The Crane Train

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I've always been interested by really big vehicles and cranes. So I had to get one of these giand cranes made by Kibri! When I bought it, I first built it to its full extent, about three feet tall (that's 261 scale feet!). I have to say that this model is very robust: I was able to carry it around, and I even brought it to the Depot by having it stand up in front of the passenger seat of my car! The crane stayed on display at the club for a few months. Then the area where it was (which was the lowest point of the layout at the time, the only place it could stand without touching the ceiling...) displayed needed to be worked on, so I collapsed the crane (The various elements of the lattice part snap together and the solid part is telescopic) and brought it back home.

At about the same time, I bought a heavy duty, center depressed, flat car from Walthers. It was labeled for the Chicago North Western RR (CNW), so I removed the "C" from the reporting marks and turned it into a Niles Western (NW) car... This car needed a heavy and big load. All the comercially available loads were transfomers. Although these are heavy enough to justify a heavy-duty flat car, none of them was tall enough to justify a center depressed car... I toyed with the idea of somehow loading the crane on it but the deck was not long enough... Instead I built the "thing" that you can see on the pictures below: it is probably a piece of a big bridge or some kind of support for a big industrial machine of some kind...

At that point I decided to build a "crane train": a special train that will carry an equaly special load along with the giant crane needed to install this load at its final destination. I quickly found ways to carry the crane's parts: the small ones went on a flat and two gondolas, the long boom went into a drop end 62' gondola. For the heavy counter wheight, I figured that a heavy duty flat car was inorder. I settled for the four truck model made by Athearn. While I was in the store to buy this car, I was still looking for a car long enough to fit under the crane and strong enough to carry it. I knew that Santa Fe RR had a few 75' four truck flat cars which would be perfect for the job, unfortunately I could not find a model of these.

In a desperate move, I bought an extra heavy duty flat from Athearn, because I knew that the crane could barely fit on it. At first, I though of adding "extentions" to the car, along with to iddler flats (which I still have to this date, still in the box, unbuilt). While browsing at the shop, I saw a 75' trailer train flat car. This car was definitely light duty, but it was the proper length. that's when it hit me: I could kit bash the long heavy duty flat by combining a short heavy duty with a long light duty car!

So, that how this train came together... Enjoy the pictures!

The last two pictures are not really part of the "crane train". These two engines are the usual power for this train, but GP9s and even steam engines have been seen pulling it. The CNW engine is a stock Proto 2000 SW1500 (in need of weathering), the Niles Western one is a proto 2000 chassis and ends with a cast metal shell from Varney. This engine weights 12 ounces (compared to 8 for a regular SW1500). The short flat car with the Caterpillar tractor is totally anachronical with the rest of the train (when was the last time you saw a 28' long flat car with arch bar trucks pulled by diesel engines?), but I like it anyway... This car is 40' flat from Walthers that has been shorten after its center part was needed for another kitbashing project (pictures and story coming soon!). Once the two ends were glued together, the point of contact was visible from a mile away! I decided that this could be fixed by redoing the deck, so I sand it smooth and glued some real wood, board by board to rebuild a better looking car. I then replaced the original trucks by a pair of Kadee's arch bars (which cost me more than the car!): I had the perfect car for carrying this great Evergreen Hill Design tractor. Since the tractor is made of cast metal, it provides just the right weight for this short and otherwise very light car.

Copyright 2000 David Wegmuller