The 2003 SCRA Hauling Job of the Year, the challenge of moving a 27-foot mirror for the world’s most powerful telescope to the top of Mount Graham near Safford AZ through steep mountain roads with winding curves is featured in the exciting and informative video below.
Entitled “A Site Beyond Belief,” it is indeed an amazing feat to watch as technicians struggle to find the best way to move a $10 million, one of a kind, largest in the world telescope mirror up a 10,500-foot mountain peak in one piece through narrow 2-lane roads built in the 1930s. Destined for the Mount Graham International Observatory, heavy haulers have their work cut out for them in not just delivering this load, but delivering it in one piece!
Precision Heavy Haul, Inc. of Phoenix, AZ tackled this monster job, moving two large components from the Mirror Lab in the University of AZ in Tucson to the LBT enclosure at the top of Mount Graham, near Safford. The load included the mirror, and the mirror’s cell. The mirror is 27.5 feet in diameter, 3 feet thick, and weighs in at 18 tons, according to Precision Heavy Haul. The mirror was transported in a special box with over 280 pneumatic actuators to restrain and cushion it. The mirror and box combined are over 30 feet square and weigh 55 tons.
Due to the high value of the mirror and the complexities in reproducing it, the University constructed a dummy mirror with the same specifications as the original, requiring that all operations performed on the mirror must originally be performed on the dummy, testing the safety and efficiency of all procedures.
The trip was approximately 122 miles of interstate and highway to the base camp in Safford. The haulers left well before dawn, accompanied by 25 escort vehicles from various agencies that served as a rolling blockade down I10 and State Highway 191. The convoy averaged a speed of 45 mph.
Once the team arrived at the base camp, things really got interesting. Now they faced 29 miles of AZ Hwy 366, with challenging grades ranging from 5-12%, and numerous switchbacks and lateral slopes up to 22%. The team faced a total of 523 curves and switchbacks on this last 29-mile journey. A 9-axle trailer with load beams high enough for the load to clear roadside obstacles was utilized in this test run.
However, due to the narrowness of the road, with a bank on the right, and a canyon on the left, it was determined the safest way to transport the load was with it angled upright at 60-70 degrees. A European Platform Trailer was then determined to be the best choice for this difficult job. A 12-axle hopper was loaded with the mirror and box, and counterbalanced with 70,000 lbs. of weight to minimize the risk of tipping due to wind and other factors. A lower center of gravity and a limber support frame that allowed for some shifting was also designed to minimize tipping risk. A Kenworth tractor and Caterpillar 980 front-end loader powered the move, which ranged in speeds from less than 1 mph to 3-4 mph.
All of this amazing equipment performed as expected, and the actual job was completed on, or ahead of schedule with no unexpected complications, thanks to the expertise of Precision Heavy Haul.
Check out the video below, and SHARE this feat of skill with your friends.