Friday, January 25, 2013

Imperial Goose

Note they guy hanging from the telephone pole on the right...
Last fall's move of the Space Shuttle Endeavour over the streets of Los Angeles to its new permanent home at the California Science Center created quite a stir, but it wasn't the first time that an aeronautical behemoth carefully inched through LA in that manner.

In 1946, Howard Hughes had a bit of a problem...he was building the components of the world's largest (at the time) airplane in a factory in Culver City that was 28 miles from where it would be assembled and flown, in Long Beach Harbor. Getting it to the water was a job done by a Company called "Star House Movers, Inc." who hauled the enormous H-4 Hercules in pieces over city streets, using specially designed dollies. The two wings were moved first (their journey took two days to cover the distance), followed by the 220-foot, 60-ton hull and then shipments of the ailerons, tail and wing floats.

The August 1946 edition of Popular Science carried a feature on the move (you can read it at this link, but you'll have to manually scroll down to page 65 and then to page 94), which included this insight: "The piecemeal method of moving and the route to be followed were decided upon after engineers had devoted two years to surveying possible ways of making the transfer." It also said, "The hull was supported on a steel cradle, which in turn rested on massive girders of Douglas fir. Towering 36 1/2 feet above the highway, its bulk required 23 utilities companies to raise telephone and power lines in the seven towns through which it passed on its 28-mile trip."

Our two amateur-taken photos from the fuselage move were shot as the plane slowly made its way down Imperial Highway.

The Spruce Goose (which is actually constructed of birch, rather than spruce; and Howard hated the term, by the way) would make a similar, though shorter overland journey in 1993 when it was moved on its final leg of the journey from Southern California to its new home at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinneville, Oregon.

And since I led this piece off with mention of the Shuttle Endeavour's trip through LA's streets, it's only fitting to include a photo of it from about the same angle as the above...courtesy of Mr. Kevin Helm.

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