Onlookers gathered at the edge of the street, "oohing" and "ahhing" at what they were seeing. Television reporters broadcast live. At times, they all held their breath. Everyone's collective gaze was on a massive 150-year-old oak tree moving down the road on two Goldhofer transport systems owned by Berard Transportation.
The gorgeous old heritage tree, which weighed about 448 tons and measured about 65 feet tall, was transported a distance of a little more than a mile on two self-propelled, parallel coupled, PST/SL-E 12 heavy-duty Goldhofer transporters. These sophisticated transporters are normally used to transport ships or oil platforms. But on this day they transported precious cargo to a location near the city of New Iberia, Louisiana (population 33,000).
Moving the tree only took about an hour and a half. The roadway was closed to through traffic during the haul. But the real effort involved digging the tree up and positioning it on the Goldhofer module to an accuracy of millimeters. Once on the Goldhofers, the tree had to be lashed down without harming its sensitive roots. Once at its new location, the tree had to be gently placed in the hole dug for it.
"This was a spectacular undertaking, where the combination of man and state-of-the-art technology again worked together perfectly," said Johnny Berard, head of Berard Transportation. "All those involved put in an awesome performance."
The first task was to dig out a large circle around the tree, which had a root system with a diameter of almost 42 feet. Some of the roots were cut, and the remainder were tied together with cables and protected with packing materials.
Then the massive tree, known as "Big Al" by locals, was placed on cross-beams and lifted using a special lifting device. Only then could the heavy duty module move under "Big Al," receive the tree using the hydraulic axle suspension, and transport it to its new location.
The project used two parallel-coupled Goldhofer PST/SL-E 12s. The PSTs are equipped with electronic multi-way steering and have an axle load of 118 tons per axle line. The vehicle had a total of 192 wheels. PST-E self-propelled heavy duty transporters can be used both individually as well as in longitudinal and lateral combinations of any size needed. Alongside a selection of standard steering programs, such as normal drive, 90 degree transverse drive, diagonal drive and carousel drive, other special steering programs are available, which can be selected by pressing a button on the remote control. In this case, the steering angle of the modular transporter was synchronized with the conventional THP unit steering system by means of sensors and steering electronics.
"We are always impressed to learn of the purposes that people are finding for our state-of-the-art technology," says Stefan Fuchs, CEO of Goldhofer Aktiengesellschaft. "We were especially pleased to again have the opportunity to tackle a US-based project like this with Berard Transportation."
"Big Al," the giant oak, was moved because it was preventing construction and road extension work near a highway service road. Previously, to save the tree, drivers had to detour more than a mile to get around the tree.
In Louisiana, the work to relocate the beautiful tree was seen as a symbol for environmental protection. A petition by local residents ensured that the tree would live to see another day, or century for that matter.
Plus, the Herculean job was one that Goldhofer and Berard will never forget.