March 5, 2004  


The Green Meanie—Over 30 Years and Counting

By Davide Castelvecchi

Both Rich Torres (EFD) and the Green Meanie have been at SLAC since 1966, and neither one is ready to retire quite yet.

The front tires (8’2’’ tall) and the rear tires (6’3’’ tall), are taller than the average man.  (Photo by Terry Tuck)

The mighty LeTourneau FL-40 Lift Truck is actually back to its original safety yellow now, though it had been green for some years, thus earning its nickname of ‘Green Meanie’. It will be in perfect working condition again soon, after maintenance and some repair work is completed. Its 98-inch front wheels and 75-inch rear, steering wheels—all taller than an average person—are resting on their sides while mechanics work on replacing the four electric motors that power each wheel independently.

"This thing pretty much built most of the stuff here back in the old days," says Torres while standing by the gigantic machine in the Collider Experimental Hall. Torres still has a 1960’s LeTourneau catalog, and points to a picture of the Green Meanie lifting concrete shielding blocks during construction of our linear accelerator. The Texas-based heavy-duty equipment maker built the Green Meanie to SLAC’s specifications, adapting the design of the log-stackers commonly used in the timber industry.

The Green Meanie’s forks can carry a load of 80,000 pounds (40 tons), and its front jib hook can lift up to 40,000 pounds (20 tons) at a time. And for all that, the cost to build it was a dollar a pound when it was purchased.

Torres and David Engesser (EFD) are the only staff members around who still know how to operate the 135,000 pound (67.5 ton) machine. Eventually all the riggers will be trained to operate the LeTourneau. "It’s easier to operate than any other piece of equipment," Torres says.

The Green Meanie has an imposing presence. "We used to call it the giant praying mantis," says Torres. That’s indeed what it looks like, articulated into an elongated rear section—carrying a 335 horsepower Diesel engine—and an upright front section, with the jib hanging from the top and the forks sticking out in the middle, like a mantis’ mouth and arms. The engine acts as a generator, and all operations are electrically powered.

SLAC also owns an over-sized forklift that can perform similar jobs, and the Green Meanie was once slated for retirement. But the Rigging department pointed out that it was worth keeping, because of its superior maneuverability. What does that feel like? Torres says, "It’s a kick in the butt." Torres also points out that the cost of buying a new one now would be prohibitive.

Eventually, the pleas worked. "We’re really grateful to EFD and the Research Division for recognizing it’s value to SLAC," Torres says. "This thing is worth its weight in gold."



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Tuesday March 02, 2004 by Emily Ball