Death-defying double decker delivery

Death-defying double decker delivery

On paper, unloading the two new headers should have been a fairly straightforward exercise.

But this was no ordinary delivery.

In the 1970s, Ramsey Bros bought up to half a dozen Massey Ferguson pull-type headers at a time, engaging a contractor from the Mid-North to transport them from Melbourne.

These ‘power take off headers’ or PTOs, were not as big as the self-propelled models in use today but they still took up a decent amount of room on the back of a truck tray.

The Mid-North contractor was a creative kind of chap and looking to make the most of the 2500-kilometre plus round trip, decided to try bringing two headers back to Cleve as a double decker.

He knocked up some fancy frames, rolled into the Massey Ferguson depot in Melbourne and positioned them on top of each other with no problems.

When he rolled into Cleve a few days later, it was a different story.

“How the hell are we going to get these off?” said Eddy Ward, Ramsey Bros Director, scratching his head.

The double decker load was way too high for the gantry to winch the headers off safely and there were no cranes to assist.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention…

The truck was backed up to a sloping concrete loading ramp at the Mobil service station which was then part of the Ramsey Bros dealership.

A forklift from the carpet business down the road (also owned by Ramsey Bros) was commandeered along with the another one from Bennett and Fisher across the street with a retired farmer at the wheel.

Now, the first, little forklift was only designed to lift carpet rolls – not huge pieces of farm machinery – but both forklifts were manoeuvred into place at either side of the double decker frame still resting on the back of the truck.

Like someone holding a large cob of corn in their hands with a toothpick at either end, the precious 8 tonne load was lifted slightly, then suspended by the forks while the truck ever so gently crept forward leaving the precious cargo teetering in the air.

With the headers hovering (about 8 feet in the air), but balanced between two forklifts that were not really made for this job, the challenge now was to lower the header to the ground.

But there was a catch… a potentially deadly catch.

If the load became unbalanced, even by a fraction, or if either forklift driver made a mistake, it would have been “goodnight nurse” and the other forklift driver on the opposite side would have been “squashed”.

Neither of us wanted to be the first to let it down because it would come rolling straight towards us,” Eddy explained.

So, inch by inch, and guided by synchronised hand signals and some impressive verbal communication, the headers finally reached the ground: “A little bit more… a little bit more, no… wait, STOP! Right, go again… just a little bit more… a tiny, little bit more… wait, STOP!”

In full view of the main street, where a small crowd had come together to watch the spectacle, no doubt with hearts in their mouths, the death-defying double decker delivery was successfully on the ground… no more double deck loads.

“It was not a pretty sight,” Eddy said laughing now but not at the time. “We both looked a bit grey afterwards.”

We’re not surprised!


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