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A heavy lift: crews use portable rails to move 137-ton transformer
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A heavy lift: crews use portable rails to move 137-ton transformer

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A charred, 137-ton transformer inched its way through Downtown Madison Wednesday as part of an effort to determine what caused it to explode six weeks ago.

Using a system of hydraulic jacks, rails and a turntable, a crew from Reynolds Transfer and Storage lifted the massive piece of equipment from its base in the Blount Street substation where it caught fire July 19 and slid it to a former Madison Gas & Electric coal yard just around the corner.

American Transmission Company engineers plan to dismantle the transformer beginning next week to determine what caused the failure.

When sliding along the Hydro-slide system, the transformer reached top speeds of up to 20 feet per hour, but the 600-foot journey was expected to take about 12 to 13 hours thanks to a couple of turns that required the crew to lift it up and change the direction of the rails.

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Jason Grefsheim, a foreman with the 131-year-old family business, said the tight turns and overhead wires of the substation would have made it difficult to do the job with cranes and a truck.

It was not the heaviest piece of equipment Grefsheim has moved -- that was a 675,000-pound transformer.

“This one’s pretty light,” he said.

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