Bear Swamp: Jumping Oiler
Bear Swamp was a fun place to work. My crew averaged seventy two hours a week and never complained. The work was challenging, interesting, and very well managed. The crew did a lot of work out of crane baskets as the excavations were completed. One of my great adventures was a result of some rock bolts which required a 90 ton crane with 200 feet of boom to reach the installation area. We rock bolted all the time, but these rock bolts were for safety in an area not designed for large crane access. The only way to do the work was to take the 90 ton truck crane up a steep access road. The access road went to a new road under construction a couple hundred feet above our normal work area. The sixteen percent grade for several hundred feet far exceeded the grade recommendations of the manufacturer of the crane. After several meetings a plan was in place to get the crane up the grade. The only persons participating in the actual move would be myself, two of my crew members, the crane operator, the crane oiler, and two bulldozer operators.
We waited until 9am to allow everybody a chance to get what they needed before closing the road for the crane move. We held a very detailed meeting with everybody involved. The crane was mounted on a huge truck frame which was driven by the oiler. The crane weighed 130,000 pounds, was 11 feet wide, 46 feet long, and had 200 feet of boom installed. The crane operator would remain in the crane cab for repositioning the crane as needed. We rigged a D-8 bulldozer (80,000 pounds) to the tow shackles on the front bumper of the crane with very short cables. A D-7 bulldozer (59,0000 lbs) would follow within a couple feet behind the crane as a precaution. While we were rigging up for the move a grader smoothed the hill. Prior to moving the crane everybody on the job came to take a look. We hadn’t moved ten feet and their was no one in site anywhere.
We crawled up the hill with the D-8 keeping a small amount of tension on the crane. It was slow and everything went smooth. At the top of the hill the grade transitioned onto the flat road used to travel the area. The D-8 slowly traversed the transition grade. As the tracks broke over to the new flat grade it made the rear of the dozer come up. When the dozer cables went up they lifted the front of the crane which was still on a steep grade. The dozer tracks were sitting flat on the ground while the front of the crane rocked gently up and down. When the crane rocked up it would lift the rear of the D-8 about three feet. The oiler locked the brakes, threw open his door, jumped six feet to the ground, took off running , and never looked back. The crane sat there gently rocking up and down with an empty truck cab. It took me several hundred feet to catch the oiler and tackle him. A half hour later we coaxed him into the cab so we could get onto the top road with the crane.
The oiler didn’t enjoy the ride……………………………and we didn’t tell him he had to drive back down the hill in a couple weeks.