The International Steam Pages

Surviving Railway Cranes

Steam cranes have always been the 'Cinderellas' of the railway steam scene, but as their more glamorous steam locomotive sisters ended their working days, they have often continued to be active in countries with no other real steam. This page links to a series of pages which show not only preserved steam cranes but also a very distinguished few which are still in service although, as they are generally engineers and breakdown cranes, they do not see daily use. Also included are a number of steam to diesel conversions, a selection of known hand cranes and a few historic diesel and electric cranes.

Click for a bibliography (updated 23rd December 2018)

Chris has now added a page on floating steam cranes (updated 4th June 2019), the list is rather short so he's included a couple of conversions and interesting historic cranes.

None of the regular suspects seems to have a hand in this, but essential reading is the steam shovel register which for various reasons seems to consist mainly of machines built on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean (added 14th May 2015). I saw one at work at the Beamish Museum, UK in April 2015, it was absolute magic. The remains of the railway Vulcan shovel at Fort Steel, British Columbia are well known.  There are several detail photos, including the builder's plate here -  

See also Kevin Hoggett's pictures of a Panama Canal 75t Bucyrus shovel at Nederland, Colorado mining museum (added 10th August 22).

Countries with known active 'real' railway steam cranes at the time of initial compilation are listed below: Of course a significant number of preserved cranes are also active.

Central America: Colombia

Asia: Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (now finished), Sri Lanka, Thailand (may be finished), Vietnam

Africa: Zimbabwe (known to have been active in February 2017)

This section of my website is primarily down to a lot of hard work by Chris Capewell, the Americas pages are contributed by John A. Taubeneck. Others who have assisted are acknowledges as appropriate.

We welcome comments, additions, corrections and photographs. Please email me at the address below or my Gmail address if you know it.

21st century steam crane heaven... Two 60T cranes going out to work at Sandaoling, China in 2006 (Photograph by Rob Dickinson), as far as I know they were still active in 2012, I have seen a picture of one track lifting in 2022 as the 'big pit' has now closed.:


Updated 23rd December 2018 with Volume 3 of Peter Tatlow's series

Necessarily the majority of these concentrate on first world practice but they are relevant to worldwide usage.

The Story of Steam Breakdown Cranes on the Railways of Britain – Volume 1, Peter Tatlow, CEng., MICE, published by Noodle Books (Kevin Robertson), 2012. ISBN 978-1-906419-69-1

The Story of Steam Breakdown Cranes on the Railways of Britain – Volume 2, Peter Tatlow, CEng., MICE, published by Noodle Books (Kevin Robertson), 2013. ISBN 978-1-906419-97-4

(Added 11th March 2013, comprehensive coverage of cranes provided for the four pre-Nationalisation companies, for BR and those provided for the Ministry of Supply.)

Railway Cranes - Volume 3, Hand, steam and diesel rail-mounted cranes of Britain– Peter Tatlow, CEng., MICE, published by Crecy Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9780860936848 (added 23rd December 2018)

Railway Steam Cranes; John S. Brownlie; privately published by the author, 1973

Crane Locomotives A Study of British Practice; R.A.S.Abbott; Goose,1973

An Illustrated History of Cranes; Hinton J Sheryn; Ian Allan Publishing, 1997

The History of Cranes Classic Construction Series, Oliver Bachmann, Heinz-Herbert Cohrs, Tim Whiteman, Prof. Alfred Wislicki; KHL Group, 1997

Carlisle’s Crane Maker The Cowans Sheldon Story; Alan Earnshaw; Nostalgia Road, 2004

Stothert & Pitt Cranemakers to the World; Ken Andrews and Stuart Burroughs; Tempus Publishing Limited, 2003

Erie and D.L.& W. Wreck Trains; Ronald R. Dukarm; Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, Inc., 2009

Big Hooks, Louis A. Marre, Withers Publishing 2013 - (link broken by 25th October 2016)

Various Manufacturers catalogues are available at various archives. Chris Capewell (chriscapewell AT can provide a list.

For an extensive bibliography, concentrating on the British scene, and including magazine articles and books with individual photographs of cranes, see the BDCA bibliography page…

Rob Dickinson