As I was driving to Laramie on Saturday morning, around thirty miles outside of Fort Collins, CO, I spotted this enormous contraption parked in a lay-by on Hwy 287. As it was still semi-dark, I merely marveled at in in passing. Twenty miles later at the Wyoming border I saw another almost identical one parked there. After I did my day’s work and was thinking about them the whole time, I vowed to stop at one of them on the return trip. Well, as it was snowing in Wyoming, I decided to skip the northern one (which had not moved) and hoped that this one was still there. Thankfully, it was.
I decided to park near the rear, from which vantage it seems even larger than from the front. My biggest problem ended up being fitting the whole thing into my viewfinder. I was concerned that there would be someone there to shoo me away, but there was not a soul to be seen.
I’m no Johannes_Dutch and as such am not particularly well versed in my big rigs. However, approaching this Kenworth leading the train, it became obvious that this was no normal rig. For one, while not really evident in the picture, it was enormous (that’s the problem with scenery in general in the western United States, it’s hard to get a sense of scale). The wheels and tires were a lot larger than what is found on regular rigs, likely around 50% larger in diameter. The hood also seems longer and higher, presumably to cover a much larger engine than standard.
Here’s a side view of the lead vehicle. Barnhart is a large American rigging company specializing in the transport and installation of seriously oversize loads. The have locations across the US but curiously not really any in the Rocky Mountain region, making it somewhat curious to see them here.
The “trailer”, if it can be called that, is a sort of modular affair built by Goldhofer. It’s really multiple sections that appear to be able to be added to or subtracted from depending on the need, in this case divided into two halves with 11 sets of 4 wheels/tires per side (so 8 total side by side) making each half account for 88 wheels/tires and 176 in total. The shot above was taken from the rear but it looks pretty much identical from the front.
The tank in this case has one end mounted to the first assembly and the other end on the second assembly, letting each platform rotate with the tank above it moving around a corner as needed (think of a train car with an independent set of wheels/axles at each end and the “car” pivoting above it.) Each set of wheels in this case appears to be able to move and turn independently as well as in concert with the others. I didn’t get a picture but there is a separate motor/generator of some sort mounted at each end presumably to control/power the hydraulics. I also added a short video at the end of this post where the motor is visible so please forgive me for my on location oversight. It was cold out.
Part of the mystery was solved when I saw the manufacturer of the tank. Eaton Metal Products is a Denver manufacturer of Heavy Wall Pressure Vessels. Their website is quite interesting and features a lot of pictures of various projects including some showing Barnhart moving them. So presumably this came from Denver but in this case was heading South back towards the general Denver direction.
I can only assume that for whatever reason the riggers had to drive up I-25 North to I-80 West to Laramie and then head back south on Hwy 287 to presumably deliver this somewhere slightly north of Fort Collins and that it would not be possible to come through town the normal way, thus lengthening the trip by a factor of about 3x. Denver to Fort Collins is about 60 miles, Fort Collins to Laramie via I25 and I80 is about 90 miles, and then Laramie to Fort Collins via Hwy287 is about 70 miles.
I’m supposing when these things move it is with all kinds of escort vehicles and done in conjunction with the various authorities en route; these having been parked all day Saturday makes me think that either delivery was not possible that day or the approved route was limited to certain days and times, perhaps the middle of the night.
Here is the first of the “pushers”, in this case a Western Star. While not as large as the lead vehicle it was nevertheless immense with an elongated hood as well as carrying steel plates and other heavy items on its back, either for traction weight or some rigging purpose.
And here is another Western Star bringing up the rear, also loaded with heavy steel plate. While I doubt this whole thing moves at any kind of high speed, the coordination it must take for the three separate drivetrains as well as the trailer itself must be an immense undertaking.
I’m sure some of you have seen similar things in action or perhaps even have experience with them, any more info you can add would be appreciated, especially in regard to how the trucks differ from normal trucks that haul regular good. While we see all manner of heavy equipment moving up and down the local highways and freeways on occasion, this is the largest thing I have seen myself. Of course I didn’t actually see it move, but that’s likely a good thing, I can just imagine being stuck behind it for miles. Below is a video of a similar but smaller rig that was shot in Texas a few months ago to give some idea of it in action.
That video at first confirmed my belief that the rig really does pretty much crawl along, especially when I saw another video that had a “handler” walking alongside one on a major highway. But then I started watching a few more videos and here’s one with a larger load that seems to be doing around 40mph, which I suppose is okay on the open road but still somewhat terrifying. The action starts at about the 0:20 mark.
Barnhart’s own website is a whole ‘nother rabbit hole that I got sucked into for a little bit with lots of info and some other videos and there are tons more interesting videos on YouTube if this whet your appetite to spend a whole lot of time doing something other than what you are probably supposed to be doing…