The age-old backhoe that can turn on a six-pence

This backhoe from yesteryear is built around a Volvo-BM tractor; it’s fitted with an under-belly turntable – to enable it to rotate 360°.

Known as the R12, it was manufactured by Danish company Hydrema. This machine (below) was built in 1974 and weighs about 7.6t.

Some Hydrema construction equipment is used here in Ireland; readers may, for example, be familiar with the firm’s compact, articulated dump trucks.

Who or what is Hydrema?

Kjeld Werner Jensen – the founder of Hydrema – was born in 1930 and came from relatively humble origins in Denmark.

The young Kjeld was fascinated by all things mechanical and began an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. He took a correspondence course in which he studied engineering during the evenings.

He furthered his studies in the city of Odense. To make ends meet, he even took a job as a night porter at one of the city’s hotels.

Hydraulics know-how

After graduating as an engineer in mechanical engineering, he was employed at one of North Jutland’s biggest companies. Whilst there he built up a considerable knowledge in the field of hydraulics. At that time, hydraulics-related technology was in its infancy.

Later, he took over the running of a small factory which then grew considerably. It is this experience that propelled him to establish his own company – in a partnership – in 1959.

The company’s activities initially kicked off in a small workshop in Aalborg; the engineering firm was involved in planning district heating and in the manufacture of hydraulic excavating and loading machines.

Three years later, the production of earth-moving equipment was split from the rest of the company – and production was relocated to the current premises in Stoevring.

The ‘Phantom’ was the name given to the first excavating contraption; it was fitted to both new and second-hand tractors. In Denmark, it is often remarked that this is the machine that “replaced the hand-held shovel”.

In 1962, when the enterprise moved from Aalborg to its current location in Stoevring, the business had 15 employees. Two years later, it grew to 26.

Today, Hydrema is Denmark’s only manufacturer of “large” earth-moving machinery and equipment.

The business is still privately owned and, since 2000, has been managed by Jan Werner Jensen – the son of the founder.

Because Hydrema’s machines were based on hydraulics, the company’s name is – in fact – an abbreviation of the Danish phrase ‘HYDRauliske Entreprenor MAskiner’ (hydraulic earth-moving machinery).

It’s worth noting that the Irish agents are Philip P McCormack Plant (Co. Kildare) and Ballyward Plant Services (Co. Down).