At 2:00pm Sunday afternoon Miller Transport and Rigging truck drivers, Roger Berg, and William Ortman steered twin 500K+ pound rigs across Berryville’s Main Street railroad tracks in route to Loudoun County. Miller and Ortman were transporting two electrical transformers bound for the new Dominion Virginia Power substation just north of Purcellville, Virginia. Both loads, along with an entourage of police vehicles, bucket trucks and support teams, safely exited Clarke County at 3:40pm but not before causing a multi-mile backup of drivers attempting to travel eastbound on Route 7.
Observing only minor problems associated the commencement of transport operation, a crowd of Berryville pedestrians assembled to watch the operations experienced a frightening moment as an SUV driver, apparently confused by the crowd of onlookers and emergency vehicles, briefly stopped his vehicle on the train tracks as a freight train approached.
Virginia Department of Transportation’s, Jim Cline was the operation commander for the day-long effort. Cline and a team of more than 50 personnel, including Virginia State Police officers, Berryville and Clarke County officers, linemen, bucket truck teams and truck drivers, executed the operation with a professional demeanor that was both admirable and impressive.
“Let’s get this done as efficiently and as safely as possible,” Cline told his assembled team before the operation began. He also warned the teams of the possibility of encountering Purcellville protesters opposed to the construction of the new power lines.
“If people shout or do anything just be safe and ignore it,” Cline told the men.
Rig driver William Ortman said that although the power transformer on his truck was heavy at 200K pounds, he regularly hauled loads weighing in at over 300K pounds.
“It’s a challenge that isn’t an easy but we can handle it,” Ortman said.
Roger Berg, the driver of the larger lead truck said that his only concern was the many bridges between Berryville and Purcellville.
“These loads are so heavy that the truck is the only thing that can be on the bridge at one time” Berg cautioned. “By staying in the center of the road at a maximum speed five miles per hour and no gear changes we’ll be OK”.
Several Virginia State Police near the scene immediately began shouting for the driver to move the vehicle but the driver did not respond. One of the nearby troopers then ran onto the tracks to the stopped vehicle and slapped the SUV’s hood and waving his arm for the driver to move forward.
Surprisingly the driver instead backed the vehicle off of the tracks.
At 2:00pm, with freight traffic safely halted by a Norfolk Southern flagman, truckers Berg and Ortman rolled their rigs forward, one, then the other.
Berg’s load, the larger of the two at 17.5 feet high, 14 feet wide, 255K pounds and 220 feet in length, ran into difficulties immediately when the trailer could not be raised high enough to clear the railroad tracks. When it became clear that the problem could not be corrected, Berg did the only thing possible; He placed his tractor in creeper gear and dragged the trailer bottom across the steel.
Although Berg’s rig left some unsightly marks on the road, damage appeared minimal.
Ortman’s load, lighter at only 200K pounds and slightly narrower, had no difficulties crossing the tracks. Both truck trailers were equipped with steering apparatus that allowed assistants stationed on the front and rear of each trailer to assist the driver during turns.
Berryville residents who turned out to watch the operation appeared pleased by what they witnessed with many smiles as the two vehicles began to move north out of town.
Dev Morrison and his dog stopped to watch on his return from a walk downtown.
“That was awesome!” Morrison said.
Laura Farris of Berryville and a friend stood nearby watching as Laura’s father, Jeffrey, worked 40 feet overhead lifting a power line safely out of the path of the oversized load.
“My dad’s worked for the power company for 35 years and I’ve never seen what he does” Laura said. Asked if she was proud of her dad she replied “Oh yeah! Seeing this is pretty cool for me.”
After the two rigs had safely passed under the electric line that Jeffrey Farris had elevated he glanced down at his daughter and smiled. Laura smiled back as she looked up to her dad overhead.
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