The strange beast seen here, basking in the sun on the first day of 2015, is called a locomotive crane and is used in railway maintenance of way service. They are used lift or place what ever needs to be..well…lifted or placed. Self propelled it can travel from work site to work site on its own and can even pull a few cars, used to hold materials, tools and other equipment needed.
This particular machine, CPR #414218, comes from a firm called Ohio Locomotive Crane (now American & Ohio Locomotive Crane) and was built for the railway in the late 1970s. It’s one of many locomotive cranes, most of them coming from the Ohio firm (built 1970s-1990), some from other makers too, that are on the railway’s roster.
This crane is based out of Golden BC, at least it was given the last reports we could find, but as you can see here, since we found it in Aldersyde Alberta (just south of Calgary), it gets around. Looking online, we can find records of it in service all over western Alberta and eastern BC.
In addition to being a crane, used to pickup or drop off track materials, bridge, signal or crossing components, lineside sheds, or what ever, it also doubles as a pile driver using a special attachment. It’s a very versatile piece of machinery.
The lifting capacity is listed as a maximum 40 or 50 tones depending if the outriggers (stabilizing arms) are used. The amount then drops based on the angle of the boom – the more horizontal it is, the less can be lifted. There is a load chart on the side of the machine. Power for everything comes from a diesel engine driving a generator. Old examples were steam powered.
Keeping the crane company is an old flat, #60071, used to carry all manner of stuff needed by the crews: wood blocking, cables, chains, extra hooks and so on. This car came from the Milwaukee Road Railway (MILW, officially the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad), which has not existed as an entity since the 1980s. The CPR inherited that line and its equipment via a transaction involving its US subsidiary, the Soo Line Railroad.
We couldn’t find a visible date mark on the car. The badly paint is faded or is covered over (note the hand scrawled number) or the car so rusty that nothing was really legible. However it’d be safe to bet, give it’s style of construction, it’s from the 1970s or earlier. It’s an oldie for sure.
Interestingly, we’ve seen other MILW 60000-60099 series cars in CPR company service over the years.
These cranes are seldom seen by the general public even though most major railways operate them. They’re very essential but the nature of what they do means they’re not heavily used and often sit for extended periods awaiting the call to service. As such, the chance of coming across one out in the wild is fairly slim.
Besides locomotive cranes, the CPR rosters some big “wrecking” cranes (not self propelled), used for heavy, heavy lifting. These come in handy, for example, when a train or locomotive derails. Also used are lighter rubber wheel mounted cranes, some of which can travel on both the road and by rail.
The Ohio Locomotive Crane Company, of Bucyrus Ohio, has been making self propelled railway cranes for over a hundred years and is still in business today. Today they also make American Locomotive Cranes, which was at one time a former competitor.
The track here is along the CPR’s secondary line that travels between Calgary and Lethbridge and sees somewhere around four or so trains a day (variable). Some parts of the line date back to the 1890s. The crane sites roughly where Aldersyde’s grain elevators once stood. Those “prairie sentinels” are looooong gone.
To see other railway equipment we’ve documented, go here…
Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions #41. A fine old steam locomotive.
Champion Park. Our visit to a private RR park.
Jet Powered snow removal. It blows!
Pyle Railway Crane. Another RR crane manufacturer.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: January, 2015.
Location: Aldersyde, AB.