On the Internet lately, there are all kinds of nostalgic look-backs to the 1950s and early '60s — the "good old days" when a '57 Chevy was everyone's dream car to peel out in, then to cruise. When you got your gas pumped, oil checked and windshield cleaned without asking, all for free, every time. And you didn't pay for air. Fun stuff to remember.
But one thing not remembered much are the days in heavy construction before the mass marketing of compact equipment. In the "good old days" of the 1950s and 60s, for example, to dig a trench or pluck up a sidewalk on city property would require a labor-intensive crew of workers. It might take days to do what one compact excavator with a couple of attachments can do in a few hours.
Jack Lynn, construction inspector for the public works department for the city of Riverside, agrees. While inspecting a new medical clinic parking lot sidewalk project in progress in Riverside, California, he said, "It goes back really only five years ... you didn't see much small equipment doing this kind of work, and there's not much room for big equipment in areas like this. Everything was labor intensive then. And the good thing is that now this smaller equipment is affordable enough for some of these smaller contractors to buy the compact equipment and make a living doing this kind of work. I've seen even smaller equipment on sites where they can go between a house and a fence to work."
Michael Parizo, owner of Paradawn Equipment Rental Co., Inc., out of Moreno Valley, Calif., is the contractor working on this Riverside project. Some 50 linear feet of sidewalk removal and an additional 50 linear feet of sidewalk and gutter will go, to be replaced along with 40 feet of 6-inch pipe on each side of the parking lot that connects to an under-deck sidewalk drain that's about 18 feet long.
"On this sidewalk-drain removal/replacement," Parizo said, "we're using a CAT 303CR Mini Excavator with zero swing to dig our trench line and to break out the old concrete, and a CAT 247B Skid Steer to load off haul material onto trucks, as well as to bring in the base material and do some compaction.
"Prior to having this equipment, we would have probably had a crew of three, working six hours each just to dig this single trench with picks and shovels; with the mini-excavator, we dug the trench in 20 minutes. For the concrete section removal, we would have used the same crew with jackhammers for about eight hours. With the mini ex and the skid steer, we had it removed in 45 minutes."
Whether it's a small project like this one, or a multimillion-dollar construction site, compact equipment can be seen everywhere, and it's a reminder about the "good old days" — they probably never were!
(Editor's Note: Have a story to tell about how compact machines have impacted your construction business for the better? What was it like years ago compared to now? If you have photos, even better. I'd like to follow-up on these stories. E-mail me with your construction story idea at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)