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Blalock, Wirtgen Mills Return to the Smokies

Thu January 18, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Once again, Charles Blalock & Sons Inc., Sevierville, Tenn., has returned to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to work on U.S. 441, the spectacular scenic highway that traverses the park. In May, Blalock was using its Wirtgen W 2000 and older 1900 DC to mill asphalt ahead of paving contractor APAC Inc.

Better known in East Tennessee as Blalock’s, over the last two decades Charles Blalock & Sons has paved the “Road to the Smokies” from I-40 through Gatlinburg to the national park, including U.S. 441.

Founded in 1962, Blalock’s employs more than 600 people in the East Tennessee area and constructs a variety of pavements, down to private driveways. The firm also does site work and many other earthmoving projects, and specializes in water and sewer installations, drainage and road base construction.

One of Blalock’s sister companies is Newport Paving & Ready Mix Inc. Including Newport, Blalock owns four hot mix plants and four ready mix concrete plants.

’Three Amigo’ Customer

Blalock is a “Three Amigo” customer, owning the two Wirtgen mills, a Hamm 3412 compactor, and a 2111W paver from Vogele America Inc. (in addition to the 2111W owned by Newport). As a result it is the first Three Amigo customer for Wirtgen Retail Sales Division, administered out of the Nashville, Tenn., headquarters.

In addition its newer “green” 2111W Vogele America paver, Blalock has an old 1110W, predecessor to today’s 2219W, and two vintage 780 models, predecessor to the 2111W, said Doug Blalock, owner/secretary.

“We just bought a ’half-breed’ Hamm model 3412 roller, rubber tires on the back and drum on the front,” he said.

“We tried it and we liked it, using it on subdivisions and parking lots. It has a kit which enables us to exchange a sheepsfoot with a smooth drum up front.”

In Blalock’s applications, the firm can do steep work much more easily with rubber on the back, Blalock said. That’s especially important for a firm nestled in the highest part of the Appalachian Mountains.

“We do a lot of that work,” he said. “We have a lot of steep driveways, and steep condo developments. And we’ve found in the last six to eight years that rubber in the back works a lot better for us for soil and stone compaction.”

Despite those steep grades, Blalock prefers rubber-tired pavers to tracked pavers.

“It’s a pick-your-poison situation,” he said. “The rubber-tired machines are more mobile for the smaller jobs we do with the 2111W. We’ve never gotten used to tracked pavers so we keep going with the rubber-tire design.”

New W 2000 Joins Fleet

Early in 2006, Blalock moved up from its aging 1900 DCs to a W 2000.

“We’ve had two 1900s and we decided to keep our younger 1900 DC not as a backup, but to do ’rougher’ jobs,” Blalock said. “We’ve got the 2000 for higher profile jobs. We like having the Caterpillar motor and the bigger machine. In addition to our rural highway work, we needed a machine that will do urban work as well.

“The W 2000 is sized so big that you can still get ’small’ production out of it for urban work, but not so big that we would be forcing ourselves out of our market.”

Blalock lists three reasons why it is sticking to the Wirtgen platform for cold mills.

“First, the Wirtgen is a very good machine, which is most important,” Blalock said. “Second, when we’ve had problems, they’ve not been problems, because Wirtgen is really good at backing us up. Third, the sales team is great. We’ve had long relationships with Warren Legg and Mike Burris at Wirtgen Retail Sales, and that plays a big role. That they sell Wirtgen equipment makes it that much easier.”

Blalock certainly did consider other makes prior to buying the new W 2000.

“I got prices and specs from three competitors,” Blalock said. “But what it came down to, as we sat around the table, was the fact that Wirtgen has not let us down. They’re there when we’ve needed them, but we’ve not needed them that much. No matter how good the sales force and parts supply is, if they can’t back up the sale with a good machine, we would go in a different direction. And we couldn’t do that.”

In the meantime, Blalock is noting production benefits of the new W 2000.

“We just did some milling in downtown Sevierville, and my superintendent told me it’s doing a cleaner job,” he said. “It may be that the 1900 DC was just getting old, but I don’t think it was ever as good as the 2000, with not having so much cleanup behind it, and a better milled surface, even without the fine toothed drum. Wirtgen’s angled rear moldboard on the 2000 model just works better.”

(This article appears courtesy of “Wirtgen Technologies” magazine.)

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