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Nick Drew My Life in Plant (part 9)

Digger Blogger | 13:12, Tue December 27 2011

With the job for James King Plant in Cambridge coming to an end, I was tipped off about a job back down in the South West which was initially a 2 week hire, so I figured it was worth a try, and it would enable me to go home every night, rather than leading a nomadic existence in a caravan on site!

The work on the long awaited £93 million A30 improvements between Bodmin and Indian Queens, got underway in July of 2005. Often described as the missing link, the existing single carriageway road was a notorious bottleneck for the many thousands of tourists who visit the area in the summer months, especially at Goss Moor where the low railway bridge was often struck by lorry’s, sometimes on a daily basis causing massive tailbacks! My mount for this job was to be a Volvo EC210, which was owned by a local plant hire firm called Luke Furse Earthmoving.

My first day on site was a slow starter as it was raining, and in true muck shifting style, all machines were told to sit tight until the weather improved. The earthworks foreman was Les Bell, who had worked for Mc Alpines for over 40 years and had a vast wealth of knowledge on how to tackle jobs. He was a classic rough, tough, hard man type of character who pulled no punches, but he had a great dry sense of humour, and as long as you did your job to the best of your ability, you were fine. Les was part of an illustrious management team , that also included long serving Mac’s men, John McDonald and senior works manager Packi McGettigan both of whom were really sound men who I had much respect for.  I was eventually put to work on a section of bulk dig loading 25 ton ADT’s. Bigger kit was arriving on a daily basis and they would take on the majority of the major earthworks in the coming months.

It soon became clear to me that I was being put to the test on site, as from what I had heard they had been getting some rough “operators” from local agencies. Now I am by no means the best operator in the world and would never claim to be, but I am certainly not a bad one and fortunately I was well received on site. My late father always said to me, “It doesn’t matter how good you are, there will always be someone just that little bit better up the road. Just do your best and nobody can ask any more of you.”  Something I have always remembered throughout my career. Meanwhile major earthworks continued unabated on other sections of the job. Earthworks foreman Les Bell, had his two sons working on the job, who were also very experienced muck shifting men. Jason Bell was employed as a works ganger man and Darren Bell was a machine operator.  Darren is seen here operating a Caterpillar 345B LME 45 ton excavator loading a Bell B25D articulated dumptruck.


I was paired up with a great banksman/slasher, whom I only ever knew as “London Pete”, an older chap with a wealth of experience in the game and a great fella to work with. We were put to work on some interesting and more “sexy” jobs! Which included cutting and trimming, batters and top soiling them . This suited me fine as I have always loved performing  finishing works .

More new kit was being put to work every day as the intensity of the works was ramped up. A large number of Caterpillar 740 and Bell B40D 40 ton articulated dumptrucks had arrived on site and these were being loaded by new Komatsu PC450-7 45 ton excavators. The excavated material from the Bodmin end of the site was being distributed in a classic cut and fill operation to lower areas along the course of the new 7 mile long road towards Indian Queens.

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Meanwhile I was busy once again cutting batters for a farm track, so that the local farmer could move his stock underneath the new road after completion, once we had carved out the batters, topsoil was delivered to us by one of Luke Furse’s Volvo A25D ADT’s, one of six that he had on hire at the time and a Mc Alpine owned Bell B25D articulated truck.


A bigger Komatsu hydraulic excavator had arrived at the Bodmin end of the site, in the shape of this PC600-7 60 ton class 385 hp machine, which certainly made an impact in terms of production output.

The new road was said to be one of the most environmentally friendly road projects of its time, with much of the products used in its construction being waste by products from the local china clay pits. As part of the environmental works, new ecology lagoons were to be constructed along the route of the new dual carriageway, once again I was heavily involved in the formation of these ponds which were put in to support the local wildlife in the moorland areas.

In part 10 of My Life in Plant series, I will continue my look back at my time on this interesting and demanding job.  


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