I have written before ago about the Inks Dam Project that we did a few years ago. Madeline reminded me of the story or stories of me and the crane. All of my guys that worked on that job made sure that Madeline was kept up to date with the happenings out on that project, when it came to me and the crane, Big Jim Palmer being the main one. He made a trip by the office in Bertram as often as possible to keep her nervous. She, being in the office all the time and never coming to the job, must have thought that any day may be my last.
This was an unusual project with my complexities. We had to construct a 36″ gravity flow pipeline that went through the side of the dam and zigzagging over the huge granite rocks and extended down a few thousand feet to the US Fish Hatchery. This allowed them to have fresh water without pumping it to raise the fish.
The rock formations that are below the dam consist of massive domes of granite, all shoved together. You couldn’t see far enough to find a level spot on that project. The only way to construct that line above ground was with a crane.
Crane operators are a very meticulous breed. They have to be. Everything has to be exactly so-so before they will make a lift. There usually are no second chances once a crane starts to fall over. A rough terrain crane by nature are very top heavy. In the down and tucked away position everything is still up high.
Finding a crane operator to come out to that site and put a machine in the situations that were required, was going to be impossible. The only solution was having someone within the ranks of the company to run it. We don’t have any prima donna operators in our company. Everyone pretty well does everything. Only problem we didn’t have a crane operator within the ranks. This wasn’t where you wanted to break someone in either. I was it. The only one that had crane experience.
We didn’t own a crane, because our work seldom ever calls for the need. We leased one. Because it isn’t within our normal scope of equipment usage, we finally obtained coverage through Lloyds of London. The high risk insurance people of the world.
I knew what the limitations were and took the necessary precautions, but every move, every foot that machine moved appeared that it would be at the bottom of Lake LBJ in minute. Many times the guys, mostly lead by Big Jim would run and scurry out of the way in fear of being crushed to death.
(This is the same type of crane)
The job was completed without ever an incident. I was in control at all times, but I can see where someone on the ground may have been concerned.
I was happy the day we set our final pipe in place and were able to send the crane back to its home. If I had turned that machine over I would have been dead or embarrassed. Neither was an option.
Below will give some idea of what the terrain looked like.