Days, weeks, months of planning… meetings, test runs, paperwork… all finally come down to this day, this hour, this moment.
The first step: ensure anything that might get in the way is removed, so passage, en route, is as smooth and trouble-free as possible.
Because of the loads’ dimensions, West of Scotland was forced to use Glasgow’s ‘A’ road system. Some of these are barely large enough for a bus. It was a challenge only the best in the industry would accept. Staggered over three alternate July nights, beginning Sunday 12th and finishing in the early hours of Friday 17th, the team had only a four-hour window to deliver the mammoth steel hulks from one side of the city to the other.
Team Briefing was 23:00 sharp. Then the convoy – two Police vehicles, two Escort vehicles, and a tow-truck (from M8 Recovery for the TTRO order) – rolls out onto Porterfield Road, dead on midnight. Trying not to wake the quiet sleepy town of Renfrew, less than 500 yards out of the gate the team are immediately up against it. First challenge: a tight left-turn onto Paisley Road. Hampered by parked cars, they skilfully thread the load through with only inches to spare. Trevor ‘Digger’ Walsh and the team quickly get back up to speed, weaving the load carefully down Paisley Road. Then the convoy had to use the abnormal load route diversion, hanging right onto Glebe Street – a busy street, on a normal day full of centre islands and street furniture. Precise planning by West of Scotland HH had given Renfrewshire Council time to remove the centre-island signage: this gave the team a bit more precious road, away from residents’ parked vehicles.
Approaching the first road-island one sees the manpower West of Scotland has committed to the project. Working fast, the team soon has wooden ramps leading up the kerbs winding along Glebe Street. Then the convoy approaches an iconic roundabout: there is a road through the middle, a relic from Renfrew’s long-gone industrial days when Pickford’s were a regular sight. The police go on ahead to close the road two junctions up, allowing the load onto the wrong side of Glasgow Road, a full 1000 yards before slipping back onto the correct side of the dual-carriageway. Now the convoy approaches one of the busiest junctions, just outside Breahead.
At the roundabout the sheer scale of the load becomes apparent, with ‘Digger’ having to rely on steersman, James McDade, to ensure the rear of the trailer gets round. A short run along Renfrew Road brings us to the back end of Breahead, and another tight, sharply-cambered roundabout. Again, the West of Scotland team combine to ensure safe and clean passage. Running along Sheildhall Road, new roadworks’ signage has been put up – hours after the team had checked the route! Too big to turn, there is no going back.
The convoy pushes on towards Helen Street. Here, Scottish Gas has decided to dot numerous holes along lane 1 of the two-lane carriageway. They’ve also erected Heras fencing along the demarcation line, then round and onto an already mega-tight roundabout. Now the roadway is too narrow for the 6.1-metre wide silo. The six-strong team moves the fencing into lane 1, which soon allows us to clear the carriageway. As we wind towards Glasgow’s landmark Ibrox Stadium, another tight hilly section on the route halts the convoy while the trailer is lifted to clear the road surface – a further demonstration of the versatile and adaptable Scheuerle trailer.
With 01:00am fast closing in, the team are keen to keep rolling. Easing down off the humpback onto yet another sharp roundabout, taking it in their stride, the team use the rear-steering axles, sweeping round like clockwork, arriving outside the aforementioned home of Glasgow Rangers. Traffic Control shoots off ahead to block Paisley Road West. Now ‘Digger’ can use both sides of the road to make the turn: it’s tight indeed, very tight, but round with no real challenges, all straight again. Billy and James jump into the vans, ‘Digger’ pulls away from the junction; West Street, Clyde Place fly by; nothing to cause any issues.
At 01:30am the convoy rumbles into Glasgow city centre, via Oswald Street. Here the team meets up with staff from Siemens Traffic Control. For extra room through these sections of the route, the traffic-lights have been taken down. Slowly swing the load round the tricky right turn, then a stop: to adjust the trailer height – and clear the steep arch of the 1928, Cat-B-listed bridge. Now the load takes an immediate left under the iconic Central Station Bridges. For our rear swing-round, Siemens had helpfully dropped the traffic-signals flat; still keeping as low as possible, we pass safely under. Nice and easy, the team breezing the overhead challenges.
Travelling along Clyde Street, the site of the tragic helicopter crash is off to our right. Idling quietly, respectfully, by The Clutha Bar, now it’s ‘shunt the trailer’ – Glasgow City Council have somehow permitted scaffolding on the corner, making it way too tight to take the left in one cut. ‘Digger’ noses the DAF into Steel Street, reversing back onto Saltmarket, while James guides the trailer from the rear.