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Monumental task: What it took to move the cenotaph

It took 10 minutes to do, but it took months of planning

Months of planning, along with exacting math calculations and hours of set-up preparations went into a momentous mission that lasted all of 10 minutes.

The mission to move the central piece of Barrie’s cenotaph, which features a soldier remembering his fallen comrades from World War I, was carried out just after noon today, as the soldier was placed on new base on a more high-profile site at the foot of Owen Street.

“The move is relatively short; however, preparations and designs have taken a couple of months,” said capital projects supervisor Gus Diamantopoulos.

Led by Barrie’s Western Mechanical — known for its expertise in such moving projects  — the mission that cost almost $200,000 picked up speed last week as crews built scaffolding around the soldier. There were two layers of scaffolding, each independent of each other.

“They created a cage and the bottom part is drilled and there are dowels into the concrete,” the project manager explained. Dowels extended 18 inches in the base and the crane used these dowels to lift the soldier up.

Inner scaffolding prevented the monument from moving even the tiniest bit.

“The intent is that the cenotaph won’t realize it’s being moved,” he said.

The two side pieces, which honour those who died in the Second World War and the Korean War, were moved out of the way two weeks ago. That enabled specialists to see how deep the base was and calculate the weight of the monument that features a 23-foot base and the soldier, who is 9 feet tall.  

Both made of granite, together they weigh 195,000 pounds or 88,500 kg. Diamantopoulos said the Western Mechanical specialists calculated that weight based on the measurements of the granite as well as the underlying concrete base.

They then determined how large a crane would be required to move the statue.

“It’ a 400-tonne crane,” said Diamantopoulos. “The crane came from Mississauga and it’s so big, it can’t go down the highway in one piece.”

It took 10 people to set up the crane, he added.

As well as crane assembly, crews added counterweights to its base, to ensure it wouldn’t tip as the monument was lifted into the air. Several truckload of counterweights were brought onto the Memorial Square site, with each counterweight block weighing 10 tonnes.

Before placing the monument on its base, before even starting to lift it, crews cleaned the new base.

A final safety meeting reminded everyone of what was happening next and where they needed to be, then the soldier was lifted from the spot where he stood since June 1922 and put in the location Barrie envisioned would give it more prominence and honour as the city created a revitalization plan for downtown.

Crews then went to work to set it in concrete.

Laurie Watt

About the Author: Laurie Watt

A journalist with 35 years experience in newspapers, Laurie is also an active volunteer in Barrie.
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