News and Press

How to Move a 189-Ton Transformer via Rail & Road 1,400 Miles

by LPS Insights, on December 28, 2016

transformer being moved via rail

How to Move a 189-Ton Transformer via Rail & Road 1,400 Miles

In the world of logistics, 90 percent of the time we’re helping shippers move loads of back-to-school supplies, clothing or manufacturing parts state-to-state, or across the country. These regular shipments are planned and executed in a matter of minutes, usually by a single logistics analyst.


But occasionally, we get a request from a company needing to move something that weighs as much as a Boeing 747. That’s nearly a million pounds, or the equivalent of 190 Ford F-150 pickup trucks.


Complex shipments like these can take months to plan, involve scores of specialists, require special equipment and tight coordination with state, county and local agencies.


Transporting a 189-ton Power Transformer from Texas to Wisconsin


Hulking and ridiculously heavy power transformers are examples of goods that require extraordinary efforts to move cross country. When LPS received one of these beasts at the Port of Houston, it was no small task to transport nearly 1,400 miles to a power substation in Onalaska, Wis., approximately 150 miles south of Minneapolis, MN.


The transformer, manufactured in South Korea, was hoisted from a heavy-lift cargo vessel and eased onto a specialized railcar engineered to  accommodate heavy equipment.  Without the custom-built railcar, the train would be unable to pass underneath bridges on its trip north.


Upon successful loading of the railcar, railroad company inspectors reviewed the load to ensure it had met all safety requirements before departing the Gulf Coast for the long trip North along the Mississippi River.


When the train arrived in Wisconsin, a specialized team transferred the transformer hydraulic jack-and-slide to a self-propelled, 14-line modular transporter.  The Goldhofer modular trailer is designed to carry massive loads, like the transformer, usually at low speeds over short distances.


Too Heavy for Local Bridges


The trip wasn’t over yet; we still needed to move the transformer two additional miles to the unit’s final destination, the utilities substation.  But over months of planning with state, county and city engineers, we discovered the bridges in the area weren’t designed to carry the gross weight of the transformer and transporter.

transformer being moved on man made temporary road


Undaunted, our team employed an age-old military tactic to move the transformer.  We built a road.  Fortunately, local farmers and landowners agreed to have the temporary road pass through their property.  The team constructed the make-shift road from laminated mats for safe passage the final few miles to substation.  Within two days, the scratch-free transformer was set securely to the substation’s concrete foundation.




In today’s world of next-day shipping and “call us by noon to guarantee delivery by Friday,” there are still goods that just can’t be delivered that fast.  For company supply chain or logistics managers, the lesson here is if you’re transporting something that weighs as much as a 747, contact a company that’s done it before.


Just don’t expect a drone to drop it on your loading dock.

Contact a Logistics Specialist