Anatomy of a Big Hook.Here is a little different view of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum's Big Hook...the 1907-vintage Steam Wrecking Crane A. This contraption weighs as much as a steam locomotive, but has the ability to pick up and move objects approaching its own weight. This crane is mounted on a very heavy, wheeled chassis that allows it to be pulled as part of a dedicated wreck train. The crane has a dedicated tool car, portions of which are visible to the left in this photo. This car carries all of the hooks, cables, chains and other rigging equipment that are needed for operation. It also serves as an idler car when the crane is part of a train. The base of the crane is equipped with outriggers, similar to those used today on truck-mounted cranes and fire department ladder trucks. These outriggers stabilize the crane and prevent it from tipping under load. Unlike a modern crane, this one also has heavy, turnbuckle clamps, that actually clamp the unit to the rails. One of these clamps can clearly be seen in this photo, on the left edge of the base. The weight which the crane is able to lift varies, depending on the distance of the object to be lifted from the center of the chassis. Obviously, to lift the heaviest objects, the crane must be brought in close.
The crane is powered by a small vertical, coal-fired boiler at the back of the cab. Separate, small steam engines using steam from this boiler provide the mechanical energy to rotate the turret, raise and lower the boom and operate the hoist. A series of cranks and levers operate the valves that allow the three cab crew members to perform all of the functions. Mounted on the front of cab, you'll find a powerful floodlight, which facilitates operations at night. Running this baby is definitely a team sport that requires some practice and coordination.