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End of line for made in China transformer

411-ton transformer is hauled on Conway Scenic RR

The three-man crew that travels with the Schnabel BBCX-1000 rail car that can be mechanically moved 14 inches either horizontally or vertically to allow oversized cargo to be hauled through tight spots had to shift the larger of the two electrical transformer sections three inches to the left on Saturday to get it safely through the jagged ledges of the Gateway a.k.a. the Great Cut to Crawford Notch. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
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.

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