What is this large mystery object being transported on the back of a truck on the highway?
February 13, 2005 9:27 PM   Subscribe

What is this thing?
(larger images of above)

...obviously a self-link, since I took the pictures. I doubt this is a problem...? This was somewhere in Virginia, I think.
posted by odinsdream to Grab Bag (37 answers total)
Congratulations! You found the WMDs!
posted by orthogonality at 9:30 PM on February 13, 2005

Industrial Turbine, I say.

You have to squint at the pic on that page, but I can't find a better one.
posted by falconred at 9:34 PM on February 13, 2005

Yeah, my first thought was part of a turbine for power also. My dim recollection of seeing diagrams of a steam turbine for coal/gas plants concurs with those photos.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:41 PM on February 13, 2005

Certainly frightening in scale.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:56 PM on February 13, 2005

1st thought was turbine-related, 2nd was boring, as in digging. I know nothing of these things. Large diameter boring machines for well and oil drilling don't seem to look like that. Another likely turbine candidate.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 10:12 PM on February 13, 2005

What I'm curious about is what kind of camera you used to get those shots. I know I would have had more motion blur had I attempted "(larger".
posted by Handcoding at 10:23 PM on February 13, 2005

It's from a Canon PowerShot S200, a lovely little camera.

If it matters, this was somewhere on I-95 on Jan. 13th (I highly doubt it matters).
posted by odinsdream at 10:31 PM on February 13, 2005

Kinda looks like the inside of a turbine, but the blades are way wrong for that.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 PM on February 13, 2005

From the protrusions on the outside, I'd almost guess it's used to mix something. They're alternating with what appears to be flat and sharp protrusions, looks like it could really maul whatever it was used as well.

Note that the inside seems dirty and rusty, while the outside appears relatively clean, but far from sparkling. I'd guess whatever it is, it's not used with earth drilling, and probably not with anything food related. My own wild guess is that it's used to mix some sort of material which is definitely non-liquid enough to need some breaking up. The sharp parts just really make me think it's unfit for being a turbine. Unless it's used to smash coal or something?

Whatever it is, I'm more than certain that it's highly lethal when operating, and I really want to crack jokes about how phallic it is.
posted by Saydur at 11:58 PM on February 13, 2005

Guessing: a mixing or tumbling drum
posted by NortonDC at 1:15 AM on February 14, 2005

I saw something similar being transported to a paper mill about five years ago. What I saw was actually much wider and longer. I can't recall if it had teeth like that, and I don't know exactly what it is used for. Where on 95 were you?
posted by anathema at 3:43 AM on February 14, 2005

Huh, those teeth have a very unique shape.
posted by anathema at 3:44 AM on February 14, 2005

An industrial rock crusher?
posted by damnitkage at 3:56 AM on February 14, 2005

Not a rock crusher; those things are too frail. It's somehow similar to this.

I think it's part of a conveyor or mixing machine.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:24 AM on February 14, 2005

What interests me is the wave motif on either end of the thing. You don't see artistic flourishes like that on industrial machinery, generally. Maybe it's just a corporate branding type thing, or maybe this thing is made to be seen outside. I have no idea, but it does look cool.
posted by picea at 5:55 AM on February 14, 2005

I think anathema may be on to something. My initial thought was a earth borer, then maybe a giant turbine without the windings on it (think: electric motor). However, it may be a pulper - or a re-pulper. Paper pulp is some nasty, sticky stuff to break up. Notice the spaces between those "little" cutters on the outside. That would make it easy to scrape off the outside of a large, long string of pulp, a little at a time.
posted by notsnot at 7:44 AM on February 14, 2005

Clearly, this would be a French Tickler for the Jolly Green Giant. Did you get the photo somewhere near the valley? Ho ho ho! Mrs. Giant is gonna be happy!
posted by Goofyy at 7:55 AM on February 14, 2005

I'm pretty sure it's a wood chipper/pulper.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:00 AM on February 14, 2005

Saydur mentions the inside appears dirty. You might not be able to tell it from the picture, but the inside also had paddle-like protrusions, at least on the back end that I could see. They do appear to have rusted, but it wasn't full of dirt, as the picture might lead you to believe.
posted by odinsdream at 9:00 AM on February 14, 2005

I showed these pictures to my wife's uncle, who's business is the buying and selling of industrial equipment and he said it could be one of two things:

a piece of the jolly green giant's sister's vibrator

or a giant kiln that sits on two "large girth gears and rotates" and is used for drying product.

That could explain the inside dirtiness... might give you another avenue to research anyways.
posted by brheavy at 9:03 AM on February 14, 2005

Having taken a closer look at the large images, I'm going to reneg on that. Three things:
  • turbine inside the pipe
  • toothed gear is barely welded on
  • chipper teeth are "T" shaped.
    None of these correspond to my expectations for a wood chipper (as used in a pulp plant). IMO the teeth would have to be a lot stronger to chip or pulp a tree; it would not be turbine-driven; and it wouldn't be likely to have such a long arm off the side.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on February 14, 2005

    I just noticed that in the third picture, you can see that the little paddle-blade objects aren't all the same. Toward the front of the trailer, they're all flat with round edges, but moving toward the back, they're mixed in with other blades that have little spikes on the edges, and look sharper. This is making me reconsider the position that this object was designed to be used in. I had just assumed it was to be used horizontally, but now I'm thinking the scary end is intended to point downward, since whatever it mixes, crushes, mangles, or kills seems to require different physical treatment at different times.
    posted by odinsdream at 9:08 AM on February 14, 2005

    What interests me is the wave motif on either end of the thing.

    I see where you'd be thinking that, but to my eye it's not a wave motif, just the bolted ends of strips of...something...that goes inside the outer jacket of the device. If you look you'll see what I mean, think of a bunch of belts that wrap around a cylinder diagonally, that's what it looks like.
    posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2005

    Maybe part of this nightmarish thing?
    posted by xmutex at 10:08 AM on February 14, 2005

    That is horrible. What in god's name is that? Is there some worldwide market for nightmarish machinery?
    posted by odinsdream at 10:17 AM on February 14, 2005

    I'm not sure what it is. My guess is like some boring machine that just eats up and/or moves huge freaking amounts of land. There's a site about it, but it's in Norweigan or something. There's a great photo of two of them like doing battle at night.

    This is another great shot one of them like lording over people, about to bring sure machine death to them all.
    posted by xmutex at 10:39 AM on February 14, 2005

    I saw a TV show about extreme mining once, and that beast was featured. I think in cost like 200 million to build and took 7 years or something like that. Its for open pit coal mining in Germany and it can move like 50 thousand tons a day. Insane.
    posted by brheavy at 10:45 AM on February 14, 2005

    weapon of mass construction - indeed.

    i wish even one of those pictures showed the beast in action. I'd love to see the dirt fly. But like a supermodel, all it seems to do is stand there and have its picture taken.
    posted by Jonasio at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2005

    it seems to me that the huge toothy cylinder thing is in fact a turbine. Falconred's squinty picture seems almost dead on.
    posted by Jonasio at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2005

    I really don't think it is a turbine. The blades inside the unit are stubby, and the construction work on the outside doesn't look like it'd hold up to high speed revolution.
    posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on February 14, 2005

    Okay - I'm gonna vote that this is some sort of Rotary Kiln. Here's the best Google Evidence I've found (from this page) Have a look around Google Images for Rotary Kiln, and you'll see a ton of similar-looking devices. Used for soil treatment, mineral preparation, mine-waste cleanup, etc.
    posted by kokogiak at 12:52 PM on February 14, 2005

    kokogiak is definitely on to something with that first link, which shows a similar size piece of equipment that even has that little tooth-gear ring assembly. Though it does lack the most defining feature, the scary teeth.
    posted by odinsdream at 1:00 PM on February 14, 2005

    Also see here. Still doesn't explain the teeth. Could they possibly be cooling fins?
    posted by odinsdream at 1:08 PM on February 14, 2005

    Cooling or heating fins, sure. Depends on whether the heat source is inside or outside.
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:30 PM on February 14, 2005

    I don't think the "fins" have the right shape to be used for cooling. They appear to be more like paddles than anything else. They are shorter than the side flanges, indicating they will perhaps be enclosed within a cylinder.

    Perhaps it's a dual-purpose component, a rotary kiln inside being used for scrubbing exhaust, drying lime, or what-have-you; and a rotary mixer outside, being used for... well, whatever hot mixing would be required.

    If it's for lime (I think it's lime being used in pulp mills; it's been a long time since I last toured one), perhaps the external paddles are used to break-up and pre-dry the lime, before it's put into the kiln.
    posted by five fresh fish at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2005

    No, no, no! It's obviously the cruncher-muncher. *shakes head* You know, for the aliens. Makes it all the easier to suck us up into straws.

    Geez, people!
    posted by deborah at 6:11 PM on February 14, 2005

    It would not surprise me at all if intelligent aliens visited our planet and chose the lowest-rate trucking company to transport their Machinery of Doom.
    posted by odinsdream at 7:57 PM on February 14, 2005

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