By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT

Even before the expert designers at Dillon Works! Inc. began fabricating a scale model of the famed Graf Zeppelin airship for a new balloon museum more than 1,500 miles away, they consulted the transportation professionals at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics.

Dr. Hugo Eckener and associates, who built the original LZ127 Graf Zeppelin in Germany in 1928, made it as large as would fit within the inner dimensions of a Friedrichshafen construction hangar. The Dillon Works! designers wanted their creation to be of maximum size - in this case as large as could fit through the back door of a truck trailer.

If the mission had failed, it would not have been a disaster of Hindenburg proportions, but visitors expecting to see the Graf Zeppelin among exhibits when the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum opened on Oct. 1 certainly would have been disappointed.

As it turned out, however, the mission was a success - just like many other moves Hellmann has orchestrated for Mukilteo, WA-based Dillon Works!

“When one is considering shipping something of this magnitude - magnitude meaning size or weight or delicacy - partnering with the shippers early on so they can address potential pitfalls is an important aspect of it,” said Brian Leonard, director of sales and marketing for Dillon Works!

“It’s foresight based on experience,” Leonard continued. “Shipping considerations will often impact how we make something.”

In this case, once it was established that an 8-foot diameter and a 50-foot length would be maximum dimensions for a frame-enclosed model to achieve trailer-enclosed transport, the Dillon Works! designers could proceed with a replica at 1:15 scale of the original 100-foot-diameter, 776-foot-long Graf Zeppelin, the most-traveled airship in history. They coordinated their efforts with those of Albuquerque-based Design Collaborative Southwest Architects Inc. (DCSW), which had responsibility for such functions as overall aesthetics, plus attachment of the model to the museum structure.

While most of the 20 models of famous balloons throughout time that Dillon Works! made for the museum could have their upper fabric envelope parts deflated by turning off blowers, thus making the units small enough to fairly easily ship in crates, the rigid nature of the Graf Zeppelin replica meant that it had to be transported in a much larger single piece, suspended within a protective frame.

Although that might seem complicated, Leonard said that advance planning ensured that it was not. The 2,000-pound dirigible model left the suburban Seattle fabrication facility on Sept. 17 and arrived without a scratch two days later at the Albuquerque museum.

“We were able to work with Hellmann early enough to determine that it would not be a complicated exercise,” he said. “In simplistic terms, we rolled it out of the shop and onto the trailer. Actually, it was probably one of the easiest things to ship.”

Dillon Works!, a custom design and fabrication company specializing in dimensional and architectural elements for shopping centers, casinos, theme parks and exhibits, is no stranger to making oversized items.

The firm recently produced 10 larger-than-life-size models of designer watches with 5-foot-diameter faces for the renovated Macy’s department store in San Francisco’s Union Square. Another project entailed making a 35-foot-tall rocket ship replica for Hong Kong Disneyland, presenting an overseas transportation challenge replete with multimodal moves.

In both those cases and others, Dillon Works! depended on Hellmann for shipping logistics.

Ray Robbin, a Hellmann business development executive with whom Dillon Works! has worked for nine years, said he enjoys handling the unusual moves required by the model-making firm.

“It’s fun and it’s challenging,” said Robbin, whose office in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila is about 35 miles south of the Dillon Works! facility. “With this stuff, there’s no margin for error, and that makes it exciting.”