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From Farms to Condos, Conn. Firm Comes Full Circle

Wed January 10, 2007 - Northeast Edition
CEG



“One thing leads to another” is a truism that certainly applies to Winthrop Benjamin and his company W.W. Benjamin Co. located in Preston, Conn.

Benjamin started his company in 1955 when the Department of Agriculture started a program for Connecticut landowners, who were primarily farmers, to make improvements to their property. He was originally hired to operate heavy machinery for these land-improving projects.

In those days, there was a lot of work to be done and most of it involved clearing and improving fields. Farmers were paid $15 per acre to improve the look and quality of their land. The state put one piece of machinery in each county of the state to get the job done.

After a few years of doing that type of work, Benjamin purchased his own dozer and backhoe and started to do private work in the late 1950s. One of his earliest projects was harvesting peat moss from area bogs to supply local nurseries. Over time, Benjamin developed a reputation for doing the job right the first time, which increased his base of repeat business.

In time his son, Wayne, joined the company and as the business grew so did their equipment size and inventory. In 1986, Benjamin purchased a Cat 215 excavator; then in 1988, a Cat EL200B hydraulic excavator joined the fleet. The company added a Cat 320DL excavator in 2000.

Recently Benjamin purchased his fourth Caterpillar excavator, a 320CL. He ordered the machine specially equipped to meet his needs, which held up the order a little, but according to Benjamin, “It was worth the wait.”

Benjamin orders all his excavators with narrow pads, which really is not very common today. He uses the narrow pads because much of his work is on rocky soil and he believes the machine operates better equipped this way. He also believes that narrow paths allow the excavator to steer better and adds life to the pin, bushings and final drive.

Also this year, W.W. Benjamin took ownership of a Cat 277 track loader.

“This is the ultimate machine for an old feller like me,” said Winthrop. “The loader performs like a Rolls Royce. The tracks allow me to work across soft ground with minimal surface damage. It also has the capability of pushing dirt when necessary and the loader travels from point A to point B very quickly.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ultimate machine. The prototypes of these machines were originally designed to pull groomers up and down ski slopes. Technology was field tested in the snowy applications for years and it really paid off in the trouble-free operation I receive from my Cat 277. In our new Cat 320CL, you can feel the improvements in the overall quality of the machine, from the strength of the mechanical items to the comfort of the cab. The increased visibility inside the cab is really noticeable,” he said.

Wayne, who does the majority of the excavating, is in step with his father in preferring the Cat machines that they operate.

“I really appreciate the smoothness of the stick operation of our new Cat machines. Having owned Caterpillars over the last 20 years or so, we have really seen the evolution of the product. Having started out with the small Cat 215, I really appreciate the digging power of our new 320,” said Wayne.

“We purchase our Caterpillar machines from H.O. Penn Machinery and they are second to none. They nearly always have any parts we may need in stock. On the rare occasion that they don’t, they have the part in the next day. Caterpillar machines give my son and me tremendous power, durability and quality. The Cat machines are second to none,” explained Winthrop.

Steve Noss, who has been with H.O. Penn since 1985, is W.W. Benjamin’s sales representative in Newington, Conn. and according to Winthrop, “Steve performs for our company very well. He has a good knowledge of the Caterpillar product offering and works hard to get the deal done for us.”

Many of the farms that W.W. Benjamin worked on more than 50 years ago are long gone. Today, most of the agricultural land has been developed for housing, which brings Winthrop back to the land he worked on half a century ago.

Currently W.W. Benjamin serves southeastern Connecticut specializing in excavation and conservation work including drainage, tiling, cleanouts, forest trails and roads, septic systems and more. However, Winthrop has a special fondness for pond construction. With a fleet of Caterpillar equipment, the company can take on large projects such as building ponds as large as 10 acres. CEG