How It All Started

How It All Started

by: Don Mahnke, P. Eng. President of Hydra-Slide Ltd.

Upon graduating from the University of Waterloo in 1977 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I started working full-time at Lackie Bros. Ltd. as a Project Engineer in the Heavy Transport and Rigging Division, based in Kitchener, Ontario. At that time Lackie Bros. were leaders in this field working all across Canada. In 1979, (at 27) I took over as head of this Division and it was later incorporated as a separate operating company called Lackie Transportation Services Ltd.

Pipe Rollers & Winch Lines

A large part of our work was moving Transformers and Refinery Vessels in the range of 100 to 300 tons. Our normal methods included jacking the load, placing a row of 4” dia. aluminum pipe rollers under it, pulling with the load line of a crane and holding back with another crane load line or winch.

It got the job done but I was always concerned with the safety of this operation and how time consuming and inefficient it was. We did have a few transformers that “ran away” causing serious equipment damage but luckily no personnel injuries.

There must be a better way

In about 1982, we did a job in Sarnia, ON in partnership with Rigging International. We transported 3 large vessels (up to 600 tons) and Rigging International did the lifting and placement with a chain-lift tower system. Their lift tower system included a moveable hoist device on top of the tower system that was moved sideways along a graphite lubricated track by hydraulic push cylinders.

Could this principle be used to move transformers?

I went to work to design a portable, ground-based system that could be used to move transformers horizontally in a much safer and more efficient way. In about 1983, I came up with our first skidding system using hydraulic push cylinders and moveable load shoes on a graphite lubricated track. A 500-ton capacity system was the goal.

The first generation prototype confirmed that the principle was sound but the biggest problem was when it came to a joint in the track when the push cylinder was on one track section and the load was on the next track section, the 50 ton cylinders pulled the joint apart.

Back to the drawing board to redesign the track connection so it would withstand the full pushing force of the cylinders. The second generation worked extremely well.

At the time, the Construction Safety Association of Ontario put together a video about safe rigging practices and included our Skidding System.

I went on to develop a skid system that worked on the same principle, but included a heavier load-supporting track.

Developing the First Heavy Track System

Since most of our work was in rougher site conditions where we had to span gaps between the transporter and the railcar or pad, etc.

In about 1984 we came out with the first 500-ton capacity Heavy Track skid system. In 1991, I co-founded ETARCO Ltd. (Engineered Transportation and Rigging Company Ltd.) and continued working in the field of Specialized Rigging with a goal to be among the best in the business with the most innovative, modern equipment and methods.

After 7 years of rapid growth and earning a solid reputation, ETARCO Ltd. joined with Van Seumeran in 1998 which became Mammoet in 2000.

Hydra-Slide is Born

I retired from Mammoet in 2005 and was joined by my daughter Janine to form Hydra-Slide Ltd. and carry on a tradition of providing quality products to this amazing industry.

Over the years, my original Heavy Track skid system designs have been tweaked and held to even higher safety standards. Both a lower capacity and higher capacity model were added to become what is now being offered as Hydra-Slide HT300, HT500 and HT1000 skid systems.

The original second generation Low Profile skid system was further developed by Michel Lussier and resulted in what is now being offered as Hydra-Slide LP400 and XLP150 skid systems.

At Hydra-Slide we build on the successes of the past to design the best equipment for the future. And we love it.