Breathing new life into used gear

By: Randall Johnston

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Tilly’s Crawler Parts Toowoomba prides itself on giving young and older members of the team a chance to work on a huge variety of rewarding refurbishment jobs

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Owner Andrew Tilly has a keen eye for secondhand machines with resale potential, and once Tilly’s purchases one of these promising ‘fixer-uppers’, the main job of the refurbishment falls to the apprentice mechanics — with expert guidance and supervision by a senior technician.

"The experience they get from this process, and working on everything from dozers to excavators, really helps them to get familiar with the different machines," Tilly’s general manager Lance Hinrichsen explains.

"In the case of a dozer, it might need substantial work, even down to having the tracks replaced.

"It’s often not until the team starts working on them that we gain a real understanding of the work required to bring the machine up to our high resale standard."

When Earthmovers & Excavators magazine visited Tilly’s, the young full-time apprentice mechanics were working their magic on a Cat D7R dozer. With training provided by TAFE Queensland Toowoomba campus, these apprentices are working through qualifications ranging from Cert II to Cert IV.

Anyone who knows their dozers has respect for the D7, but this old girl needed more than a lick of paint and a thorough greasing!

With just over 18,000 operating hours on the clock, the big dozer also needed an all-new undercarriage; new sweeps and a new multishank ripper group with three tynes.

The machine was then sandblasted and many would say businesses have a responsibility to provide training and develop the skills and natural talents of young people in the community.

Every machine we work on is a little bit different to the last one, so I really enjoy it.

One of the Tilly’s apprentices who has worked tirelessly to breathe new life into this D7 and numerous other machines is 21-year-old local Callum Leicht.

"I’ve done quite a few dozers now, mostly Caterpillars ranging from D4s to D8s," he says.

"Dozers are what we are known for, but we do all sorts of restoration jobs really."

The crew at Tilly’s will generally restore something within three weeks of it arriving on site, but the turnaround always depends on how much work each machine requires.

"We replaced all the rollers and the whole undercarriage on this D7, and that’sprobably what took us the most time," Leicht says.

"I learn a lot from these bigger, more complex jobs. Every machine we work on is a little bit different to the last one, so I really enjoy it.

"I’ve learned so much over the last 12 months from doing these different restoration jobs.

"I did an engine overhaul on a Caterpillar 140K grader a while back and really enjoyed working on that."

The experience that Callum has gained in his short time at Tilly’s has been life changing for him.

"I’ve been here for about 18 months now and I’ve been signed off from TAFE (as a qualified apprentice mechanic) for two years," he says.

"I live about 30 minutes north of Toowoomba and I was doing a lot of farm work in different areas before I came here, but it was not ideal being away from my family for long periods of time, so I really wanted to find work locally."

While these jobs represent only a small part of what the hard-working team at Tilly’s Crawler Parts do, this is a story that really does show the heart of the family-run organisation and its deep commitment to giving young people living in the Toowoomba area a chance to develop their trade.

"With a combined total of more than 500 years of service in the 65-strong Tilly’s team, the longevity of the staff speaks volumes about the culture of this company," Hinrichsen explains.


The Tilly’s story

As an Australian family-owned company with global reach, Tilly’s stock over 43,000 new and 15,000 second-hand parts for earthmoving machinery. 

The company is constantly sourcing quality used machinery, from dozers to excavators, providing a cost-effective alternative to buying new machines.
With a reputation for having the right part, at the right price, right now, a large selection of dismantled machines on site means the team can locate that hard-to-find part.
An on-site workshop and experienced mechanics also specialise in construction machinery repairs.
The Tilly’s Crawler Parts story started in 1924 when Richard Tilly imported one of the first-ever crawler tractors into Australia. The business is now run by Richard’s grandson Andrew Tilly.


Tilly’s apprentices:

  • Cert II Automotive Air Conditioning: Terry Du Rietz, Cameron Poole
  • Cert III Automotive Air Conditioning: Mark Schneider
  • Cert III Engineering Mechanical MEM30205: Alister Head, Mark Schneider, Brian Jeans, Cameron Anderson, Josh Daley, Jonathon Hicks, Owen Cherry
  • Cert III Engineering Welding & Machining MEM30205: Ray Anderson, Owen Cherry, Jonathon Hicks, Ben Langton, Dave Drewett, Callum Leicht, Josh Daley, Brian Jeans
  • Cert IV Engineering MEM40105: Alister Head, Mark Schneider, Dave Drewett, Ben Langton, Callum Leicht AUR 30316 Auto Electrical: Mark Schneider, Terry Du Rietz, Cameron Poole


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