S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Big Cranes Page keywords = crane lift derrick hoist wreck breakdown hook Berlinerwerke railroad RR maintenance way MoW model X45 X99

Updated:   01 Aug 2011, 16:15  ET
[Page created 02 Jan 2003; converted 01 Aug 2011

    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/bigcrane.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/bigcrane.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


Big Cranes Page


"DERRICKS", etc.


These pages are, so far, basically unindexed, except for:

On this Big Cranes page:
  Dalien LK3 Big Hook.
  Big Crane Bibliography.
  Bay Crane.
  On the Spott.
  W. J. Casey.

On Big Cranes continuation page 1:
  NYC X45 Tunnel Crane (double-ended) (moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005).
  PRR Tunnel Cranes (double-ended) (moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005).
  Ibertren Spanish Heavy RR Crane in N Scale (moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005).

I know that these pages are about BIG cranes and such but "big" is relative, it's nice to have a frontispiece, and the following makes such a perfect frontispiece for this page:

RSCC - Wayner 12
(from Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, NY, ca. 1989)
[Thumbnail image - click on picture for larger image.]

That's Ralston Steel Car Co.'s crane lifting a tiny 4-2-0.  Note rail clamps in use for stability.  [Just look at all those truck springs piled up; try THAT with model truck or coupler springs!  Also note the clowns in the loco cab and on the hoist and boom - no OSHA then!]

However, if you want BIG, try The Ovus, Gladsky Marine's huge A-frame on a barge, that yanks 600 tons at 100'!  Here she is in Mar 2005 making child's play of lifting one of two collapsed gantry cranes from a welter of sunken dry docks and piers in the former Todd Shipyard in New York's Erie Basin:

Ovus lift at Erie Basin
[cropped (lower right corner only); info. & original photo
courtesy of Gladsky Marine - all rights reserved]

Big?  I TOLD you she's HUGE!

This page is intended to coordinate my previously-scattered coverage of heavy lift equipment, both roadable and railroad, plus any related material that turns up, and to provide links to major sites on the same subject.

Cranes are variously known as heavy-lift equipment", "derricks", "big hooks", "wrecking cranes" or "wreckers", "breakdown cranes", "hoists", etc.

In railroad service, they are known generically as "railroad (or railway) cranes".

Quoting directly (almost verbatim) from Clint Chamberlin:

"Virtually all railroad wreckers were assigned an idler car (called a 'jib car' on the Soo) to accommodate the boom overhang.  {This} one has a wheeled support for the wrecker boom to enable faster transit to a wreck site.  A wrecker's boom was heavy and dangerously unstable, and there were numerous examples of wreckers ending up on their sides after the boom began to oscillate while the crane was being moved too fast over rough track.  The large bin at the {near} end of the car holds oak blocks to support the crane outriggers when the wrecker is making a heavy or angled lift." {in turn quoted from J. C. La Rue, Jr.}

The Big Hooker

(Moved from Berlinerwerke Apocrypha page 2 on 02 Jan 03)
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, though I can't remember exactly when (ca. 1970?), a flyer for a book on the New York Central came in from Wayner Publications and caught my eye; it had a weird NYC crane pictured on it, with two booms!  They stuck out on each end of a fixed cab (no rotation).  Incredibly, I was able to go right to my storage dresser at the layout on 16 Nov 99 and find not only the Athearn box with all my crane scrap and such but even the original (undated) Wayner flyer!  The book was "The Great Steel Fleet", by Robert J. Wayner, himself, and a magnifying glass shows the crane is almost certainly #X45.

NYC X45 2x250ton Tunnel Crane
(Photo by S. Berliner, III, of detail from ca. 1970 Wayner flyer - 16 Jan 99)

The picture of the crane was only a small part of a small photo of the book cover, only 3-3/8;" long, but it really caught my fancy.  Without researching the prototype at all, but after carefully disassembling my ancient, metal Athearn 200-ton big hook* for detailed analysis (I DID reassemble it), I immediately bought two plastic Athearn 200-ton big hooks, a pair of brass 8-wheel Buckeye trucks, etc., with this result:

Big Hooker 74-5
(cropped from 1974 photo by © 1974, 2005 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

The X45 survives up in Danbury, Connecticut:

MN W001 (ex-NYC X45) 2x120t Tunnel Crane
(J. Lubchansky photo 21 Aug 98, by specific written permision - © Jeff Lubchansky 1998; all rights reserved)
[image heavily cropped by S. Berliner, III - 01 Jan 03]

Balance of material on the model and the X45 moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005.

The PRR Hookers - coverage of a much smaller and somewhat older (evidently ca. 1923) double ender for Pennsy tunnel service and another big one moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005.

Ibertren Spanish Heavy RR Crane in N Scale (on which everything works at 1:160) - coverage moved to Big Cranes continuation page 1 on 06 Mar 2005.

Two major crane reference sites are:

  Clint Chamberlin's "Northeast Rails - Heavy Diesel Cranes - Maintenance of Way Equipment - Heavy Duty Cranes" and
    his "Northeast Rails - Steam Cranes and Pile Drivers - Maintenance of Way Equipment".

  Tobi Allstadt's "Kranwagen - Cranes - Grues de Relevage" page

(click on the British or American flags for English-language pages).

[WARNING! - Tobi "captures" Web pages in their entirety; you may not be on the site you think you are!]

For very-heavy marine lift capability see Gladsky.

You might also be interested in my railroad and highway heavy loads pages (heavy cranes have to have SOMETHING to lift besides wrecks), Railroad Schnable and other Giant Freight Cars, et seq., and Road Loads (highway equivalents), et seq. (gigantic highway and off-road trucks and trailers), such as these McHugh monsters:   rev.gif (01 Sep 08)

(Image © McHugh - all rights reserved)
{click on thumbnailed image for larger, sharper picture.}

Heavy haulage, indeed!

Anent heavy haulage AND big cranes, especially early truck-mounted big cranes, such as these babies:

McHugh10 McHugh243-2
(Images © McHugh - all rights reserved)
{click on thumbnailed images for larger, sharper pictures.}

see the McHugh Road Loads page:

Dalien LK3 Big Hook #516

A Londoner sent me these photos of a Dalien LK3 big hook, #516, taken in 2002 at the Hegang Mining Railway locomotive depot last year by Nicholas Pertwee.  He says "it is obviously to an American prototype" and, further, that it "sure is a Brownhoist diesel design (at least above the race)", and asks "is it American built and supplied, or a Dalien built copy, licensed or otherwise?"  "It bears a Dalien Locomotive Factory plate (10) which suggests a date of 1935 or so".  "Can you say which American manufacturers practise does it appear to follow?  "Did that manufacturer supply any cranes directly to China in the 1900-1930 period?"

Dalien LK3 #516 1 Dalien LK3 #516 2
(Photos by N. Pertwee - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnail images - click on pictures for larger images]

The correspondent further argues that "the clincher is the jib top cable anti-backlash cage - plus the big curved trunnion on superstructure front for the jib base pivot; as distinctive a Brownhoist feature as the big Craven herringbone bull gear - it goes way back to Brownhoist steam in 1906".  "It's highly unlikely the {Chinese} would copy these two essentially idiosyncratic Brownhoist features EXACTLY - unless they built to makers drawings - why would they?"  "Its doubtful {the Chinese} would copy such a complex one-off item as a large crane.  They could have been licensed.  The {Americans} were supportive of {the Chinese} while the {Japanese} occupied the Chinese coast - from the Boxer rebellion on, there was a sharing of stuff.  BUT - and this is a BIG BUT - that's not a normal Brownhoist carriage - - - the front end - - - seems to be longer overhangwise than the regular jobs".  "Yet It does have Yank Plank {emphases mine - ya gotta LOVE that!} Brownhoist bogies!"  "EXCEPT its got brake wheels on the bogies - very strange - but more - they have CURVED SPOKES!!"  " - - - (as I understand it curved spokes were only ever used as a measure against centrifugal force bursting flywheels."  "There is an old story that they were there to allow foundry cooling to take place without cracking - but {he doubts it})."  "Anyway - its a Brownhoist - maybe with a {Chinese} skin (the doors and housing aren't standard) - and a strange carriage."  Of course - (apart from the curved-spoke handwheels) it could have been a special order placed on Bay City by the {Chinese} having a non-standard carriage with - - - an extended front end for a mine crane with double handwheel brakes which got broken and replaced locally?"

[Note - the curved spoke bit is 'way off - it is (or was)
standard American brakewheel practice - SB,III]

Some of the deleted {" - - - "} material above has to do with a question about symmetry, that there is no forward outrigger - that's not so; the shadowed area obliterates it.  By lightening the picture drastically (thus wiping out all body and deck detail), one can readily see the forward outrigger (and the "Yank Plank"* sideframe and that handwheel) :

Dalien LK3 #516 3
(Enhanced detail from photo by N. Pertwee - all rights reserved)

Or can one?  Now (16 Nov 03), I'm not so sure!

Said Londoner also asks about U. S. Military Railway Service Cranes; he is "keen to know more about USArmy MRS cranes which went overseas during WW2.....

  - firstly to Italy (for pic. see Gray) - how many in theatre?, how many, if any, left in Europe post 1945, in which countries?

  - secondly to Australia ( two remained in Australia, one is preserved at Junee ) - one or more of which reportedly lost at sea, which ship?, what date? any other railway material on the manifest?"

Because of its size, I wonder if this crane wasn't built for mainline service on the old South Manchuria Railway Company.  Knowledgeable comments are solicited on both the Dalien and MRS crane questions.

Major General Carl R. Gray, U. S. Army, was Commanding Officer of the Military Railroad Service for much of WWII.  He wrote a history of the service (see below), "worth the read"; the British Army Railway Operators at Longmoor named a loco after him.

* - I've been looking at all the photos I can finds of American big hooks and I can not find any with non-standard trucks such as that allegèd "Yank Plank"; they all have Commonwealth or equivalent sideframes.


Robert J. Wayner, author/publisher of Giants of the Rails - An Articulated Steam Pictiorial, also put out Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, which slim volume is just chock-a-bloc full of oddball cars for the jaded modeler and includes the wonderful picture I use as a frobntispiece above and these:

Wayner 14a
(from Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, NY, ca. 1989)
[Thumbnail images - click on pictures for larger images.]

1926 Central of Ga. #30208 150-ton crane (Macon).

Wayner 14b
(from Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, NY, ca. 1989)
Reader RR (ex-RI) crane with cupola (ventilation? visibility?).

Wayner 15a
(from Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, NY, ca. 1989)
PC (ex-NYC) Detroit Tunnel crane #50046.

Wayner 15b
(from Railroad Work Equipment and Special Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, NY, ca. 1989)
[Thumbnail images - click on pictures for larger images.]

Monongahela RR crane No. 1 {?} (note travel stays).

Big Crane Bibliography

My London correspondent advises that the "bible" of big hooks (at least as far as steam cranes go - is there any other kind?) is:

Railway Steam Cranes; a survey of progress since 1875, with notes on geographical spread of the British crane trade and biography of leading member firms, John Stewart Brownlie, privately published [distributed by Holmes McDougall Ltd.], 1975, ASIN: 0950296503.

Railroading in Eighteen Countries. MRS 1862-1953, Maj. Gen. Carl R. Gray, USA (CO, MRS, WWII), Charles Scribner, NY, 1955.

Railroad Work Equipment and Special-Service Cars, Robert J. Wayner, Wayner Pub., NY, undated but ca. 1989 (has several pages of cranes of all sizes).

Train Wrecks - A Pictorial History of Accidents on The Main Line, Robert Reed, Bonanza Books, NY, 1968, LoC 68-13249 (primarily focussed on wrecks, but where there's a RR wreck, there's a wrecker - lots of 'em).

Bay Crane

Now, this page is not only about RR cranes; we have a major heavy hauler and rigger right here on Long island, Bay Crane, with an office in Nassau County at 389 New South Road, Hicksville, New York  11801, 516-937-1523 (and one in New York City:  11-02 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101, 718-392-0800).

They have done some really neat work locally, including hoisting our own ex-Long Island Rail Road steam locomotive #35 and have some rather neat road cranes, such as this trio working in concord:

Bay Crane Concorde
(photo courtesy Bay Crane - all rights reserved)

Of course, that's a rather lightweight load (sort of flighty); they had to wing it.

Once upon a time, though I won't say exactly when, M. J. Spott had a brand-new truck crane and a (relatively-)brand-new operator at an unspecified (by me) location when this unfortunate, and VERY embarrassing, occurrence occurred (shall we say they were in a Spott of trouble?):

(images heavily cropped by, and from the collection of, S. Berliner, III - Jan 2005; all rights reserved)

This is what officials saw when they hurried to the site:

(image heavily cropped by, and from the collection of, S. Berliner, III - Jan 2005; all rights reserved)

Horrible view of a road crane:

(image heavily cropped by, and from the collection of, S. Berliner, III - Jan 2005; all rights reserved)

Here are two views of the cab from the right side:

spott051s spott058s
(images heavily cropped by, and from the collection of, S. Berliner, III - Jan 2005; all rights reserved)

This occurred after the load was yanked and the operator was removing the counterweights and reacted too slowly when he started to overbalance.

The worst possible advertising; one can not but feel sorry both for the company and for the hapless operator, but I can't really be blamed for this further Spott of fun at their expense, now, can I?

spott017f spottsplat
(images heavily cropped by, and right image altered by, S. Berliner, III - 09 Jan 2005; all rights reserved)

[faces blanked out to protect the innocent (or guilty)]

Another heavy haul and lift operator in the NY Metro area is W. J. Casey Trucking & Rigging Co. Inc.; two of their heavy mobile cranes are shown on my Road Loads page 3 and here, a 500-ton Liebherr LTM 1400.7 and a 186-ton Liebherr LTM 1150/1:

(both photos courtesy W. J. Casey, by permission - all rights reserved)
[click on thumbnailed photos for larger pictures]

All right; here's a puzzler for you.  I'm told there was a photo in a newspaper about a large railroad wreck crane, perhaps somewhere in Tennessee, that had been radically modified with a 100' boom.  The crane was employed lifting loaded 100-ton hoppers from an overpass.  The very tired track the hoppers were on had to be abandoned because of some kind of landslide or washout.  Does this ring a bell with any reader?  URL or pix, please.


{More to follow.}


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


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