It was a left turn Bill Graham of Columbia won't forget.

Two 510-ton steam generators on a 20-day, 75-mile trip to Exelon's Three Mile Island nuclear plant eased by his corner home at Bridge and Second streets Friday.

Security officials kept hundreds of spectators behind yellow barrier tape, but Graham, his wife, Deb, and 14-year-old son Billy, had a front-row seat on their Second Street porch.

TMI generators in Columbia

"I wasn't sure if they were going to make it, really," Graham, a truck driver, said afterward.

Graham watched as the cylindrical generators on separate 26-axle transport vehicles turned left from Bridge Street and came within six inches of a utility pole beside the row home he's owned for four years.

"This turn is the tightest we've had on the whole trip," said Denise Woernle, spokeswoman for AREVA Inc., the generators' manufacturer. "It went very smoothly."

Graham said he trusted the project engineers and didn't worry about a behemoth generator rolling into his house.

"The way I felt about it was TMI has a lot of money," he said. "They'd replace my house."

The 17.5-foot-wide transport vehicles needed every inch of 40-foot-wide Second Street, which is lined with aging row homes along narrow sidewalks. The street was cleared of parked cars.

Workers covered manholes and other potential weak spots in the street with steel plates laid over wood planks. Some planks crackled under the load.

Phone and cable TV crews temporarily removed overhead wires in the path of the 24-foot-tall cargo.

As the left side of the first transport edged by the pole beside Graham's house, the independently steered wheels of the right side came within a hand's width of the curb.

But operators in front and back, watching control boxes and signals of helpers on foot, kept the transport rolling at a snail's pace and made the turn without having to stop or back up.

"Look at that! Holy smokes!" exclaimed Robert Fink, 77, of Millersville, a spectator impressed by the precision of the turn. "I'm mechanically inclined, and this just blows me away."

On Thursday, Fink and other members of Safe Harbor United Methodist Church had treated the transport crew to hot dogs when the generators came through the village.

The generators were moved about a half mile in three hours Friday before stopping for the day about 12:30 p.m. on Linden Street, west of Third Street. The generators will remain parked today.

A one-mile move will begin about midnight when the generators cross Route 30, which will be closed.

The generators are due at TMI on Wednesday.

Friday's scene attracted spectators of all ages.

"I just can't imagine the way they maneuvered that," said Warren Stehman Sr., 88, of Mount Joy, who watched while Warren Jr., 57, snapped photo after photo.

"It was really loud," said a little girl, one of 17 preschoolers from Columbia Child Care and Learning Center who were told to sit on the sidewalk and hold hands while the generators passed.

"We have a lot of boys and they like big trucks," child care worker Melissa Redcay said.

Bert Herman, a Kahn Lucas worker who lives on Second Street, used a vacation day to be home for the occasion. "This is a historic event," said Herman, who expected the sharp turn to cause more difficulty than it did.

But across the street, 65-year-old Marion May stayed in her house and missed the show. "There were too many people out here," said May, who has eye trouble. "I stayed in the house so I didn't fall over."

jhawkes@lnpnews.com