The right tool for the right job

The right tool for the right job is an old idiom that has more prevalence in today’s world. The install picture of that crane is definitely a unique job. If you look at the angle UP, and the length of that jib; one of the hardest parts of those jobs is getting that long awkward jib, through the door, probably with the interior crane bridge attached. It’s a real contortion twisting, skill testing; difficult thing, and can be bit of an ordeal.

The solution to this problem, the tiny spaces, low doors; is only part of the long search we have been on to solve many such problems, situations. There may be better ways, but one has to work with what you have. We have the reverse attachments for our knuckle booms. They are manually set, both lengths and angles, so coming thru a door like that is a real chore. Luckily we had the right tool for the right job. 

Reminders of an old job

We have actually done tighter, harder, much more complicated, work sites, when the interior of the bays are crammed with working pumps and generators. I remember one job and Fred can probably get you photos of it. We had 3 of our cranes try the job, none could get thru the door, so we were sitting outside, reaching in under this ridiculously low door, with a fairly hefty 35-40 ft long bridge crane. Nothing worked, we weren’t even close. Finally we tried our 30 ton, and we set up that one 3 more times, finally we put the jib on its highest most acute angle, pulled the dead stick out all the way.

We chained the bridge to the tip of the dead stick as tight as we could, but we couldn’t even get in the door. We had removed the swivel and the hook, there was no headroom for it, but we still had to swing the bridge crane to slip it thru the door. Inside it was too jammed with machines, all powered, that we needed to keep the load, (just a long hefty beam really), airborne and above all this crap. And the installer, an unknown to us, was jacked up like a meth freak; insisting on us getting this in, that he was on vacation, and catching a plane in a couple hours and this had to be done. He was a big help.

It looked like the one side was a bit more open, we might be able to slide the bridge up and between the pumps, and once we got the crane inside, thru the door, then we could elevate. But we couldn’t turn the crane with just a shackle. We swung the bridge back out and I believe propped out end up on the back of another unit, just to give us an easier angle to stretch down with the long jib and try and get a better hookup. We added a very short lifting chain, that would give us a few more degrees of turn for the bridge.

I had to pull the beam down and pry it past the side of the door, Fred started to extend and push the bridge thru the door. We had one end in, and reached toward the opening, off to one side, between the water pumps, the end tracks, (wheels), made it by and was looking good. It was a 5 ft wide door, 40 ft crane, we had to angle past the door, far enough to get the other end of the crane inside. We ran out of room, Fred was about to touch the door with our boom; and we couldn’t push any more inside without tapping a pump.

We needed to reset. Somehow. We looked hard and long at our crane, the angles. We needed more room on the one side. That meant we need to move our outside truck over about one foot; That would build slightly more angle, give us a few more inches. We put the load down, propped again on the truck deck and the other on the ground. The ground outside the bay door fell away so if we pulled slightly further away, we might gain a little headroom too. At this point, the installer, or inspector, was so pressured up that “he had to go” (he was not the right tool for the right job), and left us and the rest of his marbles in a cloud of dust in the parking lot. Fred moved the truck over, 1.5 ft, and about the same further from the door.

We set up all the legs and rigged up the crane again, then we made it past the door, still had to pry it by, but got by the pump, and we were getting close. Next, we pushed the interior load higher, and tried to slide the back end inside. And ran out of room again. But we were very close; I pulled down hard on the beam end trying to gain an inch by raising the far end.

Fred was about to touch the door header. We were out of room. But close. We were solid on our outriggers, they were up about a foot. We were going straight over the back so we slowly lowered all 4 at once, making sure we were stable but lower. Lifted another inch or two. A good bar, and a little muscle and the crane was inside the door. We had room now, and adjusted the outriggers again.

Halfway there

We swung the bridge to a central point and that let us elevate and push the crane up and over the machines. But Fred couldn’t get it high enough. Not quite. There were walkways on both sides of the building up high. I walked up one side and knew we could pop at least one end up; so we got a line on it and it swung up over the runways. Good start, but to get the end track, about 4 ft long, over the runways, one needs to be on angle. The main crane bridge was only a foot and a little across but the end tracks, they are 4 ft, and with the angle; the crane length grows on the diagonal. (that’s a little hard to follow. Its a narrow beam with a set of roller skates on each end on a little beam; makes it awkward).

We left the one side up and I clambered over to the other side. The last side. I brought my trusty bar (one more instance of having the right tool for the right job). The bridge was slightly wedged against the runway; too low. The tag line let me pull up till the other end touched the runway. I pulled with one arm, got the end close and shoved the bar under. Fred was watching and knew he needed to swing my way with the crane when I pried. Not before.

I tried to pry the beam higher, but I never had the fulcrum angle, we needed a block or something, Fred got me a small, thick one he keeps on the truck, along with a hundred other magic trick and escape plans. I got the crane to creep over the side of the runway, and just catch. We held up a moment, while I adjusted my block, Fred moved the bridge my way a teeny bit. I got the wheels up and onto the runway. Now we had to get them that extra 2 inches to fit over the actual rail the wheels roll on.

To do that we needed to be almost perfectly centered. This is a steel beam riding a miniature railroad line. Not much play there (a little), and both sides usually have to fitted simultaneously. I pried again on the bridge and Fred had anticipated me. It slid over and banged into place with a decisive Click!!

I looked over at Fred. He knew what that sound meant. We looked at the other side. Somehow it had snapped into place too. We were done. The chains still had tension on them, Fred managed to come down a little and we had to fight to get them apart that’s how tight a job it was. But we got it. I helped Fred put away the gear, take off the reverse knuckle. We knew we had been at the limit of our lifting and rigging capacities. We have since altered, improved, strengthened, and lengthened this particular tool.

On another note

On another note, it is important for the future of any interested parties to remember the skill, expertise and specialty design work that enabled us to do this job and many others like, or similar. The Flexibility is key, normal to special, all in the same machine. Not everyone can do work like this, this may not be even your industry; overall we are part of the service industry. This is just part of good service, this is great service. This is us using the right tool for the right job. These areas of specialties within the normal service are great drivers, customer collectors, necessary things that are little affected by downturns, recessions, quarantines, plagues. Fred’s work has not slowed down during the Covid crisis. We have had to slow him down and spread the work to other people whose skills or units may not be so accomplished. That’s something to remember.

We are still very much impacted by the Covid crisis and are coping as best we can; but unbelievably, and we are very grateful, unsure if we are good or lucky, or well positioned, or just the last guy left, unbelievably our work is still in demand. For the time being we are fine.

Don Lucas. Director

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