and what not....lives at home with his parents still...goes out and has some fun. He is underneath the chassis, finishes the install, just decides to wait for the chassis to get moved......ZZZZZZZZZ......nods off for a few minutes, another co-worker wakes him up. He was told to do something to wake himself up, cold water...whatever....this does not help! He nods off AGAIN.....this time he gets busted by the foreman....kinda hard to not notice he is sleeping when the chassis gets moved and he is off in la-la land without a clue! :lol: His days at the plant were finished...not the type of place to take naps...I ran into him a couple years after that day...he always regretted screwing up a good job like that one.

Had some young lady who started in our area, nice....easy on the eyes....hard worker.....good sense of humour. She always wanted to work at the plant, from a young age, that was her goal. Even had her own coveralls with WST patches sewn on....I think she only lasted a year??? Got hurt working, was off on compensation....and ended up losing her job because she was photographed washing Class 8 trucks with a "upper shoulder" injury that prevented her from lifting her arms above shoulder height!!! I guess some people are lazy and don't want to work....assembly line work can be pretty boring...but to screw up a good paying job???? I don't get it....... :huh:

A material handler was let go for sleeping on the job during nighthift....seems his job was to load the kitting cart with the matteresses for the sleepers in the next days build....he made himself a little nest up high where no one could see him, using the matteresses and empty cardboard boxes....but he too got caught....and was sent packing!

more still.....

#39 lapazleo

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 07:45 AM

Info the WS coe is scarce it's like it never existed. Anyway pass the popcorn.

#40 dieseldog1970

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 06:14 AM

There is a well built model on Tim's site of a Pete hauling racks of rims/tires, this is the same system they used at WST to deliver them to the line. They would bring them to tire station double stacked with a forklift, each rack had 5 tires, if the truck was a tri-drive or something custom...more trips and more tires. Dennis was working in the warehouse, and this was his area of the plant to maintain, he comes up at lunch to tell us his story of the day. While bringing in a set of tires, a newbie engineer decides to dart across from west line to cabco for whatever reason...Dennis had to hit the brakes, which caused the top set of tires....to decide to jump ship...they come outta the rack and go bouncing down the access lane before crashing into immovable objects on both sides!!! There were carts tipped over, employees scrambling to get out of the way, garbage from cans spread all over the floor!!! A few choice words and one engineer in trouble with his boss....this was a constant problem at the plant. The warehouse even had to paint designated walkways for people out in the yard so they would not become pavement pizza with all the forklift traffic! There was one lady who worked at tire staion, she might have been around 98 pounds....okay....100 with work boots on, she figured that if they added another 10 feet to the station, she would be able to do BOTH side of the truck by herself!! The station had a air powered hoist with rollers on the bottom, lift the tire, rotate to the bolt pattern and install. The impact gun was a dual unit, tightening and setting torque at the same time.

I was kitting front axle at the time, and they gave me an extra job of bringing rear axles from the welding shop (they would install the various brackets for the different suspensions configurations) to heavy build (this was a separate area from frame station - they would build up all the severe duty/RHD/twin steer and off road frames). I would bring them a rear end on a dolley and take the empty one back to be reloaded, to cut down on time, the company decided to build a platform for me to load two axles/dolleys at a time. This worked out well when we actually found a forklift that could carry all that weight, the first two were "kinda" light on the rear end...ever try to steer a forklift when your rear steer tires were 6 inches of the ground??? :blink: The company ended up renting a BIG diesel forklift to do the job...dual drive axle on the front, 30,000 lbs. of lift and a 20 foot reach with the forks...kinda overkill....but that enclosed and heated cab was really nice in the winter!! Maintenance had to adjust the doors so I could get this rig into the shop...but they did not do a very good job....I took out the bottom panel of the door with the top of the mast trying to slowly creep inside with a load. Management decided the extra cost of renting this thing was not worth all the extra effort and we ended up going back to the old system with making multiple trips with single dolleys. At least the company was always ready to listen to the employees and try out different things to make our jobs easier...even if they did not work out in the end!!! At one point, they had a program that if an employee came up with an idea that actually worked on the line (the hoist for the tires at tire station is one of these), they paid that employee for the idea!!!! B)


more packing for me....