Eckington Yards, 6/4/23. United States Washington D.C. Photograph.

I’ve been noticing various types of cranes in prototype photos of team yards and tracks. They do not show up everywhere, but cranes are a detail to consider when modeling a scene in the 1900-1940 years. The 1923 image above documents passenger cars parked at a team yard in Washington DC for a Shriner’s convention. They aren’t easy to spot. but there are several cranes in the background.

Here’s a cropped and tweaked edit of the lead image. The cranes are easier to spot.

There are a few derrick type cranes here and an overhead crane. The derricks might be part of an adjacent pole yard or lumber dealer. Until making this edit, I didn’t realize there were four cranes in the image. I had missed the one on the far left, which seems slightly different from the other derricks.

I came across this crane in the Hagley Museum grounds. It’s one of several preserved 19th Century industrial structures related to early DuPont operations. There’s an amazing machine shop and preserved gunpowder mills along Brandywine Creek. The homestead, farm, and research library will fill your day.

This type of crane is often seen in stone quarry operations. The center pole is anchored by several guy wires.

A jib crane is another type that may be located along a team track or at a freight house. I stumbled upon the crane in the above photo while driving through Norristown, PA.

It’s located along a rail trail and I think it was part of a Pennsylvania Railroad yard.

A marker is attached to the base. The crane builder location isn’t far from Norristown. I had seen models of these over the years, but never a prototype. Alexander Scale Models produces a similar HO scale crane, the Brownhoist Little Hook. It’s not quite the same as the Phoenix Iron Works crane.

Wall Forms, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, University of Pittsburgh

I’ve noticed overhead cranes as a part of team tracks and yards. In the 1912 photo above, a crane is positioned over a single spur on the B&O Allegheny Yard branch in Pittsburgh, PA. The hoist mechanism on this crane seems to be a manual operation.

Try Street Terminal, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, University of Pittsburgh

Across town, another crane serves the Try Street team yard off of the PRR Panhandle line. This August 1935 photo captures a busy yard with many cool freight cars.

Looking closer, the crane crosses two tracks and part of the driveway. It seems to have a motorized hoist. Cranes had different capacities but were often fixed to one location.

Many more overhead cranes were used in steel mills and foundries, but many were inside a building or under a roof. Those are for much heavier capacities and not necessarily owned by the railroad.

While recently unpacking a box, I came across an overhead crane kit I purchased years ago. I bought this from a modeler who didn’t need the crane. It was originally part of a Walthers team track kit, which is now out of production.

The model assembled easily. I spent more time prepping the individual pieces than in assembly. The one change I made was to use 0.008-inch diameter phosphor-bronze wire for the cable. The string with the kit does not pass muster. I probably should have painted the parts before assembling. It’s been awhile since I built a structure.

I hope these prototype observations have inspired your modeling. If you really need that Walthers crane, keep your eyes open at train shows and in hobby shops.

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4 thoughts on “Cranes”

  1. Interesting thoughts on railroad cranes. Timely as I am about to start construction on a freelanced steel manufacturing business and I will be using the Walthers traveling lift crane for unloading steel from open gondolas.

  2. Rowat Cut Stone in Des Moines, had large stiff leg crane, railside. The early crane was wood, later replaced with a large steel crane. When Rowat Stone left downtown Des Moines, the site became home to a group of apartments known as Rowat Lofts. They left the crane in place as a tribute to their history.
    Here is a link to the history of Rowat Cut Stone, with many photos of their various cranes.
    And here is a link to a photo of the lofts with crane still in place.

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