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Antique Hand Powered Crane


Jul 1, 2006
Clover Hill district, WI
I can forward the full size originals for detail "ONCE"
to some-one good at Photo-Shop etc.

These are shrunk for the forum




A Stiff-Leg Derrick !

I believe that sort of crane is called a "stiff-leg derrick". That distinguishes it from the type of derrick where the [gin ??] pole is guyed.

Note that the winch is PERHAPS a general-purpose double-drum winch fit-up to the pole.

These are getting rare. They were once common.

I wonder if you could still buy one of these brand-new?

John Ruth
I need to get some pics of a similiar one that is still in daily use in Des Moines.
Talked with the general manager couple of years ago and he said that I could make arrangements to see it up close and personal. Didn't ever get that done. Shame on me!!!

I seem to recall that there is a similar one still in use at the depot for the Yreka Western RR, in Yreka, CA. I believe it has two stiff legs instead of one and the boom is shorter and a bit stouter, but will have to confirm that when I visit my Mother in the next few months.

They still run steam train excursions during the summer months from this location, but think the derrick is primarily used for scenery these days. This short line RR only runs six miles from Yreka to Montague, CA where it used to connect with the Southern Pacific main line over the Siskiyou Mts into Southern Oregon.

Dave A:

I'm fairly sure that the derrick in the OP has two legs. The angle from which the photos were taken causes one leg to be hidden behind the other. If you think about it, a one-leggedy derrick would not be useful except in the direction exactly opposite the one leg.


The biggest stiff-leg derrick which I know of that is still in use is at the former Robert E. Derecktor yacht yard in Mamaroneck, NY. The yard has changed its name. Here's a copy/paste URL to a Live Local aerial photo of that one. The shadows of the sun make it hard to distinguish what is the boom (lower left quadrant) and what is the mast and the legs. This crane is large enough to lift an America's Cup yacht on slings. (Mariner, and unsuccessful Cup defender in the 1960's or '70's, was built by Derecktor.)


In the late 1970's, there was a very large guyed derrick in a granite quarry just off Central Park Avenue in Yonkers, NY. That one was sort of outstanding - the lattice boom was about 100 feet long. I never saw the boom raised -they were using crawler cranes at that point. There was an identical derrick laying dismantled at the entrance to the quarry. Both are probably razor blades right now, because the quarry is now condos! (That was a deep hole, but there was a way to blast a level road out to Central Pk. Ave. which made the bottom of the quarry into buildable land.) That quarry produced what I believe is called "Fordham Granite".

These, being the first semi-portable construction cranes, used to be featured at every major construction site in the late 1800's- early 1900's, powered by "donkey engines"; skid-mounted steam winches with a vertical firetube boiler. Both the derrick and the donkey engine were hauled to the site on horse-drawn vehicles, dismantled as necessary. (Although an operational donkey winch can relocate itself a short distance by "kedging".) If you look at a picture of the construction of Grand Central Terminal or Pennsylvannia Station, you'll see dozens of them at work.

This is how they built all those neat buildings and bridges before they had crawler or truck cranes! How'd you like to take one apart into transportable pieces without using any other crane?

John Ruth
John R - Wondered about the one leg issue and I still can't see more than one in the various photos. Have to agree, it would seem to be limiting in how the derrick could be used.

In third picture you can just see the second leg going off to the left. If you were looking straight down the legs would be "L" shaped with the boom also going in same direction as the bottom part of the L.

These were once quite common in the UK where they were known as "Scotch Derricks". Early ones were steam powered and later ones were usually electrically powered. At one time they were very common in places like steel stock yards, timber yards and large construction sites.

Over here we call them a Scotch Derrick I have heard it said that the first one of its species was invented in Renfrew Scotland, and that they became very popular when they were supplied for use at the building of Buckingham Palace London, Personally i think "the jury is still out" until i get definitive proof, My thoughts are they are descended from some of the old cranes from the medieval period used by the old masons to build the huge cathedrals etc.
About 1955 a very interesting steam powered derrick crane,was still in place at Alexandria Dumbartonshire Scotland, I think the building it sat behind had been part of the old Turkey Red Dying Co, Some years ago i screwed up some "Engineering Academics" explaining this crane, Nothing particular about steam derricks you might ask, They have a boiler and the engines on the platform, But this one didnt, It took its steam off the mill main boilers,and the steam came via an underground pipe to a swivel stuffing box, and then up the hollow centre King post, to a chest with a throttle to control the engines which were attached to this post not unlike the construction of the winch in todays posting Could i get them to grasp the concept, There is none so blind as those who will not see

Even more intriguing is the fact that the Anderson Grice Co of Carnoustie built one similar, about 1976 for Malaysia, Possibly the last of its kind ever built, for a rubber process plant lots of waste steam and pollution i would bet ! And the last steam derricks i observed working were at the building of the Clyde Tunnel construction works in Glasgow in the late 1960/s These were big Butters from memory
It looks like it hasn't been used in ages. With high scrap prices do you think the owner will cut it down soon? Maybe someone should make an inquiry with the owner. I am sure someone would love to have this crane, I know I would!
there were quite a few of those around Utica until quite recently. The old Utica Steam Engine works crane was taken down maybe 10 years ago and the Utica Boiler Works one was there a few years ago when I last noticed it on the east side of town. probably still used, knowing Ben who at last report was about 150 years old.
A while ago Fine Woodworking magazine had a picture of a crane made from the designs used in the middle ages to place big stone blocks up on top of cathedrals...I was amazed that such a thing had been invented back then.
All wood, really big, and horse powered.
how can I receive the photo of the stiff leg

I am going to build a half size stiff leg in my yard and could use some photos as they are hard to find. In real life I have operated a dozen in various situations and can remember how they look and work. I never thought to take my own pictures of things that were such common stuff. my direct email is oldie383 at optonline.net