No Go

by kfrego

The gravel road into the Gold Run mine was in excellent condition. The grades were fairly flat except for one long straight hill which dropped to the grade of the lower river bed. When we started demobilizing our equipment I would go to the site early in the morning, open the gates, and bring the equipment to the top of the hill for loading. Our truck driver Kieth would be an hour or so behind me. The tractor trailer with the lowboy could negotiate the hill empty, but not with a heavy load.

We had a two drill jumbo which was mounted on an off road mine truck chassis. The dump bed had been removed, the chassis shortened, and hydraulic drill booms welded to the rear chassis. The original truck cab was replaced by a small low profile operator platform on the front of the jumbo. After checking the fluids and warming up the engine I headed for the loading area at the top of the hill. The drill jumbo’s are heavy and designed for slow operation within the confines of a tunnel. They are long, slow, and cumbersome to drive outside of the tunnels. The jumbo headed up the hill slowly with the drills to the front and the cab to the rear for weight distribution.

About twenty feet from the top of the hill the engine raced and the hydraulic torque convertor went into neutral. The jumbo stopped momentarily as I jumped on the brake, then headed down the hill backwards, with no brakes. After feathering the throttle a few times the convertor was still not picking up oil. The jumbo was gaining speed fast and the steering was really sloppy as we headed down the hill backwards. There was no way to end this ride with a soft landing. I gently steered towards the high side of the road and jumped out of the cab on the low side of the road. The jumbo hit the ditch and bank while I was tumbling down the opposite side of the road. The operators cab was full of gravel from the bank, the engine was still running, and nothing was damaged. With the exception of a few gravel scrapes my egress had been very successful. Surprising, my first impulse after getting on my feet was to look around and see if anybody was watching. There wasn’t another person within a mile of the hill. When Kieth arrived the cab was cleaned of all the dirt. The 980 Cat loader and tow cables were hooked up to drag the jumbo up the hill.

It wasn’t that bad of a ride…….once the shaking stopped.