Transformer load

25 April 2008

At a height of 16 feet 6 inches (5 m) and measuring 33 by 13 feet (10 x 4 m), the transformer was set to be transported by rail but due to a clearance problem had to be trucked the final 45 miles (72 km), a route that required 60 hours of night-time travel.

“It wouldn't clear all the way into Newark,” says Jim Morgan, Bigge superintendent. “When it was on the rail car it even got sideswiped at one point. There was minimal damage but the width required that we would have to truck it from that point.”

Once on the beam and dolly trailer, the transportation height of the load was just under 20 feet (6 m), which did not pose too many problems, Morgan says. “We had to lift wires and spin traffic lights and raise up some cantilever light poles. There were quite a few obstacles, mainly in the smaller towns.”

In Union City the team was forced to add a day to the haul because the city officials would not allow them to travel through the town except at a certain time. “It was a real big deal,” says Morgan. “We had to stop outside the city limits and it forced us to use an extra day.”

Permitting was also a difficult effort, with permits needed from seven cities in addition to CalTrans. “We were required to get a state encroachment permit because we had to park the load on a state route, so that meant we had to count off a lane on the street,” Morgan explains.

Aside from the tractor and trailer, the load required five police escorts, one high pole vehicle at the front, a rear pilot car and support vehicles. Interestingly, instead of having bucket trucks in the convoy Bigge chose to use an extended reach forklift to push up wires and spin signal lights. “No one else does this,” says Morgan. “I kind of hate to let this secret out. The extended reach forklift toodled along behind. It worked great.”

At the site the transformer was put in place on a slab using a jack and skid system. “We used our 100 ton jacks to jack it up off the trailer,” Morgan explains. The crew placed crane mats on the ground in an effort to better distribute the transformer's weight and to avoid the muddy ground that it would be skidded across. A four- wheel drive extended reach forklift was used to place the mats and then the crew used steel rails and skid shoes to push it along.

“We put graphite on the shoes and rails to make it easier and we just leap frogged - pinning, unpinning, pinning, unpinning until we got it to the slab,” Morgan explains. “It took about four guys.” The transformer was skidded about 75 feet (23 m) to its installed destination.

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