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Steam powered "big hooks"

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Steam powered "big hooks"
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 17, 2003 1:27 PM
I haven't done a GREAT deal of research, but what I have read is confusing.

Were the steam wrecking cranes self-propelled? Did they travel with a tender to supply fuel and water?

Some sources seem to suggest they did, but others show the hook clearly as a part of a wreck train with a proper loco heading up the consist.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 17, 2003 2:21 PM
I don't know about self propelled, but work trains with steam powered equipment would have:
a) brought along "tenders" for the equipment, or
b) ran a steam line from the locomotive to the equipment. The train may have had an auxillary water tender for the engine.

I have seen pictures of a "fill" train that had a steam powered winch to empty fill from drop end gondolas. The ends would be opened, and a winch behind the engine pulled a scraper through all cars to dump fill over the sides of a trestle. The trestle then became buried in the fill. Apparently this was an easier, and faster way of creating fills. But I digress...

Andrew
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  • From: Omaha, NE
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Posted by dehusman on Friday, October 17, 2003 4:48 PM
Technically, some were "self propelled", but it was used only to move/position the crane at the work site and only at about 3-5 mph. A locomotive hauled them to and from the the wreck.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Monday, October 20, 2003 8:12 AM
Steam big hooks were often connected to constant sources of steam, such as is available at a roundhouse (so many roundhouses had an outdoor track next to them for the big hook) so there was no long waiting to get steam up -- you'd just need to build a fire to keep the steam going. The wreck train, which was generally kept ready to go, would have a tender for water and coat (or oil) as well as various flat cars with rail, ties, spikes, etc, perhaps spare trucks, places for the crew to eat or even sleep for major wrecks. There was a car for the boom of the crane, sometimes a passenger car cut down to a flat car.
The big hook could not be moved at extremely high speeds of course as they were top heavy -- when in use they had side braces to keep from tipping. Nonetheless sometimes the power was passenger train power - I have seen photos of C&NW wreck trains pulled by 4-6-2 Pacifics, and I remember reading a story about a wreck train pulled by a 4-4-2 which had been demoted from passenger service -- on the way back home from the wreck the engineer decided to see what the engine could do and they got it up fast enough that the wreck train crew complained about it as I recall.
Be aware that you will often see photos of big hooks with no tender. Many of them were converted from steam to diesel. Many were diesel right from the start.
Dave Nelson
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, October 20, 2003 10:40 AM
I'm not sure if this happened in the US, but in Britain some smaller industries bought self-propelled cranes to use as both cranes and switchers
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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, October 21, 2003 8:22 AM
Well of course the little four wheel Burro cranes were/are self propelled (Lionel had a pretty accurate model) and Walthers makes or made a self propelled locomotive crane. The local scrap metal place has self propelled cranes that can pull several loaded cars. But the real big hooks, the 250 and 200 ton cranes, were to my knowledge not self propelled and used all their power for lifting.
Dave Nelson
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 24, 2003 12:06 PM
A friend of mine works on the Wisconsin & Great Northern up in Spooner, WI. They recently acquired a former DM&IR "big hook", and it is self propelled. He reports they have a lot of fun up there moving things around.

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