The Big Move

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At this point we assembled a team of volunteers to transport the organ from Princeton, New Jersey, to Plantation, Florida, a distance of well over a thousand miles. We made arrangements for two large rental trucks, one driven by church members and the other by a hired truck driver.

We had only a few days to remove the organ before the deadline we had been given. Fortunately, we had previously constructed dozens of large pipe trays and had plenty of protective wrapping material.

Just a couple of days before Memorial Day 1999, the two trucks pulled up in front of Miller Chapel, which was fortunately closed in preparation for its renovation, so we had the whole chapel to temporarily store our material. The seminary's organist, Martin Tel, was very helpful throughout the project and assisted us with some of the trickier details.

 

 

One of the thornier problems was that the organ had been built on two levels, with all of the windchests for the swell and great divisions mounted way above the floor. Since the only access to the organ chambers was through three narrow tonal apertures only a few feet wide, we needed a way to safely lower the chests (the large ones weighed hundreds of pounds each) to the lower level, then turn them on their sides to fit through the narrow openings in the wall.

 

As a seasonal maritime worker, I was working aboard a ship as Chief Engineer in New York Harbor at the time of the move but somehow managed to get three days off so I could help with lowering the heavy wind chests from the upper level,  using extra rope and chain falls I had borrowed from my ship.

The first step was to remove the pipes and carefully pack them into the trays, using plenty of bubble wrap to protect the fragile pipes. These were labeled as to contents and then rolled out the door and loaded into the first truck.

After some experimentation and slow going at first, we found it easiest to put the trays halfway through the tonal opening, then as one person removed the pipes from the wind chest, another could lay the pipes on the bubble wrap in the tray. When each tray was full, battens were screwed on top (so the trays could be stacked without putting pressure on the pipes inside) and the tray was lifted down onto the dolly.
The larger pipes were laid carefully on the pew cushions. Remarkably, the longest pipe fitted perfectly into the pew. with just a few inches to spare, almost as if it had been made for it.
By this time, we had most of Miller Chapel full not only with large pipes, but also with the many wind reservoirs, wooden pipe supports. ductwork and other miscellaneous organ parts. We even had to put pipe trays in the entrance hall temporarily.
Fortunately, we had made enough pipe trays, with convenient rope handles on the ends. But our first truck was about full. Too bad this didn't mean we were half done --- this had just been the easy part. 

Lowering the Windchests


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This page was last updated on 11/10/08.
All content copyright 2006 Brian F. Bailey, W4OLF