Stanford Collider

by kfrego

In 1962 the longest, straightest, structure in the world was built at Stanford University in Northern California. The ten thousand foot long structure was the home of a linear accelerator for physics research. The linear accelerator smashed atoms against a target for research. In the early 1980’s Stanford was expanding the facility by adding a light bulb shaped two mile tunnel to the original structure. The new linear accelerator to be installed in the tunnel would have the capability of colliding the atomic particles with each other. The new capability would allow expansion of the research accomplished by the existing accelerator. Gates and Fox was awarded the tunnel excavation contract.

My first association with the project came about because of an omission in the contract estimate. The stem portions of the light bulb shaped tunnel had to intersect with the existing accelerator structure at a forty five degree angle, one on each side. The four foot thick concrete structure required saw cutting at forty five degrees for the new tunnel intersections. We had to saw cut the top and bottom of the openings along with the sides. All of the work was required to be done from inside the existing structure. My assignment was to develop a work plan, get subcontractors, and cut the openings. Cost was critical because the project bid did not have any budget for the work. I worked out of the Loomis office and made sight visits to Stanford as required. One of the last conversations I had with Kirk Fox was while working on submittal drawings in Loomis. He was fighting cancer, had sold the company, and would come into the office when possible. When he found out what I was working on his comment was, “When I was around we always bid and budgeted these activities before we bid the job , not after we got the contract.” He was right.

Walking into the linear accelerator structure was like living in star wars. Huge panels of blinking lights, breakers, cables, and all the bits and pieces to magnetically propel the atoms through the vacuum of the accelerator tube. Looking down the long structure was like looking into infinity. Before our work began on the wall openings the operators of the accelerator would remove everything, except the overhead crane which would be used for our work. Making the cuts through the walls was an interesting piece of work. Our contractor mounted track frames on the walls for the large hydraulic powered saws. Each cut was started with small diamond blades and blade sizes were increased all the way up to six foot diameter to obtain finished depth. The noise was deafening when the saws were operating in the narrow confines of the concrete structure.

The Stanford linear accelerator had a distinction………….largest electricity consumer in the San Francisco/San Jose bay area.