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Nick Drew My Life in Plant (Part 11)

Digger Blogger | 14:21, Sun September 30 2012

After a long summer working on the A30 improvement works in Cornwall, another job opportunity arose, which didn’t last as long as was expected.

I had received a phone call telling me that a new job was starting imminently in the Millbay area of Plymouth, where the London based Ardmore Group were going to be building another pair of apartment blocks. I had worked for Ardmore before on the Azure Project on Plymouth Hoe, and I knew that the money would be good, so it was a no brainer really, and following a week’s notice on the A30 job, I started on the following Monday. For the first two days there was no machine to operate, but I was assured that a brand new Komatsu was in the process of being dispatched. I spent three long days painting the temporary hoardings that were being put up around the job, and wondering if I had made the right move! Luckily for me the brand new PC138 turned up on the Thursday morning.

This was a tough job as the ground was virtually solid rock, apart from one corner of the site where strangely the ground was soft, there was talk that it may have been an old bomb crater, as Plymouth suffered from terrible heavy bombing in the Second World War, but this was never confirmed to us. As it happened we used this soft spot as a tip area from where I could load trucks during muckaway periods.  

The rock was initially stitch drilled along the line of the foundations, and where all the drainage was going to be laid. The rock inside the two drilled lines was then broken out by an older Komatsu PC210-7, prior to me excavating out the hammered material.

I found the Komatsu PC138 to be a cracking little machine, the cab could feel slightly claustrophobic with the door shut, but overall it was a comfortable and smooth machine to operate, and very useful in tight spaces as the building started to take shape. I was often called on to pour concrete into high shutters using a concrete placement skip, and it was during this exercise that one became aware of the lack of rear end on the machine, let’s just say it was one of those situations where you had to keep your wits about you!

Sadly for me though, the pace of construction on this site meant that the machine work was over in no time, and it soon became apparent I would be need to be looking for another seat to keep warm for the next operator! As is often the case in our game a mate of mine had started on another job in Plymouth, and had recommended me to the management, who in turn got in touch to offer me a start on the Whitleigh School site, on the outskirts of Plymouth. With machine work on the Millbay site rapidly coming to an end, I gave notice to Ardmore, and the following week I moved on to meet my next mount which was this low houred, but splattered in mud Hitachi ZX180.  

The initial stage of this project for Interserve Plc, was being undertaken by Hannafin Contractors, who are based in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. The job involved the construction of a new two lane single carriageway road up into the existing school, which would also facilitate access to the new school building that was to be constructed in phase two.

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The job involved excavating a considerably wide 14 metre cutting, with the removal of 30,000 m3of excavated spoil to the top end of the site where it would be used as fill. A number of machine’s were deployed on this job including three of Hannafin Contractors Hitachi models, comprising the ZX180, ZX330 and this nearly new at the time ZX210-3, which was already covered in mud and in need of some TLC.

Excavated material from the far end of the cut was loaded onto a Volvo A30D articulated dumptruck which was on self drive hire from Kelston Sparkes.

On the upper section where the distance wasn’t so great a combination of a Komatsu D61EX dozer, and WH Bonds old Komatsu D75S tracked loading shovel, which was often coupled to a towed vibratory roller, were pushing out and compacting the material.

As is often the case with me, I was appointed to some finishing works on top of the bank. This involved cutting a V shaped ditch in preparation for slabs to be laid. The idea was that the ditch would in theory catch all the rain water from the field above, after cutting the trench I was then deployed to pick up and place the slabs in the ditch using a suction attachment.

It was also on this job that I met a great young lad who has become a good friend, and indeed gone on to run his own successful plant hire business. Tony Wagner, kind of reminded me of myself when I was younger, and I like to think that I took him under my wing, as I had been back in the early days of my career. Here we see Tony at the controls of Hannafin's Hitachi ZX330.

Heavy and prolonged rain and bad weather hampered this job immensely, but it was completed against all the odds. Sadly Hannafin Contractors, who had proved to be an excellent firm to work for, did not win the next phase of the contract, but a firm of sub-contractors called ADS Ltd did win some of the work, and offered me the start on the same job operating a Takeuchi TB145. I will write about the next phase of this interesting job in part 12.

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