Railroad cranes run on train tracks. They move loads in and out of train cars. They can lift very heavy loads. Railroad cranes can even lift train cars.Train cars are heavy. In an accident, they may leave the tracks. The cranes can pick them up and put them back on the tracks. Railroad cranes can only lift things near the tracks.
A railroad crane, (crane car or wrecker (US) or breakdown crane (UK)) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK) (boom (US)) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.
A railroad crane generally resembles a conventional fixed-location crane except that the platform the crane sits on is a heavy-duty reinforced flat car. Directly underneath the center of gravity for the crane is a pivot point that allows the crane to swivel around 360; in this way the crane can locate its boom over the worksite no matter what its location is along the track. The trucks on the car under the crane will often include traction motors so that the crane is able to move itself along the track, and possibly tow additional cars.
Larger cranes may be provided with outriggers to provide additional stability when lifting. Sleepers are often carried on the match car to put under the outriggers to spread the weight applied to the trackbed.
Breakdown cranes (sometimes called wrecking cranes or ‘big hooks’) were necessary to every railroad to recover derailed rolling stock and engines; while also assisting with bridge building and yard construction.
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