Huge commitment to heavy lift beats big freeze

A convoy of six low-loaders carrying the tunnel sections travels under the M6 Toll Road aqueduct, which Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust built when the motorway was constructed Picture: Paul Marshall

Tom Reid from the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust has been in touch to let us know about a rather interesting challenge the trust’s engineers had to deal with last weekend (Friday and Saturday 2nd and 3rd March 2018) when the big freeze hit the UK.

Using cranes, heavy transport plant and no small amount of sheer hard work, the team overcame machinery breakdowns and atrocious weather to move 230 tonnes of precast tunnel sections from Great Wyrley to a site on Darnford Moors near Lichfield where they will eventually be employed in conducting the restored canal beneath Darnford Lane.

This is just another example of the massive commitment to the canal restoration project demonstrated by the dedicated and hardworking volunteers who make up the Lichfield and Hatherton Trust.

If you’re unaware of the local canal restoration this is part of,  this excellent blog post by Christine Howles explains more about it. The trust run regular work parties and all are very much welcome, whether you’ve a specialist skill or not!

To find out more, please pop along to the Lichfield and Hateherton Canal Restoration Trust website here.

Tom Reid wrote:

The final section of tunnel is swung into place at Darnford Moors using a sling because of a problem with the lifting anchors Picture: Paul MarshallBIG LIFT BEATS THE BIG FREEZE

Lichfield Canal volunteers overcame the worst the elements could throw at them to move over 230 tonnes of concrete tunnel into position at Darnford Moors.

The eleven sections of culvert, each weighing 21.3 tonnes, had to be transported from their storage site at Hazel Lane Colliery, Great Wyrley, because of a proposed development.

One of the many challenges Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust faces is a crossing under Darnford Lane, so this was an ideal opportunity to put the culvert sections in place, ready for the time when a tunnel will be installed.

Many weeks of preparation of the Darnford Moors site, digging out the canal bed to the correct depth and constructing a platform for a huge crane, and clearing the Great Wyrley site for the big lift, meant that all was in place for the move on Friday March 2, despite the atrocious conditions produced by ‘the Beast from the East’.

The 350 tonne crane lifts a section of tunnel into place at Darnford Moors Picture: Margaret Beardsmore

Unfortunately, the 350 tonne crane heading for Darnford Moors broke down on the M1 and the expected 6am start of the two-hour operation to prepare it was delayed until its arrival at 2pm.

Meanwhile, six low-loaders, each carrying a culvert section with LICHFIELD CANAL stencilled in bright yellow paint on the end, were held at Norton Canes service station on the M6 Toll Road, until the crane was set up.

A section of the concrete tunnel is lifted on to a low-loader at Hazel Lane Colliery, Great Wyrley Picture: David Hodgkinson

They arrived at Darnford Moors at 4pm when Trust volunteers were prepared to work into the night under lights to complete the move, despite the snow and freezing conditions. But then Storm Emma brought very high winds which made it unsafe to continue.

The next day’s improved conditions meant the first six sections were lifted into place by 9am, with the lowloaders making return journeys to Great Wyrley for the five remaining.

Finally, the last section was swung into place at 1pm, to the evident relief of Trust volunteers.

Peter Buck, LHCRT engineering director and mastermind of the move, paid tribute to the many people involved in the eventually successful operation.

“The moving of these precast tunnel sections has been another of the challenges the Trust has been set and together our fabulous hardworking volunteers once again have risen to the challenge,” he said.

“I’d also like to express my gratitude to the drivers of Leicester Heavy Haulage, ABA Cranes, Walter Tipper, Tommy Coakley of Darnford Moors Golf Club for his co-operation and immense patience, Staffordshire County Council Highways Department who were out at 5.30am gritting Darnford Lane to allow the operation to go ahead, and the Misra brothers at Hazel Lane Colliery.”

The convoy of low-loaders lined up on Darnford Lane Picture: Margaret Beardsmore

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One Response to Huge commitment to heavy lift beats big freeze

  1. tonykulik says:

    Along with the family I was enjoying a stroll in the snow last Saturday. As we walked past the football grounds in Hazel Lane we were warned by an advance vehicle that large lorries would be following. We could vehicles exiting the old Colliery site. When all three were in position they slowly made there way along the snowy lane. I was most annoyed with myself when I saw the marked loads they were carrying as I hadn’t got my camera with me. The concrete sections were huge !!!

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