A38 Construction Site
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'Taking a break'. The following is from website contributor, Geoff Gration:
"The A38 extension, from Alfreton to Little Eaton, was constructed by the Dowsett company. The Ripley to Swanwick section opened for traffic in September 1977, with the Ripley to Little Eaton section opening later. Much of the ground clearance and earthworks were completed during the very hot and dry summer of 1976, which meant there was an ongoing problem with atmospheric dust, with many complaints being made by Kilburn residents.To help the situation, and dampen down the dust, w ater bowsers with sprays were continuously driving the length of the route before it was laid with tarmac. Most of the men operating the heavy equipment were not local and they would travel from job to job, living in caravans. Dowsett had set up a particularly big, temporary, caravan site just outside Ripley.
I worked on site throughout the whole summer of 1976, first as a 'tea boy', after which I was eventually 'promoted' to 'banksman'. Being 'tea boy' (at 27) was a surprisingly demanding job - it required me to walk around the site before each break time and take orders from up to 20 men, go the local shops to buy them 'fags', chocolate and drinks, and a plentiful supply of eggs and bacon etc. I then had to prepare the meals on a couple of rudimentary gas stoves in the 'snap cabin' and make sure everything was just right, and just ready, at the official break times. I can tell you that if meals were not ready, or not as requested, these guys took no prisoners! Hence, the stress!
Being a 'banksman' involved my positioning myself on an embankment that was under construction so that I could guide in the oncoming 'scrapers' to the correct parts of the site. Much of the route's construction involved making it reasonably level which meant making 'cuttings' through hills and then building up 'embankments' in the valleys. The 'scraper' (as seen in...) was a huge juggernaut of a machine that would scrape up earth from a cutting, and then drive to an embankment to drop the material, whilst still moving at speed, to build up the level. My job was to try and make sure that each scraper's load was dropped in the right place. A number of these machines would be operating continuously at any one time, travelling at speed and 'kicking' up masses of dust, despite the dampening process. The foreman warned me to be careful about the scrapers, and the scraper drivers - I remember what he said: 'some of these guys wouldn't lose a minute's sleep if they flattened you'. Eventually, I also got to operate some of the equipment, including a 'compactor' (a very heavy vehicle with huge, 'spikey', metal wheels for breaking down large lumps of earth) and a conventional JCB digger."