From the Vault: Franz and Kinematics

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original contributions. And so: my From the Archives series. This week: A screw is basically an inclined plane. And that's no joke.


Simple machines are the basis of industry. Well, sorta.

No screw loose...but that basket's about to fall.

A simple machine is a device used to change the direction or power of a force applied to something in the simplest manner possible. There are six devices classically categorized as simple machines: axles and wheels, levers, pulleys, screws, wedges, and inclined planes (obviously the best).

The reason I said they're only sorta the basis for industry, though, is that the idea of simple machines is itself an oversimplification.

First off, take a look at wedges and screws. A screw is nothing more than an inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder. When you're turning a screw, picture it inside the material—climbing up or down the ramp—as the screw turns. Wedges are just two ramps hooked up to one another, bottom to bottom, for use in transferring force perpendicularly.

Ramps make up half of the classical simple machines. Ramps rule, but we already knew that.

Then you come to wheels and axles and pulleys. A pulley is just a wheel and axle with a rope attached. It's still super useful, of course.

One small step for man...and that's about all.

At first glance, our final classical simple machine, the lever, is pretty distinct from the others. A guy named Franz Reuleaux, however, realized that, like the wheel and pulley, the lever is just a body rotating about a hinge. Reuleaux was also the one who figured out that the screw, wedge, and inclined plane were the same. Really smart cookie.

So all in all, you've really got two simple machines and four variants on the original list. And that’s the first issue with describing the classical simple machines as the basis of mechanical industry.

The second issue? There are a lot more than six simple machines. You've got four-bar linkages and cranks, for example. Our good buddy Franz identified hundreds of simple machines using his self-invented science of Kinematics, which we still use today. Way to go, Franz. Not bad for a guy born in 1829.

Nowadays, thanks to Franz and Kinematics, we actually consider joints the basis of mechanics, but that's a story for another day.

The Yard Ramp Guy Blog: New Inventory - In Stock

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy has launched a smart, strategic arm of his business: selling new yard ramps that are in stock and ready for delivery. I do admire his strategy.

Click HERE to read the smart details.

From the Archives: On Runaway Truck Ramps

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original contributions. And so: my From the Archives series. This week: Honoring runaway truck ramps.


If you've ever taken I-70 through the Rockies, you've probably seen those steep gravel turnoffs leading up from the road, then abruptly dead-ending, as well as all the signs advertising them.

A Fields Inspection

Those are runaway truck ramps, and they're for semis whose brakes have blown.

The idea is pretty simple: an out-of-control truck can't stop, so the driver keeps his foot off the gas, waits for a truck ramp, then expends all the truck’s momentum going up it.

In practice, though, these ramps are pretty complicated.

First off, you've got to make sure the truck won't roll back down. One way to do that is to have a long flat stretch after an initial rise (though this obviously doesn't work in the Rockies).

Another version uses sand to absorb all the momentum: semi tires are big, but not big enough to take a semi through sand. The problem with sand ramps is that the semis have a tendency to flip on them.

A Glass of McCoy

Finally, there are the ones made of loose, ungraded gravel. They work great but rip up tires and undercarriages.

Steep gravel ramps—like the ones on I-70 are the most common. Moderate damage is better than overturning or rolling back onto the road. It's not an overly complicated issue, but the sheer force of a fast-moving semi complicates the solution, especially since they're nowhere near as durable as they are in movies.

All of that said: never, ever drive a non-semi vehicle up there. It will not survive.

The Yard Ramp Guy Blog: New Angles on Leasing Ramps

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy emphasizes a simple⏤and often vital⏤way for your business to keep cash on hand. Especially in these troubled and troubling times.

Click HERE to read all about it.

The Yard Ramp Guy for Troubled Times

 

My friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, is honest as the day is long. He's also humble, which means ⏤ beyond the necessary marketing campaigns to keep competitive in the industry ⏤ he might not readily draw attention to himself or his business.

I, McCoy Fields, am not so humble. That's why I'm proud to share with you just a bit of what Jeff and his team are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has so quickly altered our landscapes and disrupted our world.

YRG Response During Coronavirus

Ramping Up in Troubled Times

There's a difference between what we can see and what we can't. COVID-19 is invisible to the naked eye, an insidious, lethal virus that does not discriminate, that transmits from person to person through proximity, breath, and touch. It's a frightening thing with all-too-often devastating results. A yard ramp is a tangible three tons of steel: an incline with purpose and utility.

The clamping off of much of the country to limit transmission of coronavirus is having devastating effects. The alternative is worse. Essential businesses continue to operate. That's why the supply chain keeps our grocery stores stocked. And that's why The Yard Ramp Guy continues to sell and rent its inventory.

Yard ramps classify as essential tools to emergency service and product providers combatting the pandemic. The Yard Ramp Guy has placed ramps at Coronavirus Emergency Distribution staging sites and rented a ramp to a hospital in New York City ⏤ sadly, to provide access to refrigeration trucks serving as temporary morgues. I've known more life-affirming examples. Yet this is important and, yes, essential.

The Yard Ramp Guy is listed in ThomasNet's COVID-19 Response Suppliers.

In good times and bad, Jeff's yard ramps are workhorses, functioning without complaint to help movement between points.

I've never been prouder of my friend Jeff and his team.

Stay safe and be well.

Archives: The Incan Terraces

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original contributions. And so: my From the Archives series. This week: Terraces⏤the opposite of ramps?


The Inca are surely one of my favorite ancient cultures. Much of this is due to the unusual amount of research available on their building techniques and architecture. The pieces of their engineering I've been reading about lately are their terraces.

Terraces might be something of an opposite of ramps, but that just makes them more fascinating. Living among some of the steepest mountains in the world, the Incans had to improvise heavily when it came to all sorts of facets of their life. Their terraces did a lot more than provide flat areas for food production (though don't get me wrong: that was just a little bit important); they also helped to control erosion and landslides.

In fact, much of Incan architecture was built to be earthquake resistant, and the terraces were no exception. They were so well built that, despite the Incan's comparatively low technological level, their terraces survived from Pizarro's conquest of their empire, totally forgotten, all the way up to the twentieth century, when they were rediscovered.

Do you think anything we build today would last that long without maintenance? Not likely. This workmanship stretched all the way through their construction, too.

The Incans by no means had a monopoly on agricultural terraces, of course. Terrace farming has arisen independently in dozens of cultures worldwide, with almost as many individual styles. It's almost certainly the most efficient method of farming in the mountains.

The most famous are almost certainly the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: they've actually been declared a UNESCO heritage site. You've almost certainly seen images of them before. They've been farmed continuously for something like 2000 years, which is absolutely crazy. That's not just architecture, it's a way of life.

The Yard Ramp Guy Blog: The Power of Powder

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy writes his own cautionary tale of sorts: some seemingly sci-fi tale of producing a yard ramp with a 3-D printer.

Click HERE to read all about it.

Archives • Switchbacks: Ramp Diversity

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original contributions. And so: my From the Archives series. This week: Italy makes me dizzy.


There is one kind of ramp I absolutely love, except when I'm using it, in which case I absolutely hate it. That ramp is the switchback.

Anyone who's done much mountain driving learns to hate switchbacks, even though they're some of the most cost-effective engineering tricks we have in the mountains. (Much, much cheaper than tunnels, that's for sure.) Truckers especially hate them. I've known some who will go hours out of their way to avoid them. I think gearheads are the only ones who enjoy them.

stylized photo of Stelvio Pass in Italy

Careful, there.

One of the craziest examples of the breed is the Stelvio Pass in Italy. It's one of the highest roads in the Alps and has 75 switchbacks. Seventy-five! Not a road you want to drive fast on, or even drive on at all if you can help it. Apparently, it’s so dangerous during the winter and spring that they close it completely during those seasons.

Of course, being dangerous, gearheads flock to it. That British car show everyone likes, “Top Gear” (I don't watch that show anymore after what they said about the F150), declared it the greatest driving road in the world. (Or at least in Europe. Have you seen the pictures of the crazy roads they have in the mountains in India?)

The Italian bicycle Grand Tour frequently goes through Stelvio Pass. (The Giro d'Italia, sister race to the Tour de France. I try to catch all three of the Grand Tours when I can.) Thousands and thousands of cyclists ride through Stelvio Pass every year.

It's easier to find info on battles fought at the pass than it is to find anything beyond basic info on its construction or maintenance, but that's pretty constant. Historians are obsessed with wars, despite the fact that construction and architecture affect us way more.

I'm working on persuading Maggie on this European vacation bit but, as carsick as she gets, I don't think that Stelvio Pass will be on the itinerary.

The Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Moving Your Yard Ramp

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy provides some astounding weight comparisons (and gives me newfound respect for the blue whale, from which I'll never ever wish to receive a tongue lashing), then transitions from heavy to smooth and shows how easy it is to move a yard ramp.

Buckle up, then click HERE to read all about it.