Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moving the Rob Roy Hotel

Since 1886, the Rob Roy Hotel (more recently known as the Birdcage) has stood in the Auckland suburb of Freemans Bay. While much of the Victorian fabric of the city has been demolished, the Rob Roy has survived. When it was found to be in the path of a planned motorway tunnel, the decision was made to move the building forty metres up the hill out of the way—and then move it back when construction has finished.

This has been quite an undertaking. Old brick buildings don't particularly like being moved. Steel rods were inserted through the bricks, reinforced concrete applied to the rear wall, and carbon fibre strips inserted in the chimney to provide seismic strengthening. A heavily reinforced concrete track with a Teflon surface was built. Then, very slowly and carefully, and watched by thousands of people, the move of this 740-tonne building by two 30-tonne hydraulic rams began.

Before the move (click for larger pictures):

After the first day:

A time-lapse video of the move:

The hotel will stay in its new position for about six months, while the tunnel is finished. In the meantime, those concrete tracks have been broken up—quite an undertaking, as they were full of reinforcing rods.

Freemans Bay was a busy industrial area when the Rob Roy was built, with ship builders, sawmills, glassworks—and a brass foundry. Those of you who have read A Second Chance might remember a character who owned a small brass foundry; this is the area where I've placed his foundry, and the Rob Roy would have been his "local". While he's a fairly abstemious man, I'm sure that on at least one occasion he sat in the bar of the Rob Roy and raised a glass in honour of a certain young lady.

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