PCM was one of the first companies in this industry to promote the value of training. Since L&SI routinely covers news of its well-established Motor Schools, we thought it high time we actually sent someone to take a closer look. Jacqueline Molloy volunteered . . .

I must confess to not having prior intimate knowledge of Columbus McKinnon hoists, but I now feel confident that should I ever have the need to strip and rebuild one, I would not disappoint the training staff from PCM!

29 of us gathered at PCM’s premises for the start of the two-day intensive course aimed at unravelling the mysteries of CM Lodestars. The popularity of the course, which has been running since 1993, is such that some attendees had flown in from Dublin and Portugal to take part. A cross-section of the industry was represented, including freelancers and representatives from sound, lighting and rigging companies. It was also good to see a group of students from Welsh College, accompanied by their lighting lecturer, all keen to gain a working knowledge of Lodestar motors, several of which the college owns.

After some much-needed caffeine, we were shepherded into the classroom-style space that was to be our home for the next two days. We got to work in pairs, which was a great way for breaking the ice and getting to know our fellow participants. It was also useful for moral support when trying to recall the exact sequence in which the motor needed to be rebuilt!It was also reassuring to have the smiling faces of previous participants gazing encouragingly upon us from the official group photos that lined the walls. The flying ducks and Elvis clock enhanced the d├ęcor and made it an oddly comforting space in which to spend two days with hands deep inside the mechanics of Lodestar motors.

PCM managing director John Jones welcomed us to the course and we were soon underway with some theory on basic electricity and how to operate a Lodestar. It was then into the messy area of stripping our hoist whilst identifying each part. PCM’s Chris Jolley and Geoff Cromwell talked us through this part and their clear instructions made it possible even for the novices amongst us. I was lucky to be partnered with Paul Young from James Thomas Engineering who devised a method of laying all the components on our bench in an orderly and logical fashion, making the motor relatively easy to reassemble. Each table had a set of around six tools in a zip lock bag, which were all we needed to complete the task at hand. Advice was given along the way on how to properly maintain various components and also how to troubleshoot. This informal style of teaching was ideal for those who had questions to ask and there was plenty of time and encouragement to give feedback and have queries answered.

The backgrounds of group members were varied, with some responsible for equipment maintenance within their organisations, while others were hands-on users who wanted further knowledge of the motors for the purpose of troubleshooting. Others worked as project managers or designed installations and were keen to fully understand the capabilities of the CM Lodestars. Chris and Geoff, with vast amounts of experience between them, were able to satisfy queries on a variety of issues concerning the motors, which made for interesting listening and presented an opportunity to pick up new information.

After we had completely stripped our hoists we were issued with wiring diagrams before the task of reassembling was attempted. Fortunately, there had been an excellent lunch to see us through the arduous task of getting everythign back in its place. It was interesting to note that it had all seemed so straightforward in the morning, but now, several hours later, those parts that had looked familiar, drew a blank. None of the teams managed the task in 15 minutes, but everyone had a working hoist within a couple of hours.

At the end of day one, we were rewarded with a great night out,

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