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Move of huge generator draws attention

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Posted: Monday, November 25, 2002 10:00 pm

It was quite a show throughout the weekend and again Monday morning, when a 520-ton generator carried by a trailer weighing more than 200 tons traveled on its way from Rancho Seco to the Port of Stockton.

The 336-foot-long generator - and the trailer that carried it - was recently sold by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp. Siemens will install the generator at the Surry Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Virginia.

The generator was used by SMUD at Rancho Seco when it was a nuclear power plant. Nuclear energy ended in 1989, when Sacramento County voters, in an advisory measure, requested that Rancho Seco no longer be used as a nuclear power plant.

The generator remained at Rancho Seco during the plant's decommissioning process until Friday, when its very slow trip to Stockton began.

The generator, going 2 to 5 mph, took back roads through Herald, Acampo and Lockeford to east Stockton over a four-day span.

"There has never been a trailer this big in California, maybe the nation," said James Nugent, project manager for Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., a San Leandro firm hired by Siemens Westinghouse to transport the generator to Virginia.

How big is the generator and trailer? It is 335 feet long, 20 feet wide (taking up both lanes on Highway 88) and 19 feet high. It has 208 tires on 52 axles and 104 brakes.

Seeing something that big caused spectators to line downtown Lockeford Saturday night and further south on Highway 88 on Monday.

"People were all out there on their lawn chairs Friday (in Herald) and Saturday night (in Lockeford)," Nugent said.

"I just wanted to watch it," said Stockton resident John Roe, standing at the northwest corner of Highway 88 and Harney Lane early Monday afternoon. "I saw it this morning in Lockeford."

Jeanette Chicon said she saw the generator come through near Highway 88 and Locke Road.

"I didn't know what it was," Chicon said. "There were so many cop cars there, I thought there was an accident."

Chicon was so excited she waited about an hour on Highway 88 near Eight Mile Road to view it again before heading to her home in the Lake Camanche area.

The generator reached Waterloo Road in Stockton, just east of Highway 99 by sundown Monday. To avoid as much traffic as possible, the generator won't leave east Stockton until 9 tonight, Nugent said. From Waterloo, it will take Wilson Way and Weber Avenue to the Port of Stockton. Arrival is expected early Wednesday morning.

Some 27 Bigge employees, five California Highway Patrol officers and workers from Pacific Bell and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. were present for Monday's caravan from Lockeford to Stockton.

The CHP officers and two private "escort cars" with a sign saying "wide load" patrolled traffic, and the PG&E and Pacific Bell workers raised and lowered wires along the road so the generator could clear them, Nugent said.

The generator will remain at the Port of Stockton for three or four days so it can be taken off the trailer, placed on a barge and tied down, Nugent said.

The barge will take it up the San Joaquin River through the Delta and go past Antioch to San Pablo Bay and out the Golden Gate. From there, it will go south to the Panama Canal, then north to the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, located in Virginia along the James River between Norfolk and Williamsburg.

Nugent estimates it will take a little over a month to get from the Port of Stockton to Virginia at a price tag he described as "several million dollars."

The generator came into Lockeford Saturday night as it crossed the Elliott Road bridge from Acampo. It crossed Highway 88 and spent the night at D.H. Winn Trucking on Tully Road between Hammond Street and Lockeford Elementary School.

After taking Sunday off, workers took a dirt road south of the trucking company and an old Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way behind Robinson's Feed, where it met Highway 88.

Beginning Monday's trek at 9 a.m. from Lockeford, it took two hours to reach Highway 88 because the dirt and gravel were so soft workers had to lay down wood planks, said Alex Mejorado, a CHP officer who patrolled traffic along the route Monday.

Tully and Highway 88 were too narrow for workers to negotiate the 90-degree left turn onto Highway 88, necessitating the dirt and gravel route, Mejorado said.

The generator continued on Highway 88 from Locke Road to east Stockton. CHP officers blocked portions of Highway 88 throughout the day Monday.

The generator left the Rancho Seco plant on eastern Twin Cities Road on Friday morning and ended up at Alta Mesa and Simmerhorn roads in Herald. On Saturday morning, it went south into San Joaquin County and took Elliott Road into Lockeford.

Along the route, Bigge leased property from seven or eight property owners to allow the generator and trailer to make what would otherwise be impossible turns, Nugent said. In exchange for use of private property, Bigge installed new fences, culverts and driveways - whatever the property owner happened to need.


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