(This page printed from UtahRails.net, Copyright 2000-2018 Don Strack)

Cranes and Derricks

Index For This Page

This file was last updated on December 27, 2015.

(Return to UP Derricks and Cranes Page)

(This is a work in progress; research continues.)

Crane or Derrick?

Union Pacific records indicate that they used the term "Derrick" to describe wrecking cranes, and "Locomotive Crane" or simply "Crane" when describing all other types.

As a general statement, it appears that a wrecking crane, or derrick, has a lifting boom that is solid metal to provide support for heavy lifts, and a locomotive crane has a lifting boom with a lattice structure.

The following comes from the 1946 Car Builder's Cyclopedia, page 512:

Wrecking Cranes

Wrecking cranes are a form of locomotive crane, similar in design but, being intended for very heavy severe service, usually are more strongly built than the general service machines. They are designed chiefly for wrecking service but also are used in bridge construction and other heavy service on railroad lines.

The booms--seldom more than 35 to 40 ft. in length--generally are curved near the top, but sometimes are made straight and provided with an extension so that, for special work, they may range in length upward to 90 ft. or more. The shorter booms are generally used in railroad wrecking service; for a vertical lift they have an effective radius ranging from about 15 ft. to 40 ft.; the hoist line may, however, be payed out beyond the end of the boom and used to drag an object within lifting range.

Wrecking cranes generally are steam operated but in some cases are equipped for electric or Diesel operation.

Locomotive Cranes

Locomotive cranes are extensively used in railroad operations. They may be equipped with a plain fall-block provided with a hook, slings, or tongs; with buckets for handling loose materials; or with electric magnets for handling metals. Many are so designed that power-shovel or pile-driver attachments may be installed. Steam power cranes are most common but electric power and also internal combustion-Diesel- engines are used to some extent. Usually locomotive cranes not only are self propelled but also have sufficient tractive effort to permit their use for hauling work trains and also for switching purposes in small yards. The booms are made in lengths ranging upward to 70 or 80 ft. for general service.

Although some of the earliest railroad derricks were built in the 1899 to 1905 time period, with just 40 tons as their lifting capacity, by the 1905 to 1910 period, derricks were generally in the 60-100 tons capacity and were used at railroad wreck sites as part of the overall cleanup effort.

After about 1905, it is this 100 ton capacity that seems to be the dividing point between derricks (solid booms) and cranes (lattice booms). A derrick is a piece of lifting equipment that although it travels on railroad wheels, it is meant to be made stationary and stabilized by the use of outriggers prior to making a lift. Derricks were designed to lift their heavy loads with the use of outriggers, which are supports, usually in the center and at each corner that were extended and stabilized, providing a solid platform for the derrick's heavy lifting task.

A locomotive crane is a crane that is self-propelled either by steam power, or after the mid 1950s, by diesel-mechanical or diesel-electric power. A locomotive crane is designed to be mobile while performing its lifting task. The newer machines are equipped with outriggers for heavy lifts.

Some railroad wrecking cranes, or derricks, were equipped with small spotting engines that could make small movements while being spotted before making their heavy lifts, and prior to extending their outriggers. A locomotive crane was fully self-propelled and could move itself and several empty or loaded cars of material from one job site to another. This feature makes locomotive cranes very useful for their usual role in railroad track maintenance work.

Although the early examples of railroad wrecking cranes were in the range of 40, 50 or 60 tons, after about 1905 railroad wrecking cranes varied from 100 to 250 tons capacity.

Locomotive cranes vary in their capacity from as little as 10 tons to as high as 50 tons. Larger versions have been manufactured but are found at industrial sites where lifting capacities between 50 and 115 tons are needed, along with a self-propelled capability.

Locomotive Cranes

A locomotive crane is unique among other cranes and derricks in its ability to perform lifting operations while serving as a locomotive for one or more attached rail cars. This unique feature allows a locomotive crane to quickly travel both short and long distances to remote job sites under their own power, if required.

Larry Wobith's research as of mid 2005 found that Union Pacific had 52 Ohio locomotive cranes, including those cranes received as part of UP's mergers in 1983-1996. The earliest UP crane appears to have been purchased in 1963 , and the earliest on the roster is an ex-Missouri Pacific model built in 1960. The last UP crane purchased was in 1992, and the last acquired from a merger partner was from C&NW, built in 1994. Union Pacific also has 14 American Locomotive Cranes in various models and capacities.

Features common to all locomotive cranes include a lattice boom extending from a rotating machine house, a welded, heavy steel frame, and two sets of trucks designed to run on railroad tracks. Major locomotive crane components include a diesel engine, a generator, traction motors, axles, and other mechanical and hydraulic systems and controls as required. The cab design of a locomotive crane is usually positioned on the forward part of the machinery house to provide a full range of vision for the crane operator. In later years, many locomotive cranes also have manually extended outriggers.

One model locomotive crane differs from another model by its weight and capacity, its counter weight size, the boom length, Westinghouse or General Electric traction equipment and either a standard height cab or an elevated cab.

Locomotive cranes are generally assigned a boom idler car, which usually has a support for the boom to rest on. These idler cars also carry various chains, timber beams and other equipment that is needed for the crane to perform its function. The idler cars are usually flat cars retired from revenue service. Other types of cars that are associated with, and are generally part of a crane train can include a pile driver car, a supply car, side dump cars for ballast and fill material, as well as additional flat cars used to carry material for railroad maintenance and repair work.

Company Histories

American Hoist & Derrick Co.

American Manufacturing Company (1883-1892)
American Hoist & Derrick Company (1892-1987)

St. Paul, Minnesota (1882-1962)
Bay City, Michigan (1962-1983)
St. Paul, Minnesota (1983-1987)

On September 4, 1882 the Franklin Manufacturing Company opened in St. Paul, Minnesota. The following June the name was changed to The American Manufacturing Co. In 1889 American turned out their first steam hoist. The company name was changed once again in 1892, this time to American Hoist & Derrick Co. Their first locomotive crane was introduced in 1895. In 1960 AH&D purchased the Industrial Brownhoist Corp. of Bay City, Michigan. Locomotive crane production was moved there in 1962-1963. The Bay City plant was closed in 1983 and production moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, then to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1985. American sold its locomotive crane division to the Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. in 1987 to form American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. located at Bucyrus, Ohio. (John Taubeneck via email dated August 19, 2014)

American Hoist & Derrick held a U. S. Patent (2,142,360; dated January 3, 1939) for a Locomotive Crane that was self propelled using an internal combustion engine, and mechanical drive mechanism.

(Read more about U. S. Patent 2,142,360, dated January 3, 1939)

American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Company

(Company Web Site)

ERS Industries, Inc. (Parent company)

Eastern Railway Supplies, Inc. was founded in 1936, supplying railroad track equipment and locomotive cranes to the railroads, steel mills, and the scrap recycling industries. Its Canadian branch was established in November 1964, and in 1999 was renamed North American Equipment Sales (Canada) Ltd. NAES (Canada) Ltd. continues to serve the Canadian marketplace with offices in Binbrook and Mississauga, Ontario.

American & Ohio Locomotive Crane History

1882 -- Initially in September of 1882, Frank J. Johnson and Oliver T. Crosby formed The Franklin Manufacturing Company. In June 1883 the company's name changed to The American Manufacturing Company.

1892 -- The American Manufacturing Company changed its name to American Hoist & Derrick Company.

1897 -- American Hoist & Derrick started building cranes.

1909 -- Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. was founded in 1909 by Charles F. Michael. Located on North Sandusky Avenue in Bucyrus, Ohio, the first crane that was built only had four wheels, a framed cab with a coal burning boiler and a stubby boom made mostly of channel. In 1915 the plant was relocated to Southern Avenue where is it still located today.

1928 -- American Hoist & Derrick built the first locomotive crane that used an internal combustion engine.

1941 -- American Hoist & Derrick developed the first "Diesel Electric" powered locomotive crane. The Diesel engine powered the upper machine works and electric power for travel.

1960 -- American Hoist & Derrick purchased the Industrial Brownhoist Co., originally named Industrial Works of Bay City, Michigan.

June 1960 -- Ohio Locomotive Crane purchased the locomotive crane division of Wellman Engineering Company and started building diesel electric locomotive cranes.

1987 -- American Hoist & Derrick Co. (Locomotive Crane Division) in St. Paul, Minnesota and the Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. in Bucyrus, Ohio merged in 1987 to form American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co.

2001 -- ERS Industries, Inc. (Eastern Railway Supply) purchased the American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co., including all of the property, original engineering files, drawings & inventory.

The company names and owners have changed over time and now is called American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co., which is still located in Bucyrus, Ohio.

Brown Hoisting Machinery Co.

Brown Hoisting & Conveying Machinery Company (1880-1900)
Brown Hoisting Machinery Company (1900-1927)

Cleveland, Ohio

The Brown Hoisting & Conveying Machinery Co. was founded by Alexander E. Brown and his father Fayette Brown at Cleveland, Ohio in 1880 and incorporated in 1893. On August 16, 1900 the company name was changed to the Brown Hoisting Machinery Co. Brownhoist merged with Industrial Works on September 26, 1927 to become Industrial Brownhoist Corp. with headquarters at Cleveland, Ohio. The formal transfer of assets to the new corporation took place on October 26, 1927. The Cleveland plant was closed in 1931 and all manufacturing was moved to the Industrial Works plant at Bay City, Michigan. (John Taubeneck via email dated August 19, 2014)

Browning Crane & Shovel Co.

Browning Engineering Company (1900-1914)
The Browning Company (1914-1925)
The Browning Crane Company (1925-1931)
Browning Crane & Shovel Company (1931-1954)

Cleveland, Ohio

(Note: Browning is often confused with the Brown Hoisting Machinery Co. [Brownhoist] also of Cleveland. Brown Hoisting merged with Industrial Works in 1927 to form Industrial Brownhoist.)

The Browning Engineering Company was organized and incorporated in 1900 to build ore and coal handling machinery. After several name changes Browning's locomotive crane division and plant were sold in May 1954 to the Wellman Engineering Co. In June 1960 Wellman-Browning sold out to the Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. of Bucyrus, OH. The Cleveland plant was not included in the sale but it looks like production was not moved to Bucyrus until 1962. Ohio produced Browning & Wellman design cranes as late as 1974 and the Wellman name was still used to that date. Victor R. Browning left the office of vice-president of Browning Engineering about 1910 and formed the Victor R. Browning Co. of Cleveland to take over the bridge crane line. This firm built ditchers, draglines, bridge cranes and a few locomotive cranes. They were still in business as late as 1994. (John Taubeneck, via email dated August 23, 2014)

Browning Crane & Shovel filed for bankruptcy in December 1953. In early 1954 the company was sold to Sidney L. Albert of Akron, Ohio. Later that year the locomotive crane line was sold to Wellman. (John Taubeneck, via email dated September 3, 2014)

May 1954
Wellman Engineering Co. purchased the locomotive crane division and plant of Browning Crane & Shovel Company in late May 1954. Wellman was to take possession in about 90 days. Browning had been in the locomotive crane business since 1899. (New York Times, May 31, 1954, "over the weekend")

Union Pacific records indicate that UP and its subsidiaries owned 14 cranes built by Browning from 1909 through 1953.

Bucyrus Co.

Bucyrus Company (1880-1927)
Bucyrus-Erie Company (1927-1996)

(Read more about Bucyrus Company, including its much larger business of building mining shovels)

Union Pacific and its subsidiary companies purchased six Bucyrus railroad wrecking cranes (derricks), as shown below:

The Bucyrus Foundry and Manufacturing Company was established in 1880, and the present-day Bucyrus International Inc. can boast a rich heritage of specialization in the crane and excavator industry. From the smallest yard crane to some of the largest machines ever to roam the earth, no other company has built such a wide variety of types and sizes of excavating machines. From its floating dredges, tractor equipment, hydraulic excavators, drills, cranes, walking draglines, wheel excavators, and other special equipment, the name Bucyrus has been synonymous with moving the earth. Several famous names in excavator manufacturing have been acquired by Bucyrus over the years. Bucyrus-Erie Company was formed in 1927 when the Bucyrus Company took over the Erie Steam Shovel Company. Other excavator acquisitions include the Vulcan Steam Shovel Company (1910), Atlantic Equipment Company (1912), Monighan Machine Company (1932), Milwaukee Hydraulics Corporation (1948), Ransomes & Rapier Ltd. (1988), and Marion Power Shovel Company (1997). The company changed its name from Bucyrus-Erie Company to Bucyrus International Inc. in 1996. (Keith Haddock, Giant Earthmovers, pages 126-128)

Bucyrus Foundry and Manufacturing Company was founded by Daniel Parmelee Eells, an Ohio industrialist, in 1880 in Bucyrus, Ohio, and became Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge in 1890. Two years later the company moved to Milwaukee, which has been its home ever since. After a financial reorganization in 1896 the name was changed to the Bucyrus Company, and it remained under the control of the Eells family until 1911. That year a merger with a competitor, the Vulcan Steam Shovel Company, resulted in a dilution of the Eells holdings, although family involvement in the company continued until 1952. Already a leader in the shovel industry, Bucyrus further consolidated its position in 1927 by merging with Erie Steam Shovel Company, the leading manufacturer of small shovels, to become Bucyrus-Erie Company. (William Haycraft, Yellow Steel, page 83)

Industrial Brownhoist

Industrial Works (1873-1927)
Industrial Brownhoist Corporation (1927-1960)
American Hoist & Derrick Company (1960-1983)

Bay City, Michigan

Industrial Works was founded in 1873 at Bay City, Michigan. They built their first railroad wrecking crane for the Chicago & Western Illinois Railroad in 1883. From there the company went on to become one of the largest producers of rail cranes in the United States.

Industrial Works merged with the Brown Hoisting Machinery Company (Brownhoist) on September 26, 1927 to become Industrial Brownhoist Corp. with headquarters at Cleveland, Ohio. The formal transfer of assets to the new corporation took place on October 26, 1927. In 1929 the McMyler-Interstate Co. was merged into Industrial Brownhoist.

Two years later in 1931 the Cleveland plant was closed and all crane manufacturing was consolidated at Bay City.

In 1960, American Hoist & Derrick bought out Industrial Brownhoist and continued to build rail cranes at Bay City until 1983. (John Taubeneck via email dated August 19, 2014)

Industrial Works built its first 120-ton capacity crane in 1909. Union Pacific and its subsidiaries owned 10 120-models. In 1910, six were built for Union Pacific and its subsidiary roads. These were UP 02780, 02781, 02787, 02788 in January and February 1910; OR&N 0308 in May 1910, and OSL 768 (later 02004) in June 1910. The remaining four were built in 1911, 1913 and 1916.

Industrial Brownhoist built its first wreck derrick with 250 tons capacity in 1941. (Thornton Waite, "Wrecking Derrick Cranes" in Union Pacific Modeler, Volume 3)

The following is taken from a history of Industrial Works and Industrial Brownhoist by The Bay City Journal newspaper:

On March 4, 1873 a group of local businessmen purchased the MacDowell Foundry Company in Bay City, Michigan and began a new business called the Industrial Works. This small company eventually became a world leader as a manufacturer of large lifting cranes.

Among the original founders of the company were George Kimball, James Clements, Edgar A. Cooley, Ebenezer Wells, Ezra Seaman and Phillip Bach. All were from Ann Arbor except for Kimball who was from Saginaw, where was head of the Pere Marquette Railroad office. Officers of the company were: George Kimball, president; James Clements, vice-president; Ebenezer Wells, treasurer; Charles Wells (son of Ebenezer), secretary.

The company's initial property holding was 100 feet of river frontage that ran to Water Street and included a 50 x 100 plot on the opposite side of Water Street. An old wood building for the foundry sat on this plot. A blacksmith shop and several machine shop buildings were located on the riverside of Water Street. The initial work force consisted of about 25 people. The new company continued in the line of work done by the former MacDowell Foundry, which was primarily doing equipment repair work for the many local sawmills, and supplying galvanized piping used in salt mines. In addition, they added capabilities for supplying manufacturing saws (gang and circular) and building engines and boilers used by local sawmills and shipbuilders.

The company was formed the same year as the financial panic of 1873. Kimball left his position as president and returned to the railroad business, and James Clements took over as president.

In 1880, Kimball returned to the Industrial Works, not as an employee, but as a customer. He needed to have a special steam shovel designed for doing railroad excavating, and he wanted the Industrial Works to build it. The company took on the new project which was completed in 1881. It was the first railroad steam shovel made in the United States.

It wasn't long thereafter that Sam Edgerly of the Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR) contacted the company. MCRR had designed and built a prototype shovel themselves, and they were looking for an outside source to build a second shovel for them. The company got the contract. It was the catalyst that launched the company into a new business direction.

The company was very impressed with Edgerly's well designed shovel, so much so, they approached MCRR to see if they could purchase rights the patented design. MCRR was receptive and an agreement was worked out which launched the Industrial Works into the locomotive crane manufacturing business. By 1896 the company had made the transition from a supplier to local sawmills and shipbuilders, and was now a major supplier of cranes to a nationwide railroad industry.

(Samuel Edgerly held a U. S. Patent, number 282869, dated August 7, 1883, for a stiff-leg, rotating derrick, although it is not mounted to a piece of railroad equipment.)

(A search of the U. S. Patent Office records, both at their web site and through a Google Patent search, does not show a patent for a shovel or crane assigned to Industrial Works, or any other patent assigned to Samuel Edgerly.)

In 1895, James Clements died and shortly thereafter, his son William Clements and Charles Wells acquired most the company's assets.

Up until the entry of the Industrial Works into the crane manufacturing, Appleby Brothers of London, England was the dominate supplier of large cranes around the world, It was an ideal situation for Industrial Works since they were able to capitalize being the only crane manufacturer based in the United States. Sales grew rapidly and by 1923, Industrial Works had produced and sold 3,776 cranes, of which, 3,261 were for U.S. customers. The company had expanded dramatically. Its manufacturing facilities now covered 29 acres, which included 59 buildings that provided 490,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

By 1931 the Industrial Works was facing plenty of competition when the company decided to consolidate its operations with the Brown Hoisting Company of Cleveland which established the Industrial Brownhoist Corporation, and helped keep the company's business strong over the following years.

During the post WWII years, business began to decline. Faced with stiff competition, the Bay City operations were sold to the Penn-Texas Corporation in 1954, and five years later it was sold to a hotel group based in Miami Beach. Each of these acquisitions proved to be less than successful in revitalizing the company's business. By 1960, the Bay City operations employed only a skeleton crew of about 40 workers when the American Hoist Corporation(AHC) of Minneapolis took over ownership, and it became the Industrial Brownhoist Division. This change proved to be a positive move that brought in more work that helped to extend the life the Bay City plant for a few more decades.

In 1983, the plant was shut down, ending a century of crane manufacturing in Bay City.

(Read the original Bay City Journal article)

McMyler-Interstate Co.

McMyler-Interstate Co. (1910-1929)

Bedford, Ohio

The McMyler-Interstate Company was organized in 1910. During the next two decades the company gained national and world-wide recognition, producing 59 different types of cranes, dumpers and other large industrial products.

The Company was the result of a consolidation of four companies:

The McMyler-Interstate Company covered 43 acres of land, including 50 buildings with 400,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space. At it's peak the company had up to 1,000 employees.

For over 30 years the McMyler-Interstate complex was a dominant influence on the life of Bedford. It prospered through World War I and until the late 1920s. In 1929 the Bedford Directory no longer listed The McMyler-Interstate Company.

(Read more about the McMyler-Interstate company at the Bedford Historical Society; Bedford, Ohio, near Cleveland)

There may have been a proposal to merge McMyler Interstate with Industrial Works in 1924-1927. The Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan has in its collection papers and correspondence concerning the merger.

(Read more about McMyler-Interstate at Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan)

Union Pacific and its subsidiaries owned six McMyler Interstate locomotive cranes:

Ohio Locomotive Crane Company

Ohio Locomotive Crane Company (1909-1987)
American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Company (1987-current)

Bucyrus, Ohio

The Ohio Locomotive Crane Company was founded in 1909 by Charles F. Michael. The first locomotive crane was built at the Carroll Foundry & Machine Company. This first locomotive crane was steam-powered, with a coal burning boiler and a lifting capacity of 10 tons. In 1915 the plant was moved to Bucyrus, Ohio, where locomotive cranes are still made today [2014].

In June 1960, Ohio Locomotive Crane Company purchased the crane design from Wellman-McDowell Engineering of Cleveland, to acquire the diesel electric traction drive system, a design that was becoming well known and preferred over the previous diesel mechanical drive the Ohio company had been using for many years. Wellman had been using the "DE" designation as part of its model designation since the first diesel electric locomotive crane had been completed in 1956. After the purchase of Wellman-McDowell in June, the Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. produced its first DE model locomotive crane in December 1960.

Osgood Co.

Osgood Manufacturing Company (1875-1883)
Osgood Dredge Company (1883-1899)
Marion Steam Shovel and Dredge Company (1910-1912)
Osgood Shovel Company (1912-???)
Osgood Company (???-1954)

One of the earliest designs the new Osgood Company made was the Model 18 crawler shovel, available from 1914 to 1922. Union Pacific purchased a 10-ton Osgood crane in 1919; it may have looked similar to a Model 18.

"The Osgood Company's roots can be traced back to the very first steam shovel. Jason C. Osgood and Daniel Carmichael took out a patent for a dredge in 1846. Carmichael was an uncle of steam shovel inventor William S. Otis. The Osgood name was associated with a number of shovel builders prior to forming the Osgood Dredge Company at Troy, New York. In 1875, this company supplied several large steam shovels for the French attempt to build the Panama Canal. The company also built a fully revolving shovel in 1890 and the world's first electric excavator in 1899." (Keith Haddock, The Earthmover Encyclopedia, page 218)

The Osgood Dredge Company was organized in 1883 by John Kasson Howe of Albany, New York. He was sectratary-treasurer of Osgood Dredge Company until it was consolidated with The Osgood Company of Marion, Ohio, after which he was a director and eastern sale representative. Osgood Dredge Company obtained the original patents on the boom type dredge, a design that by 1917 was still being used by all leading dredge builders. John Kasson Howe passed away on March 4, 1917. (Brick and Clay Record, March 27, 1917, page 685)

Ralph R. Osgood Patents:

In the case of Osgood Dredge Co. v. Metropolitan Dredging Co., dated July 12, 1895, Osgood lost its patent infringement suit against Metropolitan, with the court stating that the Osgood patent of 1882 was not a new design. (69 F. 620) Osgood Dredge won on appeal, dated August 19, 1896, with the appellate court citing expert testimony about the unique nature of the Osgood design. (75 Fed 670)

The Osgood Company was organized in 1910 in Marion, Ohio, after Arthur Edgar Cheney, former sales manager for Marion Steam Shovel Company, purchased the shovel designs of the defunct Osgood Dredge Company of Albany, New York. The earlier Osgood company had gone out of business in 1899.

Cheney had quit the Marion Steam Shovel Company after a disagreement with the company CEO, George King, with Cheney wanting to build shovels that could work on smaller construction sites. At the time, Marion was furnishing large steam shovels that required railroad tracks and extensive support crews. Making a smaller shovel would serve the growing market for construction shovels.

When A. E. Cheney organized his new company in 1910, he called it the Marion Steam Shovel and Dredge Company. In 1912 the larger Marion Steam Shovel Company won a suit against Cheney's smaller company for trademark infringement, and Cheney renamed his company as the Osgood Shovel Company, taking its name from the designs the company was using.


A ditcher was a locomotive crane with a dipper stick at the end of its boom. Compared to a regular steam shovel which had dippers that were 2-1/2 to 4 cubic yard capacity, a ditcher dipper usually had 1/2 to 1-1/2 cubic yards capacity. On Union Pacific, several ditchers were built in-house, and several were purchased from the same companies that furnished locomotive cranes.

(more research is needed for ditchers on Union Pacific)

Little Giant

The following comes from a message posted to Trainorders.com by James Belmont on November 25, 2007:

Lewis Gundon, founder of the Little Giant Crane & Shovel Co., came by his interest in excavators honestly. He represented the third generation of the remarkable Grundon family -- a family long involved in the excavating business. What makes this family even more remarkable was their confidence that they could build a better excavator. Cranes and crane technology were inbred in the blood of Lewis Grundon. At the turn of the century his grandfather had built and operated a steam powered ditching dredge incorporating a wooden boom and log chains, instead of cables. His father built and operated a gas powered machine that utilized wood for clutch surfaces and channel iron for the boom. His uncle, Fred Grundon, also built excavators and eventually started the Sargent Crane Co. of Ft. Dodge, IA.

As a teenager, Lewis was the greaser and the helper for his father. As he grew older he became a crane and shovel operator and had his own business. Lewis began formulating his own ideas on how to improve the machines available at the time. The most revolutionary of many ideas, centered on the rotating surfaces of the crane. Why couldn't a simple ball bearing be substituted for the bulky, troublesome hook, roller, and center pin assembly that required frequent adjustment and maintenance? Not satisfied with existing equipment, Lewis undertook to redesign the turntable on some of his excavators replacing it with a ball bearing turntable. He was so successful that other users of excavators became interested. In 1946, he, with the aid of his wife, Marie, and a helper, built a complete machine which he intended for his own use. It was successful and was soon sold, as were the second and third machines. Thus was born Little Giant Crane & Shovel Co. of Des Moines, IA. Lewis patented his ball bearing turntable that same year.

The Little Giant machine eventually found its biggest market with the railroad companies. The little machines, perfect for working from a flat car, were subsequently fitted with hi-railer kits and put to work right on the rails. Maintenance-of-way work is the machine's forte. After the patent on the turntable expired, other companies such as Avon and Rotek began manufacturing the turntable for other machines.

When John Lewis Grundon died in 1971 his wife, Marie assumed the presidency. The company was sold to Avis Industrial Corporation located in Upland, Indiana in 1996. Little Giant currently boasts a product line of over 14 models, most of which can also be rail mounted.


Wobith, Larry. "Union Pacific's Ohio Locomotive Cranes" in The Streamliner, Union Pacific Historical Society, Volume 21, Number 1, Winter 2007, page 27

Correspondence with John Taubeneck, August 2014

Union Pacific Equipment Record

Surviving Railway Steam Cranes of North America (web site)

American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. (company web site)

Otis Shovel at RichieWiki -- William S. Otis (1913-1839) received the first patent for a steam shovel in 1839.

(William S. Otis article on RichieWiki)

(Original Otis patent -- U. S. Patent 1089; dated February 24, 1839)