A Christmas Truce

During World War I on Christmas Day in 1914, British soldiers stationed on the Western Front heard an unusual sound.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
 Alles schläft, einsam wacht…

German soldiers were singing “Silent Night,” a gesture of goodwill that began an unofficial cessation of hostilities that became known as the Christmas Truce of 1914. British and German soldiers laid down their arms, tentatively emerged from their respective trenches and shared, however briefly, carols, food, camaraderie and games.

What made these men put aside their fears and hostility toward one another? The truce may have been sparked by a proposition from Pope Benedict XV for an official “Truce of God” in which hostilities would cease over the Christmas period. Though widely rejected by military authorities, perhaps a seed had been planted among the soldiers. Encamped in trenches, cold, muddy, weary and longing for loved ones, maybe they hoped to capture a little peace on Christmas.

The Christmas Truce statue in Liverpool.

While the precise details of what happened vary, the truce was widely reported by a variety of men who participated in it.

According to Rifleman Oswald Tilley, British troops noticed at dawn the Germans had placed small Christmas trees along parapets of their trenches. Slowly, parties of men from both sides began to venture toward the barbed wire that separated them.

British soldier Private Frederick Heath observed the following:

“All down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war.  ‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’  For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards?”

Not a shot was fired that night.  But the truce was short-lived and the war continued for four more years. Disapproving officers on both sides took strong measures to ensure that it would never happen again.

After a contentious election a month ago, this desire for an end to hostilities seems particularly fitting.  While the conflicts of warring countries certainly can’t be compared to disagreements among political parties, the soldiers’ message of overcoming fear, working to understand one another and celebrating the true spirit of Christmas resonates more than a century later.


During this holiday season, Barnhart wishes you the source of true peace on Earth in this video message.

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Gate Removal Project Goes Off Without a Hitch

Barnhart recently performed a project at the Armistead I. Selden Lock and Dam on the Black Warrior River to provide the lifting systems for removing and replacing two 60-year-old downstream miter gates. The gates were 61’ wide x 46’ tall and weighed 426,000 lbs.

The work was performed using a modular lift tower and a girder system in conjunction with a 500-ton hoist and slide system. Barnhart used a 300-ton crane with superlift to assemble the girder system.

The girder spanned the width of the lock, which was 150’ long. The gates were suspended from an adjustable rigging system and an adjustable spread bar attached to a hoist.

The gates were removed from the pocket using the hoist and downended onto barges for transport. The new gates were delivered to the hook of the hoist by barge and upended using a 500-ton hoist. Tugs were used to support the lower end of the gate while they were upended and downended on barges. The slide system helped slide the gates back into the pocket.

While Barnhart’s part of the project only took four days, the 30-day timeframe was a challenge. Being a water-based operation, the project required coordination between Barnhart, the tug and barge company, the Corps of Engineers and the maintenance company.

Still, according to Project Manager Scott McDonald, “This was a group effort between five different entities.  Everything went off without a hitch.”

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As Thanksgiving approaches, we take stock of what we are thankful for in our lives. The list for most of us includes gratitude for our loved ones, our health, our homes, and God’s grace.

We are thankful for all those things, but we are also thankful for work. Work that not only sustains us and our families, but gives our lives purpose.

Medical pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine, once said, The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” We agree and feel the harder we work, and the better we work, the more opportunity we have to do the work. The more we solve difficult problems. The more we come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions.  The more we bring projects in on time and under budget, the greater likelihood our workload increases.

But we wouldn’t have work without customers, customers who gave us a chance the first time and once we earned their trust, gave us work again. Our gratitude is twofold –  we are not only thankful to be able to work hard and do it well, but to those who give us that opportunity each and every day.

We wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving filled with food, football and family and an appreciation for the work you do in the world.



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It’s fitting that during this season of football, colorful leaves and crisp breezes, we also focus on the kind of fall that can be dangerous. In this industry, and others, it’s common for our teams to work on projects far above ground level.

That invites the potential for a fall and this video from Barnhart University and Safety Trainer Daniel Voss outlines some methods you can use to protect yourself from fall hazards.

  • Avoid or eliminate the fall hazard altogether
  • Use secondary supports like guard rails or ladder cages
  • Rely on a fall restraint or arrest system. Make sure you inspect both visually and manually all components of the harness and rigging for wear, cracks or holes including the lanyard, webbing straps, and connection hook.
  • Have a plan in place in case of rescue after a fall.  Everyone needs to know how this rescue will be performed.

See more tips below.

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The Engineering News Record (ENR) recently announced their list of the Top 600 Specialty Contractors in the nation according to revenue. Barnhart cracked the top 50 for the first time, coming at #48.

According to the ENR announcement, the construction market has been growing steadily for the past six years, and, for large specialty contractors, things are looking up. The state of the market is seen in the results of this year’s list. As a group, the Top 600’s revenue topped the $100 billion mark for the first time.

While the listing is according to revenue, for Jeff Latture, Barnhart’s Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, inclusion in the top 50 represents more than that.

“The ENR recognition is a testament to our loyal customers, out of the box thinking, and a great team that keeps delivering successful results.”


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Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, “Sully,” follows the story of the legendary pilot Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and his successful landing of a crippled U.S. Airways plane in the frigid waters of the Hudson River in January 2009. The masterful water landing was hailed as a miracle, as all 155 passengers and crew from Flight #1549 survived.

Crucial to the investigation that followed was the recovery of the submerged pieces of the plane, a recovery that relied on a heavy lift crane.  And while Barnhart was not involved in the project, we always appreciate a story about a heroic lift.

According to a story in NewJersey.com, the operation to lift the pieces of the plane and recover the plane’s flight-data recorder, or black box, was hampered by river currents and 36-degree waters. Poor visibility made it difficult for divers to maneuver around and inspect the plane.  The divers’ suits were equipped with voice communication devices and hot water hoses for icy conditions.

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

But two days after the event, divers were able to fasten harnesses below the fuselage of the largely intact plane. The harnesses were connected to horizontal bars above the plane, which were attached to the cables of a Weeks Marine 500-ton heavy lift crane, sitting atop a barge.

Since the Airbus A-320 was filled with water, it had to be raised gradually to let the water drain. A tug boat kept ice floes away from the plane.

According to the story, the process of lifting the plane took roughly 90 minutes on the evening of January 17. The tail was lifted first and within 10 minutes most of the fuselage was visible. Then the wings began to emerge. Once Flight #1549 was out of the water, the crane swung the jet toward an empty barge and set it down. At one point, the right wing gave way slightly, and the plane shuddered, but did not break.

The NTSB was able to recover the black box from the plane’s tail section, providing critical information to the investigation.


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When the Virginia Tech Hokies take the field against the University of Tennessee Volunteers in the Pilot Flying J Battle of Bristol this Saturday, Sept. 10, in Bristol, Tenn., several records are likely to be shattered.

The game, which will be featured on ESPN’s College Game Day, takes place at the 150,000-seat Bristol Motor Speedway, and is expected to break attendance records for a college football game. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record stands at 115,109. The event will also make history as the audience will watch the game, replays and highlights on the world’s largest TV.

Barnhart installs the gondola on the Colossus.

Nicknamed “Colossus,” the display was installed by Barnhart between January and April of this year as covered in two videos on our website that detail the process and in an April blog. Colossus is composed of four custom-built screens, each approximately 30 feet tall by 63 feet wide. The screens hang from a halo-shaped truss and cage, with an additional circular LED display screen underneath. Colossus is the world’s largest outdoor, permanent, four-sided, center-hung video display and weighs 127 tons.  The entire system, which includes the support towers and cables, weighs in at 700 tons.

The installation of the mammoth display required careful engineering and surgical precision. Barnhart was hired by the general contractor for the job due to the company’s experience and expertise in engineering, lifting and setting difficult and large projects.

For Barnhart project manager Tommy Thomasson the project was a “triumph of engineering. Outstanding engineering and execution made this project a success.”

Memphis-based Barnhart isn’t really saying which team they are pulling for in this matchup, but you can probably guess. But whatever side you take, if you’re in the audience at the Battle of Bristol, you’re certain to get a great view of the game.

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The summer is winding down, but the weather is still brutal.  With temperatures soaring into the 90s in some parts of the country, care must be taken when working outdoors to prevent heat-related illnesses.

In this video, Barnhart Safety Trainer Daniel Voss outlines how to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and how to take steps to prevent it in the first place.

Heat-related illnesses can come on gradually as your body struggles to maintain its internal core temperature. There are several phases of the condition and at each phase the affected person’s symptoms worsen.

  • Heat Rash
  • Dehydration
  • Heat Cramps
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious condition, requiring an immediate call to 911. Skin is hot to the touch, sweating has stopped and the body’s temperature is over 103 degrees. Yet even in the early stages of a heat-related illness, becoming overheated can affect mental alertness, making you more susceptible to accidents.

One of the most important and easiest preventive measures is to drink water and not just when you step outside. Start drinking water hours beforehand and continue throughout the day. You’ll want to drink 5-7 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Wear light clothing that will reflect and not absorb the heat. Pace yourself.

Finally, look out for your coworkers. If someone complains of being nauseated, disoriented, or fatigued, they might be experiencing heat stress. Have them take a break and move into a cool, shaded area with good airflow.

See more tips below.


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At a recent project at a heavy industrial site outside of Austin, Barnhart’s engineers did what they do best, finding a safe and cost-effective solution for their customers.

Barnhart was hired to remove and reinstall three large generators. The customer’s original plan included taking down a wall to remove the generators, the largest of which measured 17′ x 15′ x 15′ and weighed 171,000 lbs. Barnhart engineers saved the customer both time and money by developing an alternative that utilized the customer’s overhead gantry to situate three of Barnhart’s One-Shot 500-ton gantries to lift the generators, making removal of the wall unnecessary.

Once the gantries were in place, Barnhart made use of a single girder beam system to lift and slide each of the three generators to a trailer provided by the customer. In removing the largest of the three generators, Barnhart was working at 98% of the 72-foot track girder’s capacity and included design features to mitigate the risk, completing the job quickly, effectively and safely, according to Barnhart Project Manager Chris Hughes.

“The reinstall phase required precision in setting the generators,” Hughes said. “We used the 200-ton swivel off a 200-ton hoist to swing the generators around a corner and a set of wires. That was an extremely effective effort.”

Barnhart was required to reinstall only two of the three generators, a process that was completed in a day and a half.

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Improve Processes to Stay on Schedule and Critical Path

Here’s six tips to help your outages and turnarounds go more smoothly. 

1. Make up your mind – Much of outage rigging is on the critical path. The earlier the rigging contractor is chosen, the more consistent and efficient the delivery can be. In the case of specialized rigging and transport services, more preparation and planning time usually means safer, faster, and more elegant solutions.

2. Vet the Vendor – Take the time to learn as much as you can about a vendor well in advance of any outage. Choose vendors that have a proven resume, and a deep inventory of qualified personnel and equipment. Learn more about their protocols and procedures, particularly in the area of safety. Audit your contractor’s home office to learn how they think.

3.  The Right Tools Matter  – Knowing you have the right tools and equipment in the hands of the right rigging contractor can reduce hours and mitigate risk. The best contractors may have innovative tools and techniques that could be unknown to plant personnel. Failure to learn about alternatives may cost the plant time, money and safety.

4.  Get in Synch – It is critical that the schedules of the plant and contractors align perfectly. For operations involving crane and rigging contractors, hire a team that has a successful record of mobilizing teams and equipment within the schedule’s tight tolerances and performing the work, all within the critical path.

5.  Check and Double Check – Simply said – have someone check your work. A thorough review of your plan from a trusted partner will help ensure success and help you sleep better at night!

6.  Ask for Proof – Ask your crane and rigging contractor to show you their track record of adding value through innovative tools, methods and key personnel. Talk is cheap but proof is in performance.

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