UP 900000 Series Derricks and Cranes

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This file was last updated on January 31, 2021.

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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, along with extended outriggers. A locomotive crane has a lifting boom with a lattice structure, and may or may not need outriggers to perform a lift.

UP's wreck derricks were generally assigned to the railroad's MP&M (Motive Power & Machinery) Department.

UP's locomotive cranes were generally assigned to the railroad's Maintenance of Way Department, also known as Roadway service.

By a review of available records, Union Pacific and its subsidiaries owned:

The following comes from Bill Wimmer, in an email dated August 27, 2014:

Wreck Derricks were used and operated by the Motive Power and Car department for clearing derailments. They were very slow as every time they had to move to make a pick they had to have their outriggers reblocked. They were replaced by Hy-rail Derrick Boom Trucks in the early 1970's to work the smaller derailments and by Side Boom Cat Tractors in the late 1970's. UP had side booms at Salt Lake, Green River, Rawlins and Cheyenne. As these aged they began to use outside contractors at derailments such as Durbano in Ogden and Hulcher out of Virden, IL. As Derricks became obsolete they were not replaced, but if the location still needed a 250 ton derrick one was moved from a smaller use location and replaced with a Hy-rail Derrick Boom Truck. All Wreck derricks were always moved to and from a derailment in a work train.

Locomotive Cranes were used and operated by the Maintenance of Way department for maintaining track and bridges, cleaning behind slide fences, ditching, etc. Most of these were American or Ohio cranes on the UP. Brownhoist were used in MW Shops and by the Supply Department at material locations. The Bridge group now hires mostly rubber tired cranes to work new or replacement bridge locations by building a pad for the crane to set up on. The MP numbered cranes came from the Missouri Pacific after merger. All railroads in the UP family at one time used Burro Cranes extensively on their systems but these have been phased out through the use of rubber tied Multi-Cranes and Speed Swings. Locomotive Cranes were mostly moved about under their own power along with its idler car. It could be moved in a train with boom trailing on idler car and was governed by timetable special instructions.

Until 1904, Union Pacific's wrecking cranes were 40, 50, and 60 tons capacity. In 1905, OWRR&N received a 100-ton wreck derrick, and in 1910 the railroad and its subsidiaries received the first of 10 wrecking cranes with 120 tons capacity, with deliveries continuing through 1916. The first 250-ton wrecking crane was delivered in 1945, and the last of a total of eight was delivered in 1973, which was also the last wreck derrick purchased by Union Pacific.

UP 902006 (150 tons; Industrial Works; June 1917) was the last steam-powered derrick on UP when it was retired in 1979. It had been converted from coal-burning to oil-burning in July 1952.

UP received its first diesel-powered wreck derrick in November 1956, a 250-ton Bucyrus-Erie model numbered as LA&SL 010006. This crane was renumbered to UP 9100006 in 1959. In 1975-1978, five other 250-ton wreck derricks were converted to diesel-power from either coal-burning, or oil-burning, and include the following: UP 903044 (1975); UP 900310 (1976); UP 903043 (1977); UP 903042 (1978); and UP 910005 (1978). Upon completion, all were repainted into the new standard paint scheme of dark green machine house, with silver and black chevron stripes on the end, black frame and boom, and white lettering and a three-color Union Pacific medallion on each side of the machine house.

(Read Thornton Waite's excellent article about Union Pacific's wrecking derricks; published in 1997 in Union Pacific Modeler, Volume 3)

900000 Series Numbers

(Read more about how UP numbered its Roadway equipment)


UP Cranes and Derricks -- Photos of Union Pacific cranes and derricks.

Crane or Derrick?

Cranes and Derricks -- Brief summary information about cranes and derricks, and the companies that build them.

Roster Listings

900000-Series Cranes and Derricks -- Listings of UP's derricks and cranes, including locations.

Burro Cranes

UP Burro Cranes -- Information about UP's small Burro cranes, used for roadway maintenance.

Caterpillar Sidebooms

Side-boom Caterpillars, known as pipelayers, have replaced rerailing equipment for some railroads and their contractors. Research suggests that Melvin Hulcher may have been one of the first derailment services contractors to use side-boom Caterpillar pipe laying crawler tractors for railroad wreck cleanup, adapting their use in 1963 from his telephone cable and pipelaying construction company.

Union Pacific is known to have at least two Caterpillar side-boom crawler tractors. This was during the mid 1970s. Numbered as U-1 and U-2, they were transported on heavily modified flat cars. There were at least six modified flat cars, numbered as UP 905264, 905268, 905270, 905279, 905280 and 905281. UP records show the notation "Cat on Flat" as the car description. The Caterpillars themselves were known as "Wreckmasters." With an apparent capacity of 68-1/2 tons, and with 1974 as the only available date, one Wreckmaster (U-1) was assigned to Laramie, and the other Wreckmaster (U-2; loaded on UP 905268) was assigned to Grand Island. The assignment sheet for 1974 showed a build date of 1963 for U-1, and a date of 1964 for U-2. A photo taken in August 1987, of UP special depressed-center flat car 905264, with a Caterpillar load, shows that the car was built in Omaha in February 1964.

The early crawler tractor pipelayers date from the late 1930s, and were side-mounted boom and cable winches made by the Trackson (Traxcavator) company of Milwaukee, as attachments for Caterpillar crawler tractors. Traxcavator also made the first front-end loader attachments for Caterpillar tractors, using cable-winched buckets. In 1951 Caterpillar purchased Traxcavator and the company became a subsidiary of Caterpillar.

Starting in the mid 1960s for railroad derailment services, the Caterpillar 572 and 583 pipelayers were the machines of choice. For transportation over the highway to derailment sites, the Caterpillar 572 weighed less and could be transported with the side-mounted counter weight attached to the tractor. The Caterpillar 583 was heavier, meaning that the counterweight had to be removed for transportation.

The Caterpillar 583 Pipelayer, introduced as the 583C in 1955, had 170,000 pounds capacity at tipping point, and was based on the Caterpillar D8 chassis. The 583 was a replacement of the earlier Caterpillar-Traxcavator MD8 and MDW-8 Pipelayer. The 583 remained in production, with upgrades and improvements, through 2015.

The Caterpillar 572 Pipelayer, introduced as the 572C in 1957, had 90,000 pounds capacity at tipping point, and was based on the Caterpillar D7 chassis. The 572 was based, with a heavier capacity, on the Traxcavator MD-7 Pipelayer. The MD-7 was replaced in the Caterpillar catalog in 1961, by the Caterpillar 571 Pipelayer.

In September 2015, Caterpillar introduced its three updated pipelayers. The PL72 replaced the 572, and has a tipping point of 90,000 pounds. The PL83 replaced the 583 and is rated at 170,000 pounds tipping point, and the new PL87 is rated at 216,000 pounds.

Hulcher Emergency Service, Inc. (Hulcher Services, Inc. after 1985) was started by Melvin Hulcher in 1963. Hulcher had begun his adult years as a tenant farmer of his family farm near Virden, Illinois. In 1945 Hulcher sold his milk cows and draft horses to start M. L. Hulcher Company, later becoming Hulcher Construction Company, laying telephone cables and pipelines. Hulcher got into the train wreck recovery business in 1963 after an initial meeting with officials of Chicago & North Western. The first derailment call came at 1:10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day in 1963, with Hulcher cleaning up the 42-car derailment in 14 hours. Operating out of his base in Virden, Illinois, Hulcher's business of railroad derailment services grew. By March 1978, the company had 340 employees and 18 locations from Sidney, Nebraska to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and had serviced 69 railroads in a 33-state area. By 1978, Hulcher was handling over 1,500 jobs per year, with about 20 percent being the recovery and cleanup of hazardous materials. In mid 1985, Hulcher bought the derailment services of the Isringhausen family (see 'Hi Rail Cranes,' below).

Hi-Rail Cranes

A hi-rail crane is a road–rail vehicle which can operate both on railroad tracks and on conventional highways and roads. They are also called hi-rail, from 'highway' and 'rail,' with variations such as high-rail, HiRail, and "Hy-Rail," a brand name used by Harsco Corp. for its line of highway and rail vehicles.

For its hi-rail fleet in 1974, Union Pacific owned Little Giant, Pettibone, and Holmes cranes. Kershaw later bought the Holmes designs. UP's Pettibone 220RRC cranes had capacity of 110 tons.

Little Giant tried to market a re-rail crane with 100-tons capacity. BN ordered three, but canceled the third after two were delivered. Little Giant finished that third crane, but derated it to 60-tons capacity and sold it to a commuter railroad in Canada.

Loren Isringhausen started building mobile railroad cranes in Jerseyville, Illinois in 1978. He had started his Isringhausen Trucking company by the mid 1960s, and occasionally performed demolition work for buildings, and soon got into the business of railroad wreck cleanup services. Until the mid 1980s, Isringhausen used Caterpillar sideboom pipelayers for his railroad derailment recovery business, which was headquartered at Rochelle, Illinois. Under the name of Isringhausen Crane Manufacturing Company, he designed and built a broad range of telescopic cranes for railroad service. Isringhausen's Brute-branded lattice-boom mobile railroad cranes were a series of self-propelled cranes with 'hi-rail' gear of up to 130 tons (US) capacity. After the Isringhausen family sold the Isringhausen Railroad Specialists wreck recovery business in Illinois to Hulcher Services in 1985, they moved their crane manufacturing business to Richmond, Virginia to invest in a small existing rail service contractor. Loren Isringhausen's two sons, Brian and Barry Isringhausen, started Cranemasters in 1986.

In 2007, Union Pacific was known to operate a Spandeck Mantis 30011 high-capacity hi-rail crane. This crane was numbered as UP 81305. Its capacity is not specifically known, but appears to be the standard Mantis 150-ton "Railroad Rerailer" crane.

The following comes from RitchieWiki:

SpanDeck Inc. first introduced its Mantis line of crawler cranes in 1979 after it acquired the rights to the Turtle telescopic boom crawler crane. The earliest models introduced included the 2010 (10-ton capacity) and the 2610 (13-ton capacity). The use of Mantis crawler cranes led to the development of newer models in the early 1980s with higher capacities, ranging from 18 to 25 tons. Eventually the Mantis line was expanded to include a crawler crane with a 45-ton capacity. This development was followed in 2007 with the introduction of the company's first 100-ton-capacity crawler crane, the 200RS. During the 1980s SpanDeck entered the railroad market with the development of a rail-mounted equipment transporter for railroad maintenance and servicing. In 1991 the company launched the 30011 rerailing truck-mounted crane with a capacity of 150 tons. In 2008 Japanese crane manufacturer Tadano acquired SpanDeck for US$37.5 million. The sale of Spandeck to Tadano was finalized in January 2009.

The following comes from the April 1, 2010 issue of Cranes Today magazine:

The Mantis 30011 re-railer truck crane is in service with almost all of North America's leading Class A railroads, offering very fast highway speeds in the 70–80mph range and gross vehicle weights as low as 80,000lb, allowing for 50-state permit-free highway travel. These are key factors in an emergency deployment vehicle. In addition, with its hi-rail gear lowered, the 30011 can run along the rails if highway access to the accident isn't feasible.

In April 2013, UP sold a Holmes RC75 rail crane at auction at Lonoke, Arkansas.

UP Mobile Cranes, Sorted By 1974 Location

Location, March 1974 UP Derrick
Builder Capacity Date
Albina, Oregon U-345 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Cheyenne, Wyoming U-346 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Council Bluffs U-382 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Denver, Colorado U-422 Holmes 50 tons 1972  
Grand Island, Nebraska. U-2 Wreckmaster 68-1/2 tons 1964 Gasoline
Green River, Wyoming U-421 Holmes 50 tons 1972  
Hinkle, Oregon U-384 Holmes 50 tons 1971  
Kansas City, Kansas U-311 Holmes 50 tons 1969  
La Grande, Oregon U-490 Holmes 60 tons 1972  
Laramie, Wyoming U-1 Wreckmaster 68-1/2 tons 1963 Gasoline
Los Angeles U-313 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Nampa, Idaho U-423 Holmes 50 tons 1972  
North Platte, Nebraska U-312 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Pocatello, Idaho U-383 Holmes 50 tons 1970  
Salt Lake City U-491 Holmes 60 tons 1973  

UP Mobile Cranes, Sorted By 1974 Number

UP Derrick
Location, March 1974 Builder Capacity Date
U-1 Laramie, Wyoming Wreckmaster 68-1/2 tons 1963 Gasoline
U-2 Grand Island, Nebraska Wreckmaster 68-1/2 tons 1964 Gasoline
U-311 Kansas City, Kansas Holmes 50 tons 1969  
U-312 North Platte, Nebraska Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-313 Los Angeles Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-345 Albina, Oregon Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-346 Cheyenne, Wyoming Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-382 Council Bluffs Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-383 Pocatello, Idaho Holmes 50 tons 1970  
U-384 Hinkle, Oregon Holmes 50 tons 1971  
U-421 Green River, Wyoming Holmes 50 tons 1972  
U-422 Denver, Colorado Holmes 50 tons 1972  
U-423 Nampa, Idaho Holmes 50 tons 1972  
U-490 La Grande, Oregon Holmes 60 tons 1972  
U-491 Salt Lake City Holmes 60 tons 1973  


Correspondence with John Taubeneck, August 2014

Kratville, William W., and Harold Ranks. Union Pacific Equipment, Omaha, 1969; second printing, 2005

Union Pacific Equipment Record

Waite, Thornton. "Wrecking Derrick Cranes" in Union Pacific Modeler, Volume 3, Metcalfe Publications, 1997, pages 49-71 (View the text)

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

Surviving Railway Steam Cranes of North America (web site)

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

More Information

Hulcher Side Booms -- Information about the Caterpillar side boom machines Hulcher uses in it recovery services.