Tricycle Theory

Back when we were all kids (and some of us, thankfully, still are), many of us started out bicycle riding with the idiot-proof tricycle.  Admittedly, a few were slow to get a sense of physics, managing to topple over to one side.  This didn’t last long, of course, and they went on to become accomplished bicycle riders with the rest of us – or went into standup comedy, a profession that requires the ability to take falls repeatedly.   The good old tricycle works so well because it is based on one of the soundest principles of physics, the triangle.  It’s no coincidence that triangles are used to hold up everything from the rafters over our heads to the pyramids of Egypt.  It is the strongest, by far, of any geometric pattern.   Even those trainer wheels used in stage two of learning to ride a bicycle is really nothing more than the creation of a stability through the transformation of the back wheel into a triangle.  Thus, the ultimate design of the carriage that will support and carry our summer dacha across the back field to its new location will be nothing more than the triangulation we grew up with.

With the house now raised up over three feet from its disorderly and crumbling foundation sills, with the help of hydraulic jacking pistons, the last task prior to rolling it can be finished.  Specially modified truck axles, the same axles as on the big trucks rumbling along highways and byways, are off-loaded from a tractor-trailer to complete this last step.

Unloading hydraulic truck axles.   Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

Unloading hydraulic truck axles.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

These axles have the added feature of a hydraulic plate in the centre of the axle.  Like the jacks that raised the house, these plates act as pistons and will now be raised to lift the house.   In other words, the dead weight of the house, 50 tons, will be transferred from  the steel beams on timber cribs, to the same steel beams on top of these truck axles.  Once accomplished, the house will literally be ready to roll.

One tricycle set in place on top of timber cribbing roadway. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

One tricycle set in place on top of timber cribbing roadway.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

There is an added benefit to using triangle theory in moving a structure like our old schoolhouse.  By using three wheels to form a triangle under the house, rather than four to make a square, any slight shifting of weight will transfer easily from one point to another without stressing the framing of the house.  We never thought of this as a kid, but when we shifted our weight, rode bumpy ground, or leaned over, our weight never stressed the tricycle itself.  I’ve had lots of respect for certain things in life, but I’ll testify right here and now that the simple triangle is among the most respected of all.

With added cribbing timbers built in the old cellar to act as a “road” for the truck wheels the house is in final check for take-off.  In a matter of five days the riggers have managed to get the house ready for what is really the shortest and easiest work of all, moving it.  Nothing like hiring professionals to make tricycle riding what it always has been:  Easy as eating pie.

Chief Engineer at the helm.  Hydraulic unit raises the truck axle plates to take the weight. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

Chief Engineer at the helm. Hydraulic unit raises the truck axle plates to take the weight.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015