Barnhart Crane & Rigging Moves the Unmovable to Brownsville, Tenn. Using Laser Technology

Jul 1, 2002

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) – Many people said it could not be done. The experts contended that moving a 508,000-pound transformer through Memphis to Brownsville by rail was an impossibility due to trestles and other obstacles along the way. Barnhart Crane & Rigging proved them wrong.

According to Randy Lewis, project manager, the client "contacted Barnhart to move two transformers from the Port of Memphis to Brownsville. Typically, heavy equipment is moved by rail; however in this case, one of the transformers was so large that it was thought that there would not be enough clearance on all sides. At that point, our engineers began working with structural engineers from the city of Memphis, along with county and city municipalities, to determine if the transformer could be moved on a specialized 24-dolly transporter.”

When the details of this move proved to be cumbersome and costly, Barnhart Crane & Rigging chose to re-examine the option of using the railroad. “We decided to use a laser measuring device manufactured by L. Kopia to complete a 360-degree measure of the entire rail route to Brownsville. The laser device provided us with schematic drawings of every aspect of the route. If there was a trestle, the laser measured it; if there was a truss hanging over the rail, the laser measured it, too,” Lewis said.
With this additional information, Barnhart Crane & Rigging determined that the best way to move the equipment to Brownsville was by placing an articulating slide system under each transformer, mounting them to railcars and hiring a special train capable of hauling the load.
The cargo, which originated in South Africa, was shipped via New Orleans by barge. Barnhart utilized its 1,250-ton derrick crane “Ichabod” to off-load the cargo at its Port of Memphis facility. Following intensive study of the rail route and receiving permission from CSX Rail Transport, Barnhart successfully delivered the transformers to the construction site. The laser survey proved extremely accurate, and it had to be: in some instances, clearance was only a matter of inches.

Barnhart Crane & Rigging, established in 1969, is a leading national supplier of specialized heavy rigging and transportation solutions. The company, with 11 locations across the United States, also provides crane services, machinery moving, plant relocations, as well as project cargo logistics and heavy equipment storage at its 100-acre, 700,000-square-foot warehouse facility in Memphis, Tenn. Barnhart Crane & Rigging, an ISO 9002 certified supplier, also operates terminal facilities at the Port of Memphis and the deepwater Port of Mobile, Ala. For more information, visit

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