Our transportation infrastructure, especially roads and railways, are just about the least sexy elements of modern life that we’re completely reliant on. A peek into how they’re actually constructed, though, reveals that the ungodly huge and incredibly precise equipment is fascinating. We’ve gathered eight of the most watchable examples, from a machine that appears to “print” patterned brick roads to an enormous circular boring machine for tunnels.
1. The RU-800
The RU-800s is not so much a construction machine as a reconstruction machine; it’s designed to break down existing railway tracks, move them out of the way, and place down new tracks, all at the same time.
2. The Tiger Stone
The Tiger Stone may look like a road-printer, but it’s more like a machine that sorts coins: a few operators sit on its back and feed bricks into it, and it places them in the right spot and spits the finished pattern out, like unfurling a long brick tongue.
3. Ducker Universal Ausleger
Something like an unholy chimaera of electric razor, tractor, and Roomba, the Ducker Universal Ausleger is the lawnmower to end all lawnmowers. For one thing, the mower is on a multi-hinged arm to allow it to cut at any angle. For another, it has multiple heads, with sensors on them, so it can cut grass even under highway guard-rails, sensing the poles and moving around them automatically.
4. Big Bertha boring machine
Tunnels are essential in cities, to increase space in places where space is at a premium (at least, in cities not constantly at risk of earthquakes). Big Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel borer, is a great example, used in Seattle to create massive tunnels for transit.
5. Krupp Bagger 288
When it was first built in 1978, the Krupp Bagger 288, a mobile strip-mining machine, was the biggest moving land vehicle in the world. It’s designed to remove turf to prepare for strip-mining, and can excavate the equivalent of a football field dug to 30 feet deep, per day.
6. “The Zipper Truck”
The “Zipper Truck,” from Barrier Systems, creates a near-impenetrable median barrier. The barriers are wrapped in steel and filled with concrete, according to Gizmodo, and is used for one particular purpose: moving those medians back and forth, to create more lanes as needed.
7. RCE Swing Loader Series 5
You might be surprised that a piece of metal thick and tough enough to support a train would need threading. But the railway ties are long enough to bend like noodles–bad news for trains, which need them to be as straight as possible. That’s where the RCE Swing Loader Series 5 comes in.
8. Plasser & Theurer Unimat 09-16/4S
The Plasser & Theurer Unimat 09-16/4S may look like a New York City garbage train, but it’s actually a ballast tamper. Ballast, the gravel-type stuff in railway tracks, can help support the tracks and make them more stable, but they need to be packed in tightly. This used to be done manually, by, like, guys with hammers. Machines like this one pack them in much more efficiently, and can also help to realign the tracks while they tamp.