Riggers began putting together a massive, 19-axle trailer at Riverwalk Marina this week in preparation for moving a 160-ton frame to Carpenter Technology in Tanner.
Carpenter Technology, a $500 million steel plant being built in Limestone County, expects the frame for a hydraulic radial press — the largest in the world — to arrive from Germany at the marina between July 30 and Aug. 5.
Carpenter hired HWP Rigging, a St. Louis-based rigging and transportation company, to transport the frame from Riverwalk to Carpenter at Thomas Hammons Road and U.S. 31.
The press will be the main component of the plant, Carpenter spokesman Bucky Rudolph said.
It will take three deliveries to get the parts to Carpenter, said Josh Cummings, HWP sales and marketing manager. Riggers began preparing the trailer Wednesday.
After arriving at Wheeler Lake, riggers will load it onto the modular, 19-axle trailer. Rudolph said specialized equipment will be used to unload the frame and could take two to three days.
Modular trailers are designed to distribute weight, making heavy loads safe for roadway travel. The transport will happen overnight because it will be a slow roll — the trailer travels at 3 to 5 miles per hour, Rudolph said.
Carpenter will cover 400,000 square feet on a 232-acre site in Tanner. Carpenter, based in Wyomissing, Pa., produces and refines steel to make specialized alloy steel used in the aerospace industry.
The plant is expected to be complete in 2014, bringing 250 jobs to the area, Rudolph said.
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A massive piece of industrial equipment began the last stage of its 5,100-mile journey Tuesday night as it left Riverwalk Marina in Decatur for Carpenter Technology Corp.'s new plant in Tanner.
Officials said it would take about eight hours for St. Louis-based HWP Rigging to transport the 160-ton radial press frame from the marina, starting at 9 p.m., to the 232-acre plant site at U.S. 31 and Thomas Hammons Road. After traveling north on U.S. 31, the frame was to travel east on Alabama 20 to bypass a narrow railroad bridge on U.S. 31.
State troopers and trucks with flashing lights and "oversize load" warnings escorted the 19-axle modular trailer carrying the press frame. The trailer moves only 3 to 5 mph.
A small gathering of onlookers watched the slow procession depart the marina parking lot as light rain fell over the causeway.
Southbound traffic stalled as workers guided the trailer across a break in the median and into the northbound lanes. By the time the southbound lanes were clear, traffic had begun to back up.
Other authorities were prepared to assist.
"We'll shut down intersections for them as we're needed," Decatur police spokesman Lt. John Crouch said.
Near the Calvary Assembly of God Epicenter, the load was to be transferred to a second trailer which would carry it north on Bibb Garrett Road, west on Airport Road and north again on U.S. 31.
Roland Gray, industrial senior project manager for Turner Construction Co., said a combination of about 20 to 40 employees from HWP Rigging, SMS Meer and Turner Construction Co. would be at the plant site working and managing safety this morning.
The frame was scheduled to arrive at 5 a.m. today.
The frame will be set in its final place Saturday in the 330,000-square-foot press building, one of six buildings at the site.
A rust inhibitor that was put on the frame to protect it during shipment must be cleaned off first, Gray said.
The press frame was shipped in a horizontal position, but will stand vertically and exert 1,100 tons of pressure force once fully assembled.
The roughly $5 million radial press frame began its trip in the Czech Republic, then moved through Germany, the Netherlands, New Orleans and Mobile. The press arrived by barge Monday in Decatur.
Radial press devices, called manipulators, will be brought in on the same route in October.
The radial press, the largest of its type in the world, will stretch or reduce the metal ingots.
The plant will produce ultra-premium, alloy-based metal products for the energy and aerospace industries. The metal will be used in land-based gas turbines and oil and gas drilling equipment.
It also will be used in commercial aircraft engines, propulsion systems and structures.
The 500,000-square-foot plant's targeted opening date is April 1.