Buford Dam: Lake Lanier
More than a mile of earthen dam and saddle dikes were built over a three-year period, along with a concrete dam, powerhouse, and spillway, to hold back the waters of the Chattahoochee River and create Lake Sydney Lanier in north Georgia.
J. W. Moorman and Son of Buford submitted the low bid to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for earth work for the dam and dikes, which were almost 200 feet high and 1,000 feet wide at the base.
Moorman hauled 5 million cubic yards of earth from the future lakebed. The 800,000 cubic yards of stone for the upstream face of the dam had been excavated and stockpiled when the forebay and trailrace were cut through solid rock. After the earth work had been completed, the stone was placed—150 feet in width at the base of the dam and 30 feet at the top.
The contractor scheduled two work shifts every day, in the months when sunlight allowed, with scrapers, bottom dumpers, pushers, shovels, and dozers. In the fill area, Cat® No. 12 Patrols along with several D8 dozers spread the earth before it was compacted with a 50-ton rubber-tired roller.
Fulton County Airport Expansion
Also in 1948 growth in air travel had pushed the limits of Atlanta Municipal Airport, leading Fulton County officials to expand their own airport on Gordon Road near the Chattahoochee River. E. A. Hudson of Bolton used Cat® D8s and D7s with pans and D4s with sheepsfoot rollers, among other equipment, to move more than 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt and rock.
Walter F. George Dam
Downstream on the Chattahoochee, Moss Construction Co. of Columbus moved 2 million cubic yards of earth to build a 6,000-foot-long dam sixty-six feet high for what would be known as Lake Walter F. George. (In Alabama, the reservoir is called Lake Eufaula.) Moss kept the equipment running sixteen hours a day, six days a week, with two shifts of operators and finished ahead of schedule in January 1957.
Like many other large jobs where machinery ran on multiple shifts, contractors building dams often assigned a maintenance professional to the job to handle routine service. Some even set up shop facilities with replacement parts at the job site, and performed maintenance, such as inspections, lubrication, etc., at the end of the day’s last shift on a predetermined schedule. This systematic on-site management of equipment reduced down time.
The contractor relied on fill material from borrow pits about half a mile away that would later become part of the lake bed. Three Cat® DW15s with D8 pushers delivered loads about every four minutes on an average haul of about half a mile. Another DW15 tractor pulled a 100,000-pound compactor over the site. Cat® 12 Patrols worked the site and graded haul roads.
Jekyll Island Causeway
Down on the Georgia coast, W. L. Cobb Construction Company of Decatur built a six-mile causeway across the Marshes of Glynn that connect Jekyll Island to the mainland. W. L. Cobb completed the causeway in 1950, but the roadway ended at the Jekyll River because the state had not yet let the contract for a bridge over the river to the island. A new drawbridge opened four years later, allowing access to the island.
Connecting Georgia Towns
N. C. Wright Contracting Company of Columbus reconstructed and widened 10.8 miles of roadway between Milledgeville and Eatonton in 1951, a $700,000 job in Putnam and Baldwin counties. Wright used three DW10 tractors with No. 10 scrapers, two Cat® tractor-dozers, and two No. 12 Cat® motor graders, among other equipment, to move and place 515,000 cubic yards of dirt.
The next year N. C. Wright Contracting also reconstructed and widened the road from Manchester to Warm Springs, building two new bridges and moving 100,000 cubic yards of dirt along the way.
Richmond County Bridges
On the road from Louisville to Augusta in Richmond County, H. M. Pafford Jr. of Waycross built four bridges in 1951, and widened and constructed two miles of approaches. Pafford used Cat® DW10 tractors and No. 10 scrapers to make the cuts and spread the fill.
Fourteen Miles Near Conyers
R. T. Smith, Contractor, of Atlanta took on two large jobs between Conyers and Covington in 1953—fourteen miles of roadway and several bridges in Rockdale and Newton counties.
Like so many north Georgia road projects, this one involved the removal of significant amounts of rock. One cut alone required the drilling, dynamiting, and removal of 25,000 cubic yards of solid rock. Among the equipment used on the job were Caterpillar D8 tractors, No. 12 motor graders, and Cat-powered Gardner-Denver wagon drills. R. A. Bowen of Macon graded and paved a nearby stretch of roadway between Conyers and Walnut Grove.
Roads for Growing Liberty County
The opening of Camp Stewart brought thousands of personnel and their families to Liberty, Long, Bryan, and neighboring counties in the 1940s, and the Liberty County population would nearly double in the decade following the war. Road construction in the area continued at a steady pace for years. As one example, Ed Smith of Atlanta worked with Caterpillar equipment for nearly two years clearing 12,498 acres, grading, and surfacing a long roadway in Liberty County, with G. W. Burtz building three bridges as part of the $582,000 project.
Grading in Middle Georgia
Charles R. Shepherd of Atlanta graded ten miles of roadway between Milledgeville and Macon using Cat® D8s with Cat® and Letourneau pans, D8 dozers, No. 12 motor graders, DW10s, and DW21s. Shepherd moved 8,000 cubic yards of earth per day in the hot, dry 1953 summer. The contractor then paved the new road, which eliminated sharp curves and gave drivers safer, longer sight distances.
Bridge across the Chattahoochee
In February 1955 H. G. Smith began work on a 915-foot bridge across the Chattahoochee River west of LaGrange. Roy Seay, of Greenville, graded roadways approaching the bridge with a Caterpillar D8 and a Lorain shovel and a No. 12 motor grader.
Widening U.S. Highway 78
Highway 78 was the primary highway between Atlanta and Augusta, and a series of improvements allowed for better traffic flow. In 1955 R. G. Foster and Co., of Wadley, widened and paved about eighteen miles of roadway across counties between Thompson and Augusta. The contractor used a Caterpillar No. 12 motor grader equipped with a Domor Road Widener for widening the sides of the existing paving. The completed roadway was widened by four feet.
Alternate Route for Atlanta Commuters
In the 1950s most people commuting to Atlanta from Douglas County or points farther west used Highway 78. In an effort to relieve congestion on 78, the State Highway Department contracted for the extension of Georgia Highway 166, which ran parallel to 78 but several miles to the south. In 1955 D. W. Bailey of Jackson began moving thousands of yards of dirt along a 6.5-mile route, beginning where the pavement formerly ran out. Bailey used Cat® DW15 scrapers; Cat® DW21 scrapers; Cat® 12 motor graders; and D8 tractors, dozers, and pushers.
Access to Unicoi State Park
One of Georgia’s most popular parks was extremely difficult to access before 1955, when Lothridge Brothers of Gainesville built a two-mile road to Unicoi State Park near Helen. Although the distance was not great, the mountain terrain required considerable excavation and blasting for deep rock cuts. Material from those cuts did not have to be moved far, as it was needed to build up slopes and valleys. The finished road was twenty feet wide with five-foot shoulders. Lothridge used Cat® 12 Patrols as well as D4 and D8 tractors.
Widening and Straightening a the Road to Carolina By the mid-1950s many of Georgia’s mountain roads, even the paved ones, followed the natural terrain with tight curves and switchbacks and were barely wide enough for two cars to pass. U.S 23-441 from Clayton to Franklin, North Carolina, was such a road. The Georgia Highway Commission determined to make that stretch one of the state’s most modern highways, and in 1955 Henry Newton Construction of Decatur began the first phase, widening and straightening the road from Mountain City to the North Carolina state line, using two Caterpillar pull scrapers, two Patrols, and two D8s. The project also included new bridges across Betty Creek and the Little Tennessee River.
Homer to Royston
Farther east in April 1954 in Banks County, G. H. Law of Gainesville began grading a stretch of Highway 51 between Homer and Royston with Cat® D8 tractors and other equipment. The 6.3-mile stretch would also include two bridges.
Improving Farm-to-Market Roads
The Georgia Rural Roads Authority was established in 1955 with the ability to sell bonds and generate funds for building and improving at low cost farm-to-market roads across Georgia. Saunders and Perkins of Newington, in southeast Georgia, was soon working with Caterpillar D8s, D7s, D6s, DW15s with pans, and motor graders on two rural road projects–an eight-mile stretch of the road from Kildare to Clyo, and six miles of Poor Robin Road in Screven County. The contractor cleared 136 acres and moved more than a million cubic yards of dirt. Total cost for the two jobs was $242,000, or about $17,500 per mile for clearing, grading, and paving.
Longest Single Job
The twenty-one-mile grading and paving project between Warrenton and Wrens in 1955 was believed to have been the longest single job ever let up to that point in the state of Georgia. T. D. Lamb Jr. of Vidalia completed the job, which did not include a single bridge along the way, with four No. 12 Cat® motor graders, a D8 dozer, and other equipment.
Quitman, in Brooks County near the Florida line, had no direct route to Moultrie, to the north. So in 1956 the State Highway Department designed a cutoff route to improve the flow of traffic between the two cities. Sowega Farm Machinery Co. of Edison built ten miles of the road with two Cat® DW10s, a DW15, a D7 dozer, a D8 pusher, and a No. 12 Patrol.
Another north-south roadway into Moultrie, State Highway 33, was widened, graded, and resurfaced by Mason and Ward Construction Co. of Thomasville. The half-million-dollar project covered twelve miles of roadway, which were widened from twenty-four feet to forty feet with drainage ditches. The contractor used two Cat® DW15s, a D8, a D7, and a D6, and a No. 12 Patrol.
A Wider Road to Augusta National
On the second weekend in April one of the busiest roads in Georgia is Washington Road, leading to Augusta National Golf Club. On Masters weekend, tens of thousands of patrons descend on Augusta. In 1956 Washington Road was eighteen feet wide—nowhere near wide enough to handle the flow. In 1957 R. G. Foster Co. of Wadley began a project to widen the road to four twelve-foot lanes plus a ten-foot parking lane on each side of the road.
Widening the road from eighteen to sixty-eight feet angered some of the property owners along the right-of-way, and one threatened the project engineer with a shotgun. But grading work continued, with a Cat® D7 pulling a pan, a No. 12 motor grader, and other equipment. Grading and paving was completed in plenty of time for the 1958 Masters.
Tight Quarters on 29 Widening
In the 1950s, Highway 29 was known as the Atlanta-Athens Road, and the twenty-foot-wide roadway was one of the busiest in the state. In 1957 W. L. Cobb Construction of Decatur began a major project, widening sixteen miles of the road to sixty feet. G. W. Whitley of Decatur was subcontractor for grading, tearing out the pavement with a Caterpillar D7 and hauling away the broken pieces in a Cat® DW15 pushed by a D9 dozer. He used more Cat® dozers plus two Cat® motor graders, a No. 12 and a No. 112, and two D7s pulling a No. 80 Cat® pan for the preparation. The job was made more difficult by a rigid sixty-foot right-of-way. All of the equipment had to be kept within those tight confines.
West Georgia Highway Improvement
U.S. Highway 27 connected northern Michigan to Miami, running through Georgia a few miles east of the Alabama state line. This major highway connected the west Georgia cities of Rome, Carrollton, LaGrange, and Columbus. In 1957 Ledbetter-Johnson Co. widened a seven-mile section of the road between Summerville and Lafayette to twenty-four feet of paving with ten-foot shoulders on each side. The contractor used four DW21s push-loaded by two D9 tractors and five tractor pans being pushed by two D8 pushers; a D8 dozer; two sheepsfoot rollers, one pulled by a D8, the other by a D6; and a No. 12 motor grader.
South Georgia Four-Lane
C. C. Daniels Construction Co. and Peachtree Grading Co. of Atlanta joined W. L. Robinson Co. of College Park in the grading of a four-lane section of U.S. Highway 301 between Jesup and Nahunta. The three contractors made fast work of the four-mile job, moving 10,000 cubic yards of dirt a day, even with a two-mile, one-way haul. They had a fleet of Cat® equipment, including nine DW21 scrapers; a DW15 scraper; two D8 pushers; two No. 12 Patrols; and a D4, a D7, and a D8 dozer.
Georgia’s First Passing Lanes
For the first time Georgia highway designers included passing lanes in the Commerce-to-Athens portion of Highway 441 when it was widened in 1957. Passing lanes were added to the two-lane highway at twelve hills along the fifteen-mile route. The roadway before the project began was twenty feet wide.
Ocmulgee Construction Co. of McRae widened it to twenty-four feet for most of the way—thirty-six feet where passing lanes were installed. Ocmulgee worked quickly, grading a mile a week with three Cat® DW10s, two No. 12 motor graders, a D7 pusher, and a D7 dozer.
Breaking Up an Old Highway
Highway 29 from Hartwell to Royston appeared never to have been resurfaced since it was first paved in 1926. By the late 1950s the popular tourist artery, which ran from Baltimore to Pensacola, had ruts, holes, and broken pavement in the northeast Georgia section.
C. W. Matthews Contracting Co., which widened and repaved the twelve miles of the roadway, used a headache ball mounted on a Cat® D8 tractor to break 3,000 cubic yards of old concrete pavement into smaller chunks, then removed it with a D8 dozer. The contractor widened the road from twenty to twenty-four feet, grading with Caterpillar dozers, scrapers, motor graders, and a 977 Traxcavator.
New Road through Middle Georgia Swamps
Hugh Steele, Inc., cut a new fourteen-mile road through woods, swamps, clay, gumbo, and limestone between Hawkinsville Warner Robins. The new road saved drivers six miles over the previous road between the two middle Georgia cities. Steele used Cat® pushers and dozers, a motor grader, and five DW21 scrapers to grade the new road. The DW21s were equipped with Esco teeth on the blades to work more quickly through difficult material.
Ripping Rock Formations
Patten Bros. grading contractors of Roswell used a No. 28 Cat® ripper pulled by a D8 tractor to deal with rock formations when relocating a portion of State Route 138 between Jonesboro and Stockbridge. Some of the rock was drilled and blasted, and all of it was loaded with Caterpillar scrapers and utilized in fill areas, which ran as deep as twenty-seven feet.
1959 Farm-to-Market in Turner County
In rural Turner County, between Tifton and Cordele, Kennedy Construction Co. of nearby Ashburn graded and paved seven miles of Bussey Road as part of the Rural Roads project. Kennedy used four Cat® DW15 motor scrapers, a D8 pusher, two D6 dozers, and two No. 12 motor graders to grade the farm-to-market roadbed to thirty-feet wide, then added a twenty-foot-wide surface treatment.
1959 Widening the First All-Weather, Coast-to-Coast Highway U.S. Route 80, commissioned in 1926 from Tybee Island to San Diego, California, was America’s first all-weather, coast-to-coast highway. Thirty years later Georgia began to widen portions of the highway to four lanes. W. L. Cobb Construction Co. built a section northwest of Statesboro in 1959, widening the existing roadway from twenty to twenty-four feet and then adding two more lanes with a median. For grading, the contractor used three Cat® No. 12 motor graders, two DW21 motor scrapers, a D4 dozer, a 977 Traxcavator, and other equipment.
Cherokee to Forsyth County
A five-mile section of Hightower Road in Cherokee and Forsyth counties remained unpaved until 1959, when Lothridge Bros. graded and paved the road, and Harry Holland built a bridge over Settingdown Creek. Once completed, residents of the Coal Mountain and Browns Bridge communities could drive to Canton on paved roads.
“After a customer got the job, they would come to us to help figure out the most economical equipment to get the job done. We were often the ones at the head end of that process, telling them what they could do. Lot of times we would do job studies to let them know how much to move, how to make more efficient, and the cost per yard. We helped as much as we could.”
— John Ashby Taylor
“When you get in that truck, you might not know if you’re coming home that night. You just don’t know what you’re going to draw. You might get called out of bed at two or three in the morning, and you get out there and take care of things.”
- Sid Hall, Yancey Bros. Co.
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Post-War Boom 1948 - 1959