How the Tree Crusher Made it to Main Street

LE TOURNEAU G175 TREE CRUSHER

History

November 9th, 1964, the tree crusher arrived in Mackenzie by rail on six flat bed cars at the Kennedy Siding. It was four days before unloading and assembly was completed with operational costs, at that time, of approximately $15,000,00. There were 2 cranes, 1 small tractor, 4 mechanics and 2 supervisors involved with the process.

From November 21st to December 9th, 1964, many attempts were made to actually get the crushing machine across the terrain to the work zone, a distance of approximately 4 miles. Plagued by difficulties such as getting stuck several times, the grade having to be cut down on a hill to allow it to climb, and the rollers icing up from the onset of winter, all transit activity ceased for that year. It was only 2.5 miles from the assemblage site.

Troubles seemed to follow the project into the summer of 1965. Mechanical failure and getting stuck were the norm. Once the work site was reached the tree crusher only bulldozed 340 acres down from mid-May to July’s end. But things took a turn at midsummer, production increased and by November 17th, 1965, 2,250 acres were mowed over. The crusher had crossed the Parsnip River once and the Nation River twice without incident at 5′ water levels. The seals on the four motor drives held.

Operation of the crusher was shut down for the winter on November 17th, 1965. However, it was to be much longer than that before it saw movement again.

The Move

On May 28, 1984, the District of Mackenzie took the first steps towards moving the Tree Crusher by creating a “Tree crusher Committee”. For years there had been talk of relocation of the colossal machine. It was 38.5 miles from the Mackenzie townsite at Out Thumb Creek and the problem of moving it seemed insurmountable. Driving it through the forest all the way to town was one thought. Getting the Army Engineer Corps another. The only unacceptable solution was leaving it exactly where it was.

Undertaking strategies for the move, Arnold Boomhower, chaired the first committee session on June 27th, 1984. Expected timelines for the move, prior to the meeting, were for the summer of 1986. It was to be much sooner than that. By the time the second meeting rolled around, machines and manpower were ready to go into action. Proving where there is a will there is a way; all they needed was the final nod. “The Move” was scheduled for October 19th, 1984.

In a rapidly moving joint venture, BC Forest Products Ltd. took on the tasks of disassembly and re-assembly. The District manufactured a new local on Mackenzie Boulevard. While Finlay Forest Products devised the mode of travel for the six gigantic pieces. Assisting with the final transit was the Ministry of Forests who provided pilot vehicles, crowd control and security. All efforts and equipment were voluntary actions.

Finally, a month shy of 20 years, the tree crusher was again on the move. Only this time the crusher was in six easily movable pieces. It took 2 cranes, 6.5 hours to load the sections onto 2 low bed semi-trailers, 2 Hi-boys, and 2 logging trucks. By 2:30 in the afternoon the convoy began winding its way down the forest service road to Public Works. The journey had taken 1.25 hours, its quickest ever.

Over the next 2 days the crusher was reassembled on the present day local. Half the town was snapping pictures and the local stores quickly sold out of film. For the last fifteen plus years the ‘Crusher’ has been, in turn, the community’s yellow elephant and the world’s tourist attraction.

 

SOURCE:

Handout provided by the Mackenzie Chamber of Commerce (courtesy of Rita Rewerts, Executive Administrator) http://www.bigthings.ca/bc/mack_his.html

Further Reading:

For more Mackenzie & District Museum content related to Williston Reservoir, visit the ‘Our Stories’ page here (updated as we continue to develop our website).

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