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The Strangest Loads Ever Moved

Author: Stuart Edge
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You might think that an abnormal load simply means trying to get a flatpack wardrobe into your Mini. But in fact over the years man has moved some very large and very strange objects around, often requiring special equipment to do the job. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Man Made Loads

In 2010 a 770 tonne steam turbine was moved from the port of Houston, Texas to a power plant in Riesel. It covered 250 miles at a speed of only 10 miles a day.

One of the biggest loads moved in the UK recently was in early 2013 and comprised parts for a wind turbine in Essex. At 44 metres long and weighing 43 tonnes each the blades required road layouts to be changed and signs to be taken down along the route in order to accommodate the lorries.

The biggest single load ever in the UK was a refrigeration unit for Shell’s refinery at Stanlow in the late 1980s. This weighed a massive 1,200 tonnes and was carried on a trailer with 26 axles, each having 16 wheels. Planning the move took two years and involved removing 131 street lamps, re-routing an overhead power line and constructing two special motorway crossings.

The Saturn V rockets which carried men to the moon were 110 metres tall and weighed 2,812 tonnes. They were moved from the assembly building the 3.5 miles to the launchpad on special transporters running on tank-style tracks. Two of the transporters were built, costing $7 million each in the 1960s. The road they ran on had a special coating in order to reduce friction. The transporters were so effective that they remained in service for the Space Shuttle.

The 4 storey tall Montgomery Hotel in San Jose was built in 1911. When plans for a new hotel on the site were passed in 1989 officials decided to move the old building instead of demolishing it. Weighing around 4,350 tonnes, the building was jacked up so that wheeled trailers could be slid underneath and shifted some 56 metres to its new site.

Even though the Montgomery was big it’s just edged out by an evaporator for a water desalination plant in Saudi Arabia. Weighing 4,440 tonnes it was moved to a new site using a trailer with 172 axles.

Getting Stoned

The Cape York Meteorite, weighing 31 tonnes, was moved from Greenland to a New York museum in 1894. This necessitated building a special railway in order to get it to the coast and load it onto a ship.

However, that’s small fry compared to the Tsunami Memorial which was moved from France to the Natural History Museum in London in 2011. Made of granite, weighing 117 tonnes and measuring 4 metres square this is reckoned to be the biggest single piece of stone to be moved in the UK since the building of Stonehenge. That gives you added respect for the people who moved the stones for that job without the aid of modern machinery.

Even that’s small though compared to the 308 tonne boulder moved from a California valley to the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Travelling at 10mph it took a week and a half to make the journey. It’s now part of a giant outdoor sculpture called “Levitated Mass” allowing people to walk under the boulder and view it from beneath.

You’ll have gathered from all this that moving large loads – whether they’re man made or lumps of rock – isn’t to be taken lightly. You can’t just get a roof rack - The authorities need to be notified and special arrangements need to be made when moving large loads so you really need to contact a specialist.

Stuart Edge is a freelance writer specialising in road transport. If you have a large load to move he recommends using a specialist European haulage service.

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