Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Late night

On monday, my boss asked me, "Hey, do you want to help change the trolley wheels Tuesday night?" Every other time since I started with the ferry that there has been late night work to be done, I haven't been able to. Either I had a family commitment, or something else was going on. Well, I didn't have an excuse this time, so I jumped at it. And I'm glad I did. I don't want to get the reputation as the operator who never does the extra work, who always says no. And D, the guy I would be working with that night, was surprised that I said yes. So yeah, it was important that I joined in.

I met a coworker at the shops at 9pm. Keep in mind, I'd already pulled a regular 8 hour day yesterday, then came back. I had a list that D gave me of things to bring. I was pleased that I knew all of the things on the list, they were all familiar to me, since I'm finally getting a hang of this ferry stuff. I hooked up the truck to a light plant (basically a big diesel generator attached to 4 hugely powerful lights. when you see work being done at night on the interstate and it's lit up like daylight? light plants.), and away we went. The other guy drove a bucket truck.

When we got to the ferry, we set up the lights, then got to work. We had to unhook the baloney and steering cables (see my "series of unfortunate events" post for a glossary) from the boat, which meant getting in the little work boat and cruising around the river a bit in the dead of night. Which was pretty awesome. Using the bucket truck, we got the baloney and steering cables disconnected from the boat, and hooked up to the back of the pickup. Then we drove the pickup up the road. This way, the trolley slid all the way down the line to the tower, where it could be worked on. It's a pretty slick operation, I was impressed at how smoothly it all went. D said that there was a hell of a lot of trial and error to get it this smooth.

Once the trolley was as close as we could get it to the tower, the guys got their climbing gear on, and up they went. The tower is 80 feet high. It doesn't seem that high when you're on the boat or at a distance. But it's really high! The guys use the bucket truck to get as far up as they can, then use climbing gear and climb the last 40 feet on their own.
I, of course, stayed with my feet firmly planted on the ground. However, I wasn't there just to stand around. As soon as they made it to the top, then sent down a rope on a pulley, and I had to start hauling up gear. The worst were the sheaves (pronounced shivs). These are solid brass wheels, each weighing 25 lbs. The goal of the night was to replace 6 of these. They wear out unevenly and start to squeak. They seem to last 6 weeks or 2 months or so. We replace them and send the worn ones to be rebuilt.

Have you ever hauled stuff up on a pulley? You might think 25 lbs isn't all that much to haul. It is. It really REALLY is. I tried sticking two sheaves in the bucket at once, and couldn't do it. With one sheave, the first 20 feet of hauling was ok, but then I'd look up, and realize the bucket was nowhere near the top, and it'd start to sloooow down. Your shoulders and foreams start to ache and burn. And once the bucket gets to the top, they take out the new sheave, and put an old one in it's place, for me to bring down. At one point, D put two sheaves in the returning bucket. I could have just let it plummet 80 feet, but it wasn't safe, so I had to hang tight to the rope to control the decent. So 6 heavy sheaves went up, and 6 heavy sheaves came down. They swapped them all out, then I sent up the grease gun and they greased everything up there, and they were done.

Once they climbed down, we had to do everything in reverse, back the truck down onto the ferry, get the baloney into the bucket truck, maneuver that up onto the top of the cabin and hook it back up, hook up both steering cables (which is hard, since the ferry drifts a bit when it's not connected), turn the power back on, then take it for a few test drives to make sure everything's good and all the sheaves are moving easily. We spray paint stripes on the sheaves, so we can see if they're turning.

By 2 am, everything was done, so we loaded the bucket truck, and the pickup with the light plant back onto the ferry and headed back to the shops. I was home by 2:45 am.

I'm not going to say I loved it, but I actually thought it was pretty cool. Of course, I had the time, so I took today off so I could sleep until 10. I doubt I'd think it was all that cool if I needed to get up and be at work by 7 or 8. I'm glad I did it, I'm glad I participated in something like that, that's pretty routine maintenance, and needed to be done.

1 comment:

  1. Quite a day and even more impressive that it was done in the dark at night!