Empire Theatre Move

Location: New York City, New York

Year: 1998

Product: 200 ton modified rollers with accu-roll guidance

The largest structural move ever to take place in New York City involved moving the 3,700 ton Empire Theatre.  The historic landmark is located in the center of the 42nd street renovation project and in heart of the City’s famous “Times Square” district. Rather than dismantle the structure and reassemble it, engineers determined that it would cost the same to move it in its entirety 170 feet (52 meters) west.  Here it will become the grand entrance to a 25-screen Movie Megaplex and other entertainment attractions, scheduled to open in 1999.

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The Empire Theatre still sits in the heart of Times Square as the entrance to the Movie Megaplex.

The contractor for the move set eight identical I-beams equally spaced beneath the structure and extended them 170 feet to the structure’s new foundation. The I-beams served as tracks for the Rollers. Thirty-two, 200 ton capacity Hilman Rollers with Accu-Roll Guidance were set onto the I-beam tracks beneath the structure in a pattern of four per track. The structure was lowered onto the rollers and eight hydraulic push rams, one per track, provided the motive force for moving the structure. 

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200 Ton Hilman Roller riding on I-beam track.

It was anticipated that all eight rams would be needed to move the structure along the tracks but because of the very low coefficient of friction of the Hilman Rollers, only four rams were needed to move the structure. That gave the contractor a unique advantage: while four rams were pushing, the other four could be retracted and put into position to take over when the pushing rams reached their maximum extension. The result was that the movement of the building was almost continuous and completed well ahead of schedule. 

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This drawing shows the plan of how the Empire Theatre was moved.