By David F. Rooney
Waiting for the arrival of the Unit 5 turbine at the intersection of Highway 23S and the Trans-Canada Highway was like a scene out of an existentialist play, Waiting for Godot, perhaps.
Because it was originally scheduled to arrive sometime between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. I planned to be at the crossroads at about 1:45. Surely, I thought, that would give me plenty of time to wake up with a hot coffee, set up my video camera and get some great video and still photos for The Revelstoke Current’s avid readers.
So, off my partner — Sue Leach — and I went at 1:30 a.m.
When we go to the truck layover on the west side of the bridge we saw that a section of the pavement had been cordoned off with fluorescent orange cones. Other than that we were all alone. I set up the Sony video camera, checked my Nikon still camera’s batteries and sipped some coffee.
About 10 or 15 minutes later a BC Hydro flagman arrived and told us it hadn’t even left Shelter Bay yet and likely would take about two hours to get here.
Hmmm. What to do. What to do. Back home we went. We returned about 2:30 — this time with a couple of books and the dog. As I set up the camera again, Sue took Kayah the dog for a walk. Then we settled back, drank coffee, occasionally watched Hydro workers come and go and read until 4 a.m. when we learned it hadn’t yet reached Blanket Creek. Because the Ministry of Highways had obligingly closed Highway 23S only until 8 a.m., Hydro officials were deliberating whether to park it at Blanket Creek and wait until the wee hours of Monday morning before bringing it the rest of the way to the dam.
Back home we went. Sue set her alarm for 6 and we oh-so-gratefully copped a few Zs. All too soon it went off and I dragged myself out of bed, taking care to try and go without waking Sue up, gathered up my equipment again and drove to the truck park.
Dusty Veideman, BC Hydro’s official photographer for the Canadian portion of the turbine’s 12,000-kilometre journey form Brazil, told me the ministry had granted an extension to the highway closure and it would be here by 8. So off I went to get Sue. She — I was certain — wouldn’t want to miss this.
We made fresh coffee and returned — yet again! — to the crossroads. This time we were not disappointed.
Well, it was late, of course, but when it finally made an appearance at 8 a.m. it quickly grabbed everyone’s attention. The transporter carrying the Unit 5 turbine was unbelievably complex. It was 300 feet (just under 100 metres) long and had more than 128 wheels. The hydraulically controlled transport system was designed to spread the load of the massive 188-tonne turbine so that it wouldn’t destroy the bridges between Shelter Bay and the Revelstoke Dam. All told, the combined weight of the transporter and the turbine exceeded 750,000 lbs or 340,909 kilograms. It stopped for about 30 minutes on the south side of the railway overpass ad its crew and the bevy of attendant BC Hydro employees made some mysterious adjustments to the machine. Oddly, about four or five vehicles managed to make the southbound turn off the TCH and approached the machine before they were stopped by Hydro flagmen.
By this time about 25 locals and the Lord alone knows how many curious highway travellers had gathered to watch. At about 8:30 the travellers facing it were allowed to drive past it and the machine approached the intersection. It stopped briefly and then, as cameras and camcorders recorded away, it rumbled across the intersection and, without another pause, eased its way out of sight around that first curve on Westside Road.
And so ends the public portion of the stainless steel turbine’s arrival in Revelstoke. Its next stop was to be the dam where it will be installed in the Unit 5 turbine chamber.
You can watch the machine’s arrival and crossing on The Current Video on the front page. Here are some images of the turbine at the intersection of the TCH and Highway 23S.