After hunting down
parts, Richard is replacing the brakes on one of the railroad track tampers.
|What goes on in the|
Richard, Dennis and Shawn, the automotive technicians, are
responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of more than 130 vehicles
at the Very Large Array.
These guys literally keep the wheels turning at the Very Large
Array. This is no small feat considering that our vehicles range from
'84-'85 heavy duty (surplus) military pickups to 5-ton dump trucks to
30-ton cranes to motorcoach buses. They also are responsible for rail
equipment including our Jackson tamper, a tie extractor and a spike
machine. We have front end loaders and backhoes, road graders and
water trucks and an ambulance and firetruck.
Often they are called to make repairs
in the field. Shawn, above, is repairing a flat tire on a track
maintenance vehicle on the east arm of the array during an antenna
move. It had snowed the day before.
|HVAC has brought their forklift over for Richard to fix. The auto
shop has ogoing maintenance and upkeep projects, but they often are
interrupted to make immediate repairs.|
|Besides physically repairing broken equipment, the techs must
know how to research part numbers and manufacturers as well as how to
acquire the parts, using both print and on-line resources. If the
part is no longer available, they may machine it themselves if doing
so is cost efficient.
"We live in a world of technical manuals," Dennis says. He is
pictured at right scanning a pdf file for a part for a military
With all of these different vehicles requiring service, our
technicians must constantly be educating themselves to keep up with
new (and old!) technologies. They work to become certified through
the Automotive Service Excellence program, a curriculum requiring both
experience and rigorous written examinations. We're proud that we
have top-notch professionals producing first-class workmanship in
service and repair of VLA vehicles.
The vehicles we get are government
surplus,and we don't usually get first choice. The mechanics spend a
lot of time resurrecting and rehabilitating old equipment. If they
can still get parts, the time and effort spent are cost effective as
they may still get another 10-15 years of life out of a vehicle. Here
Shawn is putting the finishing touches on a 5-ton dump truck for which
the shop has completely refurbished the Cummins 855 6-cylinder diesel
The track crew lends a hand by removing
the wheels from the new shuttle cart that will be used to haul ballast
on the railroad track. Dennis will inspect brakes before the vehicle
is put into service both on the track and on the