GLEN DALE - Although workers needed to bend a street sign Thursday to squeeze Williams Energy's 41-yard long de-ethanizer through a 90-degree turn onto W.Va. 86, the superload successfully completed the first leg of its four-day expedition.
Surrounded by a convoy of Marshall County Sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officers - and accompanied by American Electric Power and Frontier Communications workers in case of a problem - contractors working for Williams navigated the de-ethanizer from the Benwood CSX rail yard to Butch's Corner at the intersection of W.Va. 86 and W.Va. 88 in six and a half hours.
An operator walked in front of the machine that never exceeded 5 mph, while he directed the special Goldhofer modular platform trailer by remote control.
Roughly 200 enthusiastic school children and interested adults gathered near the intersection of Sixth Street and Wheeling Avenue in Glen Dale to see the 510,000-pound device complete its turn from W.Va. 2 onto W.Va. 86. After leaving Benwood at 8:30 a.m., the mammoth machine reached its turn-off point at about 10:10 a.m.
"This is technology at its best. Our students are seeing a moment in history," said Joyce Cole, principal at Glen Dale Elementary School, who brought several students and teachers to see the de-ethanizer.
"I thought it was awesome. I have never seen anything like it," said Karen Slonaker, a fifth grade teacher at the school.
Photo by Scott McCloskey - The 41-yard long Williams Energy de-ethanizer begins its trek to the company’s Oak Grove facility Thursday morning as it leaves the Benwood CSX rail yard and enters W.Va. 2 south in McMechen.
"It was pretty cool," added fifth grader Lakyn Parker.
Earlier in the morning, Dick Maidens of Moundsville and Liz Harper of McMechen were among those gathered at the bridge overlooking W.Va. 2 in McMechen.
"The wheels on this thing are amazing. They pivot, so it will help it make the turns," Maidens said.
"I have to see it make these turns to believe it," Harper said before witnessing just that.
Moundsville resident Vincent Thornburg said he supports the "progress" the oil and natural gas industry is bringing to West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.
"I have been reading about this in the newspaper all week. I am anxious to see it," he added.
"It is just amazing to see," said Glen Dale resident Marianne McCausland. "I am sure they have done a lot of homework to put this together."
Officials next will move the superload from Butch's Corner to the Mountaineer Mart in Pleasant Valley along U.S. 250, beginning at 8 a.m. today.
On Saturday, the de-ethanizer will move from the Mountaineer Mart on U.S. 250 to the area commonly known as the McElroy substation along Fork Ridge Road.
It will complete the final leg of its journey to Williams' Oak Grove facility on Sunday.
Once it reaches its destination, the de-ethanizer will be turned upright to be used as a tower. Company spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said the machine's intricate construction pattern required that workers build it in Houston, Texas, rather than on-site at Oak Grove.
A second de-ethanizer will head from Benwood to the 170-acre Oak Grove site in March.