Lopes Limited was awarded the contract to supply and install reinforcing members to three of the 130 year-old fixed truss spans of CN’s International Rail Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. With over 250 parts on the menu resulting in almost 4,500 pieces to be fabricated, coordination between the shop and field was essential. Limited time between contract award and the start of field work meant organizing fabrication to ensure efficient production while making sure truckloads had the right material needed in the field at any particular stage of the job. Field strategy involved installing components in assemblies wherever possible to maximize crane usage. Assemblies were made up of an average of 12 to 24 parts and dozens to hundreds of bolts – assembling these components in the yard kept hundreds of parts and thousands of bolts off the trucks and the bridge where space was limited. Keeping in mind that parts could be anywhere from 2lbs with one or two holes to 1,200lbs with a hundred holes, the shop did an excellent job staying on pace with the rapid consumption of components taking place on-site.
Working on rail is a different experience – especially within the confines of a bridge structure over water. The jobsite was relatively remote and with rail, there’s only one lane. The only way to maintain production was to make sure crews had everything they needed where they needed it for the entire day every day. This was addressed by mobilizing a fleet of hi-rail trucks complemented by a rail-mounted lunch trailer and several rail carts with tools and equipment that had to leave the yard in the right order with the right material every morning. In addition to the bucket trucks, worker access to the bridge structure was provided using suspended scaffolds, swing stages and aluminum platforms. Safety is always priority which gets magnified when working over water. The bridge deck was extended to create walkways improving mobility and minimizing fall hazards. With 15 tradesmen on the go and all of the equipment restricted to the rail, congestion was inevitable without planning. The ironworker team was always thinking a step or two ahead as any lost production would risk not being done in-time to avoid the arrival of foul weather in the fall.