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End of line for made in China transformer

411-ton transformer is hauled on Conway Scenic RR

June 24, 2009
WHITEFIELD — A $9 million two-section electrical transformer that was built in China for Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) made a nine-hour, 41-mile freight run on Saturday, beginning at the Hazen siding in Whitefield and ending in North Conway.

The 411-ton transformer, one piece weighing a hefty 227 tons, the other 184 tons, was hauled by the Conway Scenic Railroad (CSRR) on separate rail cars from Hazen's siding southeast through Crawford Notch to North Conway.

This was the penultimate leg of a journey that spanned half the globe, starting in a manufacturing plant in China and ending that day on a rail siding at Depot Street in North Conway, bringing it to within four miles of its final destination — the Saco substation in Conway, operated by PSNH.

The larger section was mounted on a $10 million Schnabel BBCX-1000 rail car, owned and operated by Emmert International. The rail car is designed to suspend its oversized cargo between two ends to make the load an integral part of the extra-long piece of equipment.

This particular 20-axle Schnabel has the capability of moving its cargo 14 inches side-to-side — horizontally — and 14 inches up-and-down — vertically, explained bridge engineer Wayne Duffett of Portland, Me.

To allow the wider-than-normal load to slip through the Gateway — the "Great Cut" though the jagged rocks at the top of Crawford Notch that was created in 1875 — the 675-foot-long train was halted and the cargo mechanically shifted three inches to the left.

The three-man, red-jumpsuit-clad crew that travels and sleeps in a specially equipped caboose on the Schnabel performed this operation, using propane-fueled piston engines to control the hydraulics that precisely shift the load. Once through the Gateway, the train was halted once again, and the load was shifted three inches to the right, restoring its original center of gravity, explained PSNH project manager David Plante, who works in PSNH's Energy Park in Manchester.

In February L-KOPIA, a Swedish company, measured all the clearances on the rail route, sending a truck, on which a laser unit was mounted, over the tracks. Bridge engineer Duffet took the computerized results, plugged in what the dimensions of the Schnabel would be once the hefty transformer was incorporated, and figured out which would be the tight spots, such as the through-truss bridge at Fabyans and the Gateway.

This allowed the contractor Marino Crane, a division of Barnhart NE which together with Salt-Lake-City-based England Logistics master-minded the transformer's delivery, to anticipate that a shift would be required at the Gateway, Mr. Plante said.

Marino Crane employees spent a year examining alternative routes by which the $9 million transformer could be shipped to Conway from the Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric Co., Ltd., factory, located in the suburbs of Baoding city south of Beijing.

PSNH contracted to have the transformer, a highly technical piece of equipment, built to its own specifications using its criteria, for an all-inclusive price of $9 million, including delivery, set up, testing, and operator training.

Both liaison Nick Wang of the Chinese manufacturer's international business department and Yaksa Huang of China Master Logistics (CML) were on board CSRR's Budd dome car and will stay in the United States for however long it takes to set up the transformer.

The grey-painted sections were shipped on April 6 from China on the Rickmers New Orleans, a built-in-China container ship owned by Rickmers-Linie GmbH & Cie, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

Both oversized pieces were "dropped" — placed — directly into the ship's hold. Eight standard 40-foot-long shipping containers, packed with parts and smaller pieces of equipment were also stacked on the container ship. This included the four-foot-long "throat," designed to connect the two sections of the transformer.

The equipment was off-loaded at Searsport, Me., allowing it to be shipped by rail north through Canada and then south on the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad through Island Pond, Vt., to Stratford and Groveton, and then via the New Hampshire Central Railroad through Lancaster to Hazen's, near the Mt. Washington Regional Airport.

The phase shifting transformer being installed at the PSNH 115kV Saco substation is designed to act, in effect, as an on-off power valve and not for transferring voltage, Mr. Plante said. The costly equipment is being inserted near the Maine-New Hampshire "transmission interface" to avoid overloading the electrical system and to ensure greater reliability for the region by creating a dual feed setup in case problems arise.

"PSNH worked closely with Maine Central Power to coordinate our respective upgrades on what is a regional project," Mr. Plante said.

Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE) approved the project in January 2006, following two years in which PSNH identified and documented the problem and proposed this solution.

The two sections of the transformer will be separately transferred onto a 12-axle Goldhofer heavy hauler, operated by Marino Crane, for a final one-hour, four-mile-long over-the-road trip down Routes 16 and 302 to the already-readied concrete pads at the PSNH Saco substation on East Conway Road in Conway.

Assembling the Goldhofer, which was hauled into North Conway in a number of large pieces, and off-loading the hefty transformer sections, is expected to take far longer than will the trip to the substation.

Moving the two sections will be completed on two different days, likely a week apart, in the wee after-midnight hours when traffic is very light.

Delivering and installing 50,000 gallons of transformer oil to insulate and cool the new costly piece of equipment will be one of the last steps in putting it into operation, Mr. Plante said.

Safety of both those directly involved and those who are bystanders or observers has been uppermost in everyone's mind, with maintaining the transformer's integrity running a close second.

State officials set CSRR's top speed from Whitefield through the Notch to North Conway at a maximum of 10 m.p.h., but caution had the train going at "walking speed" on all stretches with tight clearances.

Special train draws a lot of attention

By Edith Tucker

During Saturday's journey there was an hour layover in Bartlett where a first-class train took precedence.

Area selectmen, including Joe Elgosin of Whitefield and Bonnie Moroney of Twin Mountain, town employees, including Linda Cushman of Jefferson, as well as a number of PSNH employees and family members, rode the rails in style in an air-conditioned 1955 Budd dome car near the tail end of the train.

Everyone enjoyed looking at the lush foliage and familiar landscape landmarks: a view of the airport and its straight-as-an-arrow 4001-foot landing strip, the biomass plant in the Whitefield Industrial park, numerous wetlands dotted with beaver lodges, glimpses of the Ammonoosuc River and snowmobile corridors, road and highway crossings lined with photographers and rail fans, the majestic Mount Washington Hotel, the AMC Crawford's railroad station and Macomber visitor center as well as Elephant's Head and cascading waterfalls.

The height of the seats in the Budd dome car — the "Dorthea Mae" — with its large front, side, and overhead windows not only allowed passengers to see evergreens and leafy deciduous trees, but also luxuriant ferns and small flowers growing on the forest floor.

Although some passengers opted to leave the train in Bartlett as the day wore on, a few soldiered on to the very end of the trip.

Both groups were quickly transported by FAST Taxi (536-0000) vans back to the cars they had left at Hazen.

At least an hour-and-a-half before the special train pulled out of Hazen's at 8:30 a.m. that morning, CSRR president and CEO Russ Seybold was on hand, making sure that everyone working on the day's historic trip was aware of exactly who was responsible for what.

He called a formal trackside meeting of all parties involved, which ended with everyone synchronizing their watches and timepieces.

Rudy Hood of Berlin was the locomotive engineer, and another engineer, Courtney Gregg of Bartlett, served as fireman.

Tim Zimont of Fryeburg, Me. was the conductor, Bob Howland of Ashland the trainman, and Paul Hallett of Winterport, Me., the on-the-ground manager.

Track foreman Mark Sodergren of Whitefield acted as chief flagger.

Waitstaff Erin Carr of Gorham and Deborah Lyons of Bartlett from Attitash Catering Services were on board to set out coffee and breakfast muffins, followed by cocktail shrimp, sandwiches, salad, cut-up fruit, and soft drinks.

Three diesel electric locomotives — #573, which just had a $60,000 rebuild in the Derby, Vt., shops, #6516 and #6505 — powered the train. Designed to spread the weight, its makeup behind the locomotives, front to back, included: an "idler" or empty boxcar; the smaller and lighter of the transformer's two sections; another "idler;" the Schnabel carrying the larger section; the caboose; the Budd dome passenger car with kitchenette; and an empty passenger car with a working toilet.

Tie replacement and other track maintenance projects were done in time for the trip, Mr. Seybold said. "We're pleased and proud to have been a part of this unique project," he said, praising everyone for the high levels of expertise. For much of the day, a two-person camera crew in a low-hovering helicopter was documenting the trip for PSNH, said Elisabeth Rouleau, the only official PSNH spokesman aboard the train. Footage was also taken, she said, of activities in Searsport, Me., and at Groveton.

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