A massive electrical transformer turned heads and backed up traffic in coastal Waldo County Monday, Aug. 1, as it made its way from Mack Point to a new Central Maine Power substation in Benton.

The 45-mile journey was such a process, in fact, that the truck carrying the transformer only made it as far as Knox — about two-thirds of the total distance — in 12 hours of traveling Monday. CMP officials had predicted, prior to the trip, that the journey would take “longer than eight hours to complete.”

Work on moving the 286-ton transformer began around 6 a.m. Monday, according to CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice, at the port in Searsport. A fleet of vehicles was involved in the process, ranging from the 16-axle truck carrying the transformer, to other tractor-trailer trucks, to white-and-orange CMP vehicles, to the State Police cruisers providing an escort.

In a testament to just how much time it took to move the transformer, the convoy didn’t pass Hamilton Marine — just a short distance from Station Avenue, where the vehicles came on to Route 1 — until about 7:30 a.m., an hour-and-a-half after the process began.

The huge transformer — CMP reported its dimensions as 15 feet high by 13 feet wide by 38 feet long — will become part of the Albion Road Substation in Benton, part of the power company’s Maine Power Reliability Project.

The MPRP is a $1.4 billion project that CMP expects to complete over five years, which includes the construction of six new 345,000-volt substations, including the one in Benton. Forty existing substations will be upgraded, and 440 miles of transmission lines in 75 different communities from Eliot to Orrington will be installed or rebuilt.

The Albion Road Substation transformer, according to CMP, is “among the largest units” in the company’s system. The company said transformers are used to raise or lower voltage on electrical systems, and that this particular transformer will “step down transmission line voltage from 345,000 volts to 115,000 volts to supply the electrical grid for communities in Franklin, Kennebec, Piscataquis, Somerset and Waldo counties.”

The transformer took the following route in its journey to Benton on Monday and Tuesday: from Route 1, the convoy headed up Route 141 (Swan Lake Avenue) to Route 131, which it followed until it hit Route 137. Heading inland on Route 137, the convoy then took Route 202 to Albion, and then west on Benton Road to Albion Road in Benton.

Along the way, the main attraction — the transformer, with a weight of more than 500,000 pounds, plus the not-so-light truck carrying it — had to make 11 “bridge” crossings, when it traveled over a low-profile, steel support span designed to lighten the burden on local roadways as they crossed over bodies of water.

Two such crossings on Route 1 were at Mill Stream in Searsport and Goose River on Belfast’s East Side. Workers moved large metal components to create the “bridge,” and the truck carrying the transformer then gingerly crossed over it.

Although the crossing itself took very little time, the setup and tear-down process made for long lines of traffic along Route 1 in particular — particularly as people made their way to work on their Monday morning commute.

In addition to the setup and tear-down time, Rice noted crews then had to leap-frog ahead of the transformer so that they could be in place for the next crossing on the route.

Rice said it was unfortunate that the trip had to be made at that particular time, but said CMP was operating under a directive from the Maine Department of Transportation that the transformer had to be moved during daylight hours.

She said the last time CMP moved a piece of equipment anywhere near this size was two years ago, when a slightly smaller transformer was moved from Westbrook to Gorham. In that case, she said, the transformer was brought to Westbrook by rail, and then transported to Gorham at night.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 2, Rice said the transformer had successfully completed its journey from Searsport to Benton. She said the traveling on Tuesday took about six hours, meaning the total travel time was 18 hours to cover about 45 miles.

The transformer moved this week arrived in Searsport on July 27, according to CMP, following a three-month sea journey from Taiwan. Rice said there are other transformers of this size that will be part of the ongoing power project, but said she did not know exactly when they would arrive or where they would arrive and what route they might follow.

Regarding the traffic delays motorists encountered Monday, Rice said she knows people were frustrated.

“We do appreciate people having patience and understanding,” she said.