Shifting Tipu's armoury, the hard work before the toil

Monumental move

Shifting Tipu's armoury, the hard work before the toil

 One look at the mammoth Tipu armoury in Srirangapatna, and American Jamin Puckingham knew this would be nothing like the hundreds of buildings he had helped shift back home. This was the oldest he and his team had ever attempted to move.

On Thursday, his Wolfe House Movers team did manage to lift the 1,050-tonne structure by a full two feet. But Puckingham knew he had absolutely no margin of error. The task could not be accomplished without weeks of intense planning and preparation.

Long neglected, the 18th century heritage structure was stuck deep in dirt and that was a big challenge. “The armoury has thick walls. Although made of brick and mortar, the structure’s integrity is surprisingly very well considering its age,” Puckingham told DH.

His team, comprising Peter Hansen, Philip Hansen and Jeffrey Brovont had spent months evaluating the building, its internal and external dynamics and working out the engineering of the eventual operation. But even before that, Puckingham had to coordinate with the Railways, the Archaeological Department and strike a joint venture agreement with PSL Engineering.

The JV was critical to fabricate the huge beams that had to go underneath the structure. “PSL also had to remove the soil. They made all the beams in India. We only brought the jacks, the jacking machine and rollers (about 64 in 25-tonne and 50-tonne configurations) from the US.”

Paper work, the hard part

Moving back and forth to get all the paper work in order, Puckingham is now convinced that “shifting is the easy part. The paper work was the hard part.” For the record, he had to shuttle between India and the US four times in the last four years.

The first major task of lifting the structure has gone just according to the team’s plan. The next stage would be to insert the rail beams underneath and place the rollers over them. The entire structure on the rollers would then be pushed through hydraulic push ramps.

Puckingham is sure the process would be smooth. “We are using state-of-the-art equipment. Regardless of the building’s weight, the structure would be hydraulically propelled uniformly. The movement will be smooth and steady without jarring,” he explained.

The shifting is planned along two paths perpendicular to each other. The first stage will have the armoury move 350 ft in a straight line. The roller wheels will then be reset to take the perpendicular shift. The structure will then be moved 100 ft to the right to reach its new location.

Scheduled for March 8, the process is expected to take five days. “That works to about six metres in one hour,” said Puckingham. He was experienced enough to make that estimation with confidence. After all, he had started moving buildings when he was barely 13!  

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