Draglines make ‘once in a lifetime' journey
By Annette Tait
When cars line up on a rural North Dakota road, it’s usually behind slow-moving farm equipment or a rancher moving livestock. Last week, the vehicles lined up on 37th Avenue SW south of Highway 25 were pulled to the side of the road, their drivers and passengers patiently waiting to see a once-in-a-lifetime event – BNI Coal’s Bucyrus 8200 dragline, nicknamed “Liberty,” being transported on a self-propelled modular transporter along the roughly eight-mile journey to its new work site about four miles south of the Milton R. Young Station.
A smaller dragline, “Big Sandy,” completed the same trek earlier in February and was already at work in the new mining area.
BNI retiree Allen Karlberg and his wife, Thelma, patiently watched Liberty’s slow but steady progress as it approached the 37th Avenue SW crossing.
“I guess old time’s sake, after 42 years with BNI Coal, I just had to come.” Karlberg said. “I saw that dragline being built and, well I guess I seen the other two also. I just had to come and wish it farewell.”
Berger, Karlberg, and others who operate or work near the draglines are used to seeing them move under their own power, “walking” on camshaft and gear-driven “shoes” that literally move the dragline one step at a time. For this move, BNI determined that moving the two draglines using transport vehicles would eliminate excess wear and tear caused by walking the draglines over the extended distance, as well as reduce the time and road construction work needed to accommodate the huge equipment.
“It is a unique and creative solution to move the dragline on a trailer. It’s the first time it’s been done in North Dakota,” BNI Coal General Manager Wade Boeshans said. “I really appreciate our team and their willingness to contemplate unique solutions and navigate the special needs that come with them -- their ability to do that and execute very, very well.”
BNI contracted with Mammoet, a Dutch company with U.S. headquarters in Texas, which has a proven history of successfully transporting heavy machinery. Components began arriving at BNI early in February, with around 60 semi-trailer loads needed to bring in the wheels, axles, jacks, engines, and lifting equipment needed to prepare the draglines for their eight-mile treks via transport vehicles.
Axles and hydraulically-driven wheels were assembled to form trains, each of which was powered by a 600- horsepower engine. Moving the Liberty dragline required seven 65-foot wide transport trains with a total of 197 axles and 708 pneumatic tires. A series of 500-ton climbing jacks were placed around each dragline once the walking shoes were removed from each side; the draglines were then lifted six to eight inches so the transporters could be placed underneath.
Retired BNI employee Yatsin Berger was among the crowd gathered to watch Liberty travel along the haul road and cross 37th Avenue SW.
“I ran this dragline until I retired in 2006, so I was kind of interested to see it moving on the wheels,” Berger said. “They don’t move like that very often – I’ve never seen it before.”