But about a year ago, engineers from the Drummond Co. began bringing Mr. Tom back to life. They reverse engineered circuit boards and rebuilt the gondola “feet” on which the crane walks. They sand blasted the rust and repainted the hull. They even restored the artwork on its side – a painting of Tom from the Tom & Jerry cartoons.
And then, about a month ago, they made Mr. Tom walk again.
The Drummond Co. did not respond to requests for comment.
But details from permit filings and market trends and industry analyses tell a story of an industry that, like Mr. Tom, has been shaking loose its rust and coming back to life in Alabama, but perhaps more slowly and sluggishly than some of its executives had hoped.
Compared to the size of some other dragline cranes, Mr. Tom is about in the middle. Some in operation today are twice as large. A Bucyrus Erie 1570W model built in the 1970s, Mr. Tom weighs between 7 million and 8 million pounds.
To put that another way, if you put all the elephants in all the zoos in the United States together, you’d have to go to Africa and get some more elephants – twice as many, roughly – before you’d have enough (700-800) to compare weight-wise to this machine.
When its boom is at a 45-degree angle, it stands about 20 stories tall.
The logistics of moving a machine such as Mr. Tom are almost as boggling as the scale of the machine itself. The size of a ship on dry land, it cannot travel by highway or railroad. To move Mr. Tom requires three truck-sized generators (it runs on electricity), a road of its own and an army of men to make that road.
For the last year, employees from Twin Pines L.L.C., a joint venture between Drummond Co. and U.S. Steel, have been preparing a right of way that snakes the 17 miles through northeastern Tuscaloosa and western Jefferson counties to where Mr. Tom will eventually go to work at the Shannon mines between Abernant and Bessemer.
Along the path, Mr. Tom moves about one mile per day, one three-foot step at a time.
From the sky, Mr. Tom’s road looks like a red, muddy gash across the earth, but according to Wathen, reclamation crews have already gone to work, smoothing the land back to its original topography and spreading grass seeds, compost and fertilizer where the machine passes.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 next >>