There’s been a 162-ton transformer sitting at the dockside since Thursday. It’s been quite a talking point – this huge white mass of cylinders. One thing was certain – it wouldn’t be staying there for ever. Apparently it’s bound for Indian Queens, way up the A30, for an electricity sub-station.
And now - and on a Sunday, which would never have happened in the old days - here it comes, lumbering along the Promenade on the first step of its journey. There are 96 wheels on 12 axles, and the hydraulic steering has its own engine. There’s a police escort, and the whole thing is 165 foot long. There are two tractors, one at either end. They communicate by buzzer, counting carefully how many times it sounds, as this will be the signal that tells them what adjustment of speed or direction is required.
Ever since the dummy run, 18 months ago, there’s been a great deal of excited talk about the load falling through into cellars, or pulling buildings down as it passed, or simply getting stuck - perhaps on the scaffolding where that new building’s going up at the corner of Causewayhead. But the contractors know what they’re about, and all the people who’ve come along for that sort of show will be disappointed. What they will see is a marvel of skilled manoeuvring and modern engineering – a fine example of what Mr Wilson called the white heat of technology a few years back.
Once out of town, the vehicle will stop at Ludgvan Leaze to test its “hovercraft-type skirt”, which will need to be air-inflated to distribute the load over the railway viaducts. After that? A well-earned stop for tea at Treswithian, and a night in a lay-by at Blackwater. Tomorrow it’ll complete its 24-hour journey.
And the buildings in Market Place will – give or take the odd detail – still be there, half a century on.
Cornishman May 13th page 1; May 20th 1971 page 1, additional picture page 3
Picture courtesy of Morrab Library Photo Archive: “Hawker Siddley Transformer on Wynns Transporter, Penzance,” Morrab Library Photographic Archive, accessed April 26, 2017, http://photoarchive.morrablibrary.org.uk/items/show/8313.