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Old 10-23-2007, 08:34 PM   #121
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BTW, at Christmas last year (no, that'd be last Christmas this year) a magazine sent me to Diavik for the day to play in a 400 ton truck and write about it. Would there be any interest in those pics if I were to dig them out?

Sounds intresting. I am looking forward to it.
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Old 10-23-2007, 08:56 PM   #122
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The Fort Liard Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by svizzerams
Enjoyed your thread immensely - the paragraph above really caught my eye. I lived in arctic Alaska (Kotzebue) for a while and I fell in love with Alaska living in the arctic. 10 years later I left with great reluctance. I was just in Calgary this weekend and it felt a bit like home. Great story. Know exactly what you mean about that elemental landscape. I never got tired of looking at it - and its subtle mutations of light and shadow. The sunrise-sunset pictures bring home a lot of good memories. Gracias.
Hi svizzerams. Yep, I think you have to see the arctic first hand before you can decide whether or not it's beautiful. Pity some relatives of mine, who have never been within 1500 miles of the place, have decided that they already know what its like, and have no interest whatsoever in visiting me here. Their loss, I suppose. Sorry to make you homesick, but glad that you like the thread!

Quote:
How many hours of daylight do yall get per day that time of year?
That'd be about 5 in the middle of winter. Half way through March the days begin to get longer for a full 7 mins (or something close) every day, and you can notice the difference even without trying. It's a huge psycholgical boost!

A few odds and ends today, plus a story about the Fort Liard trip I did in the middle of my first season, when there was a delay with loads going to the mine.

Needs no explanation


And this 'De Beers' sign is the Snap lake Mine turn-off.


A very bad photo of a blow-out


Ladies and gentlemen, the Fort Liard story...
Back in Yellowknife again it turned out that once more there were no loads waiting for us. My boss Ron was as angry as I was, and said that if nothing happened before the end of the day he’d send me on a highway trip to Fort Liard, NT, to pick up a load of fire wood. Sure enough, at 10pm that night I found myself heading south toward the Mackenzie River pulling a set of super-B decks. I had been up all day and in the wee hours of the morning when I pulled in to a rest area on the Simpson Highway to sleep, the truck had other ideas. It was under the impression that it was overheating, although it wasn’t, and an alarm kept going off that kept me awake. I even took the big riask od shutting it off and letting sit for an hour before checking the coolant – the level was fine, and the old girl fired right back up again. But the alarm wouldn’t quit, and I couldn’t sleep, so in the end I had no choice but to keep on going to Fort Liard, about eight hours away from Yellowknife, and three from where I was.

Despite having re-assured us that they would be ready for me, the lumber company hadn’t even plowed the snow around the logs I was to be loaded with, and I had to wait a couple of hours while they took care of this. The area I had to get to required me to chain up with my snow chains, but having done so and pulled into place, they then decided that they needed to plow more snow. That meant I had to drive through town to make a loop and come back around. I really didn’t feel like taking the chains off to go through town, then putting them on again three kilometers later, so I left them on and took it slowly. At exactly the time I was on the main drag (‘main drag’ is quite an overstatement when talking about a town of 600 people in the Northwest Territories, but this was the ‘main’ road that ran through town), Highway Patrol passed me and asked me if I was finding it slippery. I should have just said yes, but I explained that I was merely making a loop and was only spending perhaps four or five minutes on the ‘real’ road. Buddy didn’t seem to agree with that, and although he was pleasant about it (he would have been well within his rights to give me a ticket), he made me take the chains off. Within five minutes I was back on the forest service road and having to chain up again for the second time that morning. It was mid afternoon by the time I was loaded, and by now I hadn’t slept for at least 36 hours.

There is a very steep hill as you exit Fort Liard, the top of which is only perhaps 300ft from the highway. I knew that covered in snow and ice as it was, I was never going to make it up that hill with a loaded super-b, so I pulled into the lumber company’s yard to collect my paperwork and separate the two trailers. I still had the chains on, but even then and with only one trailer at a time I knew that I shouldn’t be complacent about making the climb. It requires a delicate balancing act between getting as much momentum as you can before you hit the hill, but not so much that your chains begin coming apart and taking out air lines or getting wrapped around your axles. As I was going to pull out of the yard with the first trailer, an RWED (Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development) officer turned up. I had already been given the permit I required to haul the lumber, and it had been signed by the chief of the local native band, but the officer had a problem with where it had been signed. This seemed ridiculously petty to me, but as with the Highway Patrol officer earlier, this guy had the power to make life miserable for me. He wanted the form signed in the right place, and over the course of the next ninety minutes or so sent three different people in three different pick ups to find the chief and get him to put his john henry in the right spot. Three hours later, he was finally satisfied and I was allowed to continue. Really, was it that important? Apparently yes. I pulled the rear trailer up the hill and dollied it off in a pull-out there, heading back to hook up to the lead unit. I took the rear trailer first so that once the lead trailer was hooked up to the truck again, I wouldn’t have to unhook it again. I backed it under the second unit and re-connected all the electrical and air lines, opening the valves on the latter. It was well and truly dark by the time I had done this, about 4 pm, and I was not looking forward to taking the chains off the truck in the dark. No lighting in this pull-out! It wasn’t as if I had a choice, though. Under usual circumstances I might have slept for a couple of hours but with the same alarm still going off in the truck that just wasn’t going to happen. I made sure that I was level and would have enough traction to pull away again, then took my snow chains off.

I was thoroughly pissed off by this stage. I tried to call my girlfriend at work, but the signal on my cell phone was so weak that whoever answered couldn’t hear me. I toyed with the idea of calling her on the radio phone, but I was just miserable. I had already been tired having had so little sleep on my last trip to Diavik, and now I also had no food or water left. Ron had expected me home within the next couple of hours, but I was still 8 hrs drive away, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back without getting some sleep somewhere. I knew that I wouldn’t pass a store that would be open to get something to eat or drink for another five hours so I did my best to fill my empty water bottle with snow knowing that I could drink it later. I wrote in my journal that if I had been in Yellowknife I would have quit when the Highway Patrol officer told me to take my chains off.

By midnight I had been up for over 40 hours and simply couldn’t go on. I pulled over, set the high idle to about 1000rpm and turned on the engine fan. This would keep the alarm from going off, but it wouldn’t do the truck any good. I knew that it would run very cold, and that after a while it would start to cough and splutter, then stop. If it stopped I might not get it going again, and I didn’t want to play that game. I simply hoped that if the engine started making unusual noises, I would wake up in time to turn the fan off and wind up the revs to warm it back up.

I woke up after four hours to find the engine cold, but alive. I felt much better myself, and reflected on how angry I had been when I’d left Fort Liard the evening before. I had called my boss Ron on the radio telephone before I left and he had seemed concerned for me, which I was very appreciative of, and looking back on it now I was very grateful for the entire experience. I now knew how to separate and re-join a set of trains in the dark, well blow freezing, when they’d been on an 8 hour ‘highway’ trip the previous day and were caked in hard packed snow, as well as being faster with snow chains. It was in this vastly improved frame of mind that I set off for home again, arriving late morning. As I reached Checkpoint I pulled in with the aim of grabbing some fuel, but it was too early in the morning and I was damned if I was going to wait two more hours in the truck with that alarm going steady until the y opened again. I pushed on, and only made it across the Mackenzie and into Fort Providence on fumes. In Yellowknife Ron took me out to lunch, gave me the rest of the day off, and that evening paid me cash for the trip and bought me a few beers – to keep me happy, he said! It worked, and I was very relieved to finally crash into my bed that night and sleep properly for the first time in two days.


That'd be a Nun plow. And a couple more that you'll like, galute...



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Old 10-23-2007, 09:25 PM   #123
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NIICCCEEEE!!!!!! Thanks, keep em coming.
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Old 10-25-2007, 10:57 AM   #124
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Mackay Lake Lodge

Just heard on the news this morning that the owner of Mackay Lake Lodge (see post #86) is thinking about offering tours of the ice road this winter. He's thinking day one would be from YK to the lodge, and spending the night there. Day two would be from the lodge to Diavik mine then back to the lodge, and day three would be the journey back to Yellowknife. At night there'd be snowmobiling and watching the northern lights. Not sure whether you'd be able to go ice fishing - the ice up there would be pretty freaking thick!

He says that he was hired while they were filming the TV show. Crews stayed at the lodge and he drove them around in pick ups following the rigs. Interesting idea, tours of the road, but it would be extremely expensive for anyone even to get to Yellowknife. Hope he does well, though. In the mean time, tours are offered for free through this thread!
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Old 10-25-2007, 11:51 AM   #125
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greetings from a desert adventure dual surface oilfield trucker from the southwest usa.

awesome thread.

more o/s load pics PLEASE!!!!
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Old 10-25-2007, 06:25 PM   #126
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You guys are really earning your money. Incredible stories of a alien landscape to this Texas ADV er. Keep em coming, and how the hell do you stay warm? Enjoyed every post, you guys rock.
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Old 10-28-2007, 07:00 PM   #127
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Another story

I've been a bit slack lately - I see this thread even made it's way off the first page in this forum! Inexcusable! Anyway, I have a few more pics and another story today.

Hello to bullfrog - there are a few times I've thought about putting a rig on the oilfields in Alberta. I've always imagined that it'd be interesting work with plenty of off road driving. Maybe one day...maybe you have some stories of your own? Thanks for reading the thread, I think I have a few more o/s load pics, but you've already seen my best ones. I'll have a look over the next few days.

And hi to FotoTEX too. I have to stress that I'm not really a truck driver - I have been on the odd occasion, but these days I only drive for the 8 or 10 weeks that the ice roads are open. I have spent the odd summer driving gravel trucks in and around Yellowknife, and when I am there I do the odd one-off trip down south or the odd day in a dump truck or something. I love drivings trucks, but I'm certainly not cut out for the life of a 'real' truck driver. Much respect to those guys. Heck, this past season I wasn't even on the ice as I was at school - and I will be this winter too - but in '09 just try and stop me!


This is a pic of the snow woman, or inukshuk, before it had a bikini spray painted on. The Nuna road crews made this - I did post a pic of it earlier with the bikini, but it was back when I was still learning how to do this photo thing and I don't think the link works.

I was just reading my notes and on the way home from Diavik on my second ever trip I passed a truck stranded on portage 49. It was a super-B set of tankers hauling fuel, and heading north on Mackay Lake he'd begun to have air compressor problems. Portage 49 is the northern-most end of Mackay Lake and the first place that he'd have been able to pull over. He'd done so and a mechanic had come out to help him. He'd kept the engine running but had at one time lost all his air and his brakes had come on. It had taken them nine hours in -35c to fix the compressor problem, and when he'd built up his air again every single brake on his trailer was frozen - that's 10 brakes that they were having to heat up with a propane torch and beat to hell with a sledgehammer. Man, I felt sorry for that poor guy - I wonder how long it took him before he was rolling again.



Tonight's story is an example of the complete and utter confusion that was the Diavik dispatch/site services in 2005. It was far better the following year I must say, but I'll never forget how frustrated I was there on occasions when their complete and utter inability to get anything organised was hard to smile at and ignore. Here's an example...

The main part of my load was a brand new Komastsu grader that everyone seemed to think made a very pretty load. A few people even took photos of it. I began to suggest that it was for sale – it was probably worth a quarter of a million dollars, and I told everyone that for $100,000 cash I’d throw in the truck and the trailer too.

I noted in my journal that the northern lights had been good that night, and at Lockhart I called my girlfriend who had been to a wedding that afternoon to ask how it had gone. We left again at 5am and surprise surprise disorganization was the name of the game at Diavik. I had just bought them a quarter million dollars of heavy equipment, but not only where they not expecting it, they also had no idea where it should go. It was 12.50pm when I climbed back into the truck having left staff to try and find out what to do with my machine, and I reasoned that I had to leave at 2pm in order to make it to The Meadows in time to beat that nights Ingraham Trail road closures, which were a common occurrence at this time while wide loads were transported north out of Yellowknife.

A chap called Bobby went to a lot of trouble to find out where my load was supposed to go, and eventually I was taken to an offload area and told to wait. After an hour and a half, still no one had come by to see me and I was beginning to feel frustrated. I actually began to wonder whether anyone even knew that I was there. By now I was not going to beat the road closures so I knew that I wouldn’t make it back to see Amanda that night. My British friend Hadyn turned up at Diavik with a load of fuel while I was waiting, and I hoped that I might actually get to meet him this time, but he had unloaded and gone and still no one had come to see me. I was angry. After I had been there just short of five hours I heard the three guys I had driven up there with on the radio talking to each other. They had just been unloaded and I asked Jamie to switch to another radio channel so that I could chat to him without any one at Diavik hearing. I asked him to politely ask at dispatch, when he went to sign out, if they knew what was happening with regard to my being unloaded. I had to specifically mention that I wanted him to ask ‘politely’ because all drivers that were running to Diavik were so frustrated and upset at the chaos there and the way we were being treated that on a daily basis people were giving dispatch a piece of their minds. I didn’t want to upset dispatch because I’m sure that would only have only delayed things even further. A few minutes later Jamie called me back to tell me that whoever was supposed to be unloading me had forgotten about me. By now I was fuming, but Jamie had told me that the people at Dispatch were as upset as I was, and that they were dealing with it right now. I thanked Jamie and wished him a good trip back to town.

Ten minutes later someone showed up to see me. They guided me into the maintenance shop and I was light headed with relief. All that was needed was a quick shot of ether into the air intake on the grader, which would then start and could simply be driven off the trailer. After that the loader bucket I was carrying at the front of the trailer could be unloaded easily by a forklift, or better yet the loader that it was for, and I would be on my way again. Unfortunately the chaps whose job it was, I thought, to unload the grader had other ideas. They told me that they wanted to let the machine sit in the warmth of the equipment shed for four or five hours before they tried to start it. Instantly I was seething again. I told them that I had just spent five hours sitting waiting outside while they forgot all about me in ignorant bliss, and now that they were actually doing their job I was to wait five more hours here? They replied in the affirmative and I was so angry that I had to turn away. They told me that I could grab supper in the dining room while I was waiting, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I did do that, amused at the fact that it took about ten minutes to walk through a maze of tunnels and walkways to actually make it to the dining room, but relieved that for once I could hang my reflective vest and hard hat up once I was through the machine shop. In the main complex I found the computer room again and wrote a long email to Amanda using some colourful language to demonstrate what I thought of the whole situation. It was nothing more than incompetence on the part of Daivik Diamond Mines. There was a concession store in the main building and I bought a few Diavik ‘souvenirs’ for various people.

I went back to the truck and updated my journal, as well as trying to nap, although I was still a little wound up for that. About four hours after I had been shown into the building, Cindy from dispatch/security came over to find me and very kindly checked on whether or not I had had anything to eat. I was very touched by this – at least someone somewhere felt bad for me and had even made a special trip out to see me. She said that she was going to try and find the guy whose job it was to start the grader, and sure enough within twenty minutes he was there and had the machine running. Then Cindy came back to escort me to the unloading ramp where the grader was driven off, followed by an unloading area where someone with a forklift removed the loader bucket I had been carrying. Finally at 9.50pm I made it back to dispatch to have my paperwork signed and wait for a convoy to head south with. I had been at Diavik for twelve hours, which was record even for them. Had things been efficient and well organized there, there is no reason why I couldn’t have been in and out within ninety minutes.

It took a further two hours to leave because I had to wait for a south bound convoy to join, and a group that had been going to leave immediately decided to sleep for a while instead. Although I’d have been better off spending the night at the mine I just wanted to get the hell away from there, and left at midnight, arriving at Lockhart at 4am. There I met up with a couple of friends working for a company from Saskatchewan, Dave and Ed, and I ran back to town with them. We left Lockhart at 9.40am and made Yellowknife at 4pm. My boss Ron and my dispatcher Brian both already knew what had happened – I guess word travels fast!


Here are a couple of guys stranded at Diavik when the weather turned bad and they closed the road. I don't have any pics of the grader in the story.

Here's some ravens scavanging a caribou carcass left behind by a hunter.




At Diavik


Not at Diavik


And three more views of the road. This one looks as though it was taken from Lockhart.




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Old 10-28-2007, 09:00 PM   #128
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squonker,
At least you have some varied topography, as well as a little vegetation, in that area. When I was seeing the Prudhoe Bay area out of the cab of a D7, it was as featureless as one of those lakes you cross. At one time, when pulling a broken-down drill rig back to camp, my machine stopped moving for 2 or 3 minutes and I couldn't even tell - there was nothing to judge motion by.
But at least we didn't have to worry about the thickness of the ice. Toward the end of winter they were having to drill through as much as 14' of ice to find water for the mobile camps. When the lake was only 13' deep it didn't do much good.
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Old 10-30-2007, 05:44 PM   #129
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Quick photo upload

Alcan Rider - thanks for your post. I will reply to it properly, but I'm heading out the door right now and wanted to pst some pics before people think I'm winding this thread down. Been really busy lately, but I still have many many more pics and stories. Some pics for now...

I'm not 100% sure where I took this one. I guess it can only really be at the top of Charlie's or the other big hill, the name of which escapes me right now. It doesn't look like Charlie's so I guess it's Drybones - that's it, Drybones Hill.


The road on a beautiful day


And the road with a white-out on the way



Self-explanatory, I think


The moon....


...and the sun
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Old 10-30-2007, 07:45 PM   #130
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These stories and pictures are amazing. Thanks so much for all the attention and work you've put into this, squonker.
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Old 10-30-2007, 11:24 PM   #131
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I just bothered to look at this thread, I guess I assumed it was about the TV show and not real life adventures from an actual driver.
Thank you for taking the time and effort to post all of what you posted, stuff like this brings us back to the forums to see what happens next!

You might find this one amusing-





Big Lake, Alaska, also has a system of ice roads-quite a few islanders can only drive to their houses during the winter. And of course, every year somebody has to push the envelope, resulting in a quality outdoor experience with chainsawws and tow ropes.

If someone drops a truck through the ice, are there environmental repercussions? IIRC, the EPA regulates such actitity here in the US, you get fined so much every day for the time your vehicle "pollutes" the water by being stuck in a frozen lake.

Thanks again, keep it coming!
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Old 10-31-2007, 09:06 PM   #132
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Winterizing trucks, buying trucks, and HUGE compliments!

What a night this is turning out to be. I’ve written before about how I’ve been typing away for a while and hit the wrong button only to lose everything I’d written. Tonight I had been typing for literally 40 mins when suddenly my screen went pink (WTF?!) and all I could do was shut the computer off, losing the whole damn lot. Later I’ll look to see if there’s a way to save as I’m typing a reply, but for tonight I’ll use MS Word and save every couple of mins in case my screen should decide to turn green, or yellow perhaps. I apologize that it doesn’t do wonders for the font colour, but obviously the Halloween goblins are messing with my computer today…

Wow, Klay and KL5A, you guys make me feel great, saying such nice things. Thanks, it is much appreciated, and makes posting that much more fun. In fact, I even decided to skip doing homework tonight to write a post instead, you motivated me that much! There are two plus sides to this: firstly, I didn’t do any homework, and secondly if I fail school I can blame it on you guys!

Quote:
When I was seeing the Prudhoe Bay area out of the cab of a D7, it was as featureless as one of those lakes you cross. At one time, when pulling a broken-down drill rig back to camp, my machine stopped moving for 2 or 3 minutes and I couldn't even tell - there was nothing to judge motion by..

Alcan Rider, that is a great story! I haven’t experienced it myself, but I can easily imagine it happening. I ran Cats (D7, D8, D9) in the mountains in South Africa and British Columbia, and I’d sure have known if I stopped moving then. But your story reminded me of one I was told, if you’ll let me… this is wild. The chap I ran Cats for in B.C. had been brought up in Yellowknife in the 1930s. Back then, YK was a true pioneer/frontier town. Ok, you may need an atlas for this bit: Yellowknife is on the north shore of Great Slave Lake. On the south is the town of Hay River, and if you keep looking south of that, you’ll see the town of Grimshaw, Alberta. Doug’s Dad used to haul freight for the army between YK and Hay River in the summer (on a barge across the lake), and between YK and Grimshaw in winter, using a Cat train (although in those days they weren’t Cats, they were some other make). Even the summer barging had its moments – Doug said that one fall his Dad was on his way back to YK when it suddenly became very cold very quickly and ice formed to the extent that he became trapped in it. He started keeping a journal, thinking that he was done for (GSL is the tenth largest in the world so to be trapped in the ice in the middle of it would be a slight downer), but luckily it warmed up again and he made it home.
If that isn’t crazy enough, I don’t know how many miles it is from YK to Grimshaw, but if you were to drive it today in your car along the Mackenzie Highway, it’d take between 14 and 18 hours. In those days there was no Mackenzie Highway, not even an ice road, so all Doug’s Dad (and others that did the same thing) could do was to point his machine in the direction of Grimshaw, and drive! This is in the 1920s and ‘30s, don’t forget, so Cats in those days had no blades, no winches and no cabs! Holy smokes! I can not imagine coming across a pressure ridge in the ice and getting across it with no blade and no winch, using only…skill! The Cat towed four skids: two were freight, one was it’s own fuel, and one was a caboose in which he could eat and sleep. A couple of guys built cabs on their machines, but when they went through the ice they couldn’t get out in time, so no-one else followed that example! Doug said that his Dad built a half-height cab out of plywood. He could duck behind it and get out of the wind, just popping his head up every so often to have a look in front of him. Doug has shown me photos of these cat trains, and they are simply amazing. What I do is a piece of piss compared to those guys. Getting out of some of those situations without the use of a blade or a winch is just unbelievable. You’ll have to excuse me – I get quite passionate about this stuff! Thanks for sharing your own story, dude.

Quote:
If someone drops a truck through the ice, are there environmental repercussions? IIRC, the EPA regulates such actitity here in the US, you get fined so much every day for the time your vehicle "pollutes" the water by being stuck in a frozen lake.

KL5A, as far as I know there are no repercussions for dropping a truck through the ice, other than of the needing new underwear variety! I say this because earlier on in the thread I posted a pic of a water truck that had broken through while they were building the road in ’06, and they just left it there until the end of the season. Sure, it was only a water truck, but it still had diesel in the tanks. The other thing is that in ’04 when Gary’s truck went right though, they went in to collect the body but just left the truck at the bottom of the lake. Where there are repercussions, however, is when guys roll their fuel tankers on the Ingraham Trail, as happens every year. I know that the environmental and monitoring guys take a keen interest in those cases, and make sure that things are cleaned up properly. There is one company known as The Red Army that has rolled so many trucks on the Ingraham Trail that if anyone else does so now, they call The Red Army for advice!

Before I go on, I should break up this typing with some pics. Here are a few of the real heroes of the job, the flooding crews. These guys are out there all day and all night keeping the road in shape for us, and on cold nights that must be an utterly thankless task. Despite everything else, they have to put up with dumbass truck drivers such as myself passing them on the wrong side. Sorry guys!






Tonight I was going to talk about winterizing trucks, and spec’ing them for the job. There have been a couple of questions already about preferred make of truck, engine, and tranny, and I’ve said that no one specs a rig just for this job, which is true. Companies from down south merely put whatever trucks they already have on the road onto the ice for those two months. The only time anything specific comes up is when some of the local YK guys buy trucks at auctions down south, trucks that are only going to work for the duration of the season, and spend the other 10 months of the year parked up. In that case there are a few guidelines to work from: you’ll need at least 400hp, an air dryer (helps prevent frozen airlines), large fuel tanks (min. 750 litres for me, but you can do it with less), a big sleeper ‘cos you’ll be spending a lot of time in that truck, and some lockers (diff lockers, not storage lockers!). A cruise control that works at low speeds is a real luxury, but it wouldn’t be important enough to make you buy that truck over another. A rig with good ground clearance is a good idea, and then you can look at little things such as the fuel lines that run under the truck between the two tanks - they shouldn't be anywhere where they can get caught on snow or ice, and break. Personally, I wouldn’t want to do the job in a truck with any less than 13 speeds, and many guys say a 425 mechanical Cat is the ideal engine simply because you don’t need a degree in electronics and a laptop to work on it. But, Cat engines are thirsty and fuel ain’t cheap. I like the S60 Detroit myself.
You buy a winter front for the truck, and then throw in the equipment you’ll need, some of which is required by the regs, such as fire extinguisher, UHF radio with the right channels, wide load signs, wheel chocks, flagging tape, diesel anti-waxing stuff, brake-line antifreeze (you put ½ litre down each air hose before you hook up to any trailer), snow chains (and even though you’ll only need them when you goof up, you’d better know how to out them on!), satellite radio etc.

As for winterizing them, we do very little. You can get some tough, canvas-like material (can’t remember what it’s called), which you tie to the front bumper and run it down tight under the engine and transmission to help keep it warm. This tarp sometimes builds up a huge amount of ice on it. I had one pic of a ‘belly tarp’, but there was insufficient ice on it to warrant posting it. Every time we fill up we put anti-waxing stuff in the fuel tanks, and it’s only when the truck keeps going in and out of the shop that you really get problems. They become accustomed to the cold after a couple of days – if you then bring it into the shop it all warms up, and when you get back outside you’re going to get ice building up somewhere that you don’t want it.

Ok, enough for tonight. Thanks for enjoying the thread – keep coming back! I must post those epics of the 400 ton truck at Diavik soon….

Three more pics of the flooding crews to finish up with.




I never like driving through this fresh stuff - the thought of it splashing up onto my wheels, brakes and axles...
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Old 11-02-2007, 05:28 PM   #133
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Another hijack

Hijacking my own thread again today to post some pics of the 400 ton truck I got to play with at Diavik last Christmas. One of the companies that owns the mine had me write a piece for them about the ice roads in '05, and last year they contacted me again to send me to Diavik for the day and hang out in/on this truck, then write about it. As usual I'm in a hurry, so I'll just post some pics and then copy and paste the article.
Oh, one thing...it's an English magazine so I wrote it in English! That explains some words that some of you might find funny!

Trying to find a few pics that give you an idea of the size. (Dimensions in the article following).






Looking down on a 100 ton truck!



The 830E is big. From it you can look down on 100 ton trucks which are big themselves, and pick-ups parked beside you look positively tiny - these are full size pick ups with crew cabs, too. There are bigger trucks, for sure, as a visit to the oil sands operations in Fort McMurray, AB will indelibly print in your memory, but the 830E is still big. In fact, it’s still massive.

I’ve known about trucks like this for years, and seen them up close, but standing at the bottom of the one I rode in as Pit Supervisor Jimmy Larkin dropped me off, it was so big that it threw me for a minute. I’d known since I was a kid that the stairway to heaven ran at an angle across the radiator, but standing there trying not to look too gormless, I was stumped by the fact that (a) even the first step was high enough off the ground to be a climb, and (b) I couldn’t see the top of the truck. Have I mentioned yet that it was big? I didn’t want to look even more clueless and start to climb the wrong staircase, so it took me a while to tilt my head back enough to be able to see that I was indeed headed in the right direction, and was going to take the right route there.

There is a ‘direct’ vertical climb to the cab, but I took the traditional ‘radiator route’ for several reasons. I needed time to think, this was a gentler slope, I am about as lazy as you can get, and I’m scared of heights. Anyway, I can now say I played in a truck that took 16 steps to get up into; if I’d taken the other route I’d have perhaps only taken 10 steps, and I now have a better story to impress my friends with.

At the end of my climb I found the cab (it’s a normal size, and really very small compared to everything else around you), and introduced myself to Mary Ann Angnahiak, the pilot of truck number 206 at Diavik diamond mine. Stowing my bag and coat behind the seat, I began to look around me. “Hmmm”, I thought, “this isn’t what I expected at all.” Everything seemed so normal – a functional cab with A/C, power windows and a CD player, but what’s special about that? I had a vague sense of being two or three stories off the ground, but all the other equipment around us was on an equally colossal scale, and it wasn’t apparent that I was in anything other than a big piece of machinery. A look to the left revealed a large hydraulic shovel loading another large truck, and an admittedly large wing mirror. Straight ahead was more large equipment and some rather cool ice-covered pit walls; but turning my head to the right, everything came back to me in a rush of incredulity. Where was the passenger side wing mirror? All I could see was yellow, a mass of steel and a huge open space between myself and the other side of the truck. Finally I spotted what I was looking for all of 20 feet away. Twenty feet! I was three feet from the left hand side of the truck, and you could probably park a couple of long-box pick up trucks end to end between me and the far side of the vehicle. “Holy crap” I thought, and immediately everything became clear. This was a BIG truck. Not sure whether or not I mentioned that yet.

As Mary Ann pulled away, the first thing I wrote down were the words ‘bucking bronco’. This thing sways about like…something that sways about a great deal…, and on the third line of my notes I wrote the words ‘motion sickness’. Just after ‘so damn wide.’ The engine is fairly loud, but it sounds like the engine in an 18 wheeler; in fact, this Cummins lump puts out 2375 hp – most big rigs are between 400 and 500hp. The controls are very simple, more so than in your family car. The gear selector has only forward, neutral, and reverse positions, and there are only three pedals. Two of them are brakes – on the left the service brake pedal for use at speeds under 5 kmh, and in the middle the ‘dynamics’. Here is where a fellow could become confused. Let’s look at the facts – there is a big diesel engine, and when you push down on the go pedal, the truck moves. The further you push the pedal towards the floor, the faster the truck goes. So, the engine drives the truck, right? Wrong. The engine drives an electric motor in each wheel, and these General Electric motors drive the truck. The ‘dynamics’ retards the electric motors, thereby slowing the truck. No brake wear, no brake failure, no soiled underpants.

As we backed in beside the shovel, I was surprised at how close we were to it. We backed in just the way you would in any dump truck, and I would have thought that a machine this size would need an area the size of Lichenstein in which to turn around, but in fact it has a very tight turning circle. Well, 46 feet may not be tight if you drive a Miata, but it is when you’re riding a 23 ft tall, 23 ft wide monster like this. Your Miata may be 7 feet long – try turning it around in 14. There is no excessive movement as the gigantic shovel loads the truck, and it usually takes somewhere between 9 and 12 passes to fill. The on-board payload meter told us that our first load weighed 248 tons, and that’s just the load, not including the truck itself, a further 150 tons. It’s foot to the floor all the way climbing out of the pit, but the speed only picks up a little as the ground levels out. As with being loaded, tipping the box up won’t be a new experience to anyone who has driven a dump truck before, and before I knew it we were on our way back down into the pit. Here is where the dynamics come in handy. Just pull the yellow knob to turn them on, press on the middle pedal, and use the dial beside the on/off switch to vary the amount of braking power you receive, so that you don’t have to constantly adjust your foot on the pedal.

I spent a couple of hours with Mary Ann, during which time I learned the following pieces of information: her job involves a great deal of sitting around and waiting; if I had her job I’d take up smoking again; this truck starts and stops on the key just like your car does, (it costs a little more though, at 2.7 million Canadian dollars); it takes 45 minutes to do a round trip; and the truck is very big (thought I had better throw that in).

Later I got to meet heavy duty mechanic Darcy Sinclair, who raves about these trucks. The electric drive is vastly superior to the mechanical drive found in Cats, he says, before adding that the 830E is an “excellent truck for this climate”. The Diavik fleet of eleven 830Es and 8 Caterpillar 785s (100 tonners) is serviced at 500 hour intervals. The trucks have been down-rated from 2375 hp to a measly 2150 hp, thereby saving fuel, knocking down overspeeds and eliminating any unnecessary excess power. The fuel tank holds between 4000 and 4500 litres, and that much fuel lasts 24 hours. Working on the truck is not hard, and the engine and generator are all one unit for easier replacement. An engine will last up to 25,000 hours.

Tyres are not so simple, though. There is a worldwide tyre shortage for equipment this size right now, and every tyre that Diavik has for the upcoming year is already spoken for, meaning that there are no spares lying around. Tyre guy Rob Monk says that an 830E tyre can last as many as 12,000 hours, but at between $25,000 and $29,000 each, you’d want them to.

The last thing I did was ask Doug Ashbury, Communications Officer for Diavik who was kind enough to set the whole day up for me, to take some photos of me standing under the truck, beside and between the wheels to try and get some idea of the scale of the thing. We chatted about how impressive it was, how it was actually quite neat to be standing at the south end of a north-bound version of this particular vehicle, and which word best describes the beast. I favour ‘big’.

Special thanks to John Makin, Doug Ashbury, Jimmy Larkin, Mary Ann Angnahiak, Darcy Sinclair and Rob Monk for all their help arranging and facilitating my adventure. Next, can I play on one of those big shovels?

How big is big? According to the handbook, the Komatsu 830E haul truck is rated to carry 240 tons, and weighs 154 tons with an empty belly. It is apparently 20 ft long, and 23 ft wide as well as 23 ft tall. It seems much, much bigger.

This isn't small equipment...


A whole row of 'em


Like an asshat I appear to have deleted the pics of myself in the driver's seat last week when I sent them to another magazine, but here's the captain's chair. Really quite unspectacular.


Yep, it's big.
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Old 11-03-2007, 03:43 PM   #134
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Hey Squonker,
We start ice roads in about two weeks!

Have you guys had a cool autumn also?
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Old 11-04-2007, 08:49 AM   #135
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vagabond
Hey Squonker,
We start ice roads in about two weeks!

Have you guys had a cool autumn also?
Hi Vagabond. We've had a really warm fall here, despite a fair amount of snow. Everyone with a snowmobile is praying for serious cold, but it's barely dropped below freezing yet (in Celsius anyway!). Ice roads in two weeks - wow, we're still at least two months away.











My parents sent me an article from The Sunday Times newspaper in England this week, a story about the ice roads. A writer spoke to a couple of drivers who live in British Columbia and come up to drive every winter. One was on his second season, the other was on his 20-somethingth.
What a load of shite this article is. I wonder whether the author knows that she printed so much rubbish, or whether the two guys she spoke to purposely fed her a line. Maybe she never spoke to anyone at all.

Firstly she says that in one season you can earn a year's salary, a common myth but sadly untrue. Next she says that "jack-knifing, breakdowns and frostbite are common place". Well, the only time I ever heard of a truck jack-knifing was at the end of a hammer lane when buddy switched off his cruise control too late, hit the brakes to turn the corner back into the loaded lane, and slid himself into trouble. Break downs are no more common than on any other road, and there are ways to avoid frostbite. Like wearing clothes. She says that "any wrong move could see you and your truck sucked down into the freezng water". I don't think so. Later on she mentions how on some stretches of road drivers drive with one hand on the door handle to make a quick exit should things go wrong, but that too is just a common myth.

Here's a quote from the driver on his second season. "...that's all you hear out here - cracking ice. It cracks so loud it sounds like thunder and nothing can drown it out, even if you turn your stereo right up - and I like some pretty heavy rock music. You just listen to every crack and panic gets hold of you and it's pretty hard to keep going, to be honest." Holy smokes, this guy is SO full of it. Sure, wind your window down and you'll hear the ice cracking, but you have to have your stereo switched off to do so, and if he's that scared, why does he do it?

The writer then says that 800 truckers set out every year (odd, because there aren't that many trucks on the road), and that many have to be flown back to Yellowknife because they're too scared to drive any more once they've made it to the mines. To my knowledge, not once has that ever happened. But I can guarantee that no boss is going to charter a plane to fly back a driver who has just driven twenty hours across the ice in a loaded truck and doesn't want to drive 14 hours back in an empty one.

Well, it just goes on and on. One of the drivers says that it never rises above -40c for the entire time, and then tells a story of how he was out there so late one season that the ice was melting as he drove across it and he almost didn't make it out. Hmm, ice melting at -40c. Odd. The same guy then says that at the beginning of the season you get four hours daylight a day. By the end it's up to 20 hours. The truth: 5.5 at the beginning. 7 at the end.

Now my Mum is all freaked out because of this fictitious article! She's insisting that I never do the job again - hope she calms down soon!

Some more pics.




Here's that load of dynamite I took to Diavik.




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