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
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
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."