Railroad Crane

A railroad crane, also called a crane car, is a kind of crane found on a railway and used for one of the following purposes: accident recovery work, permanent way maintenance, and freight handling in goods yards. The basic configuration is similar in almost all cases, consisting of a rotating crane body mounted on a sturdy chassis. The body supports the boom and provides all the operating and lifting mechanisms. The chassis is fitted with gear so that the crane can be moved by a locomotive, although there are also numerous railroad cranes that are self-propelled to allow some movement around a work site.


Kirow Ardelt AG, Palfinger AG, and KOCKS Krane International are three of the most well-known railroad crane manufacturers in the world. Kirow’s Multi Tasker crane, as the name suggests, is a multi-purpose machine, but is primarily used for accident recovery and track and bridge construction. It comes in eight different sizes and models. Popular American manufacturers include Arva Industries, Lima, and Marion.

railroad crane3Procedure/How to

Railroad cranes are used for three main purposes: accidents, maintenance, and goods yard work. Breakdown cranes are used for accident recovery work and are typically attached to a breakdown train that includes other recovery equipment and railway workers. In some cases, two or more cranes may be required to safely recover a locomotive. Breakdown cranes are sometimes referred to as wreckers. Maintenance cranes are used for general maintenance work, such as installing signaling equipment or laying track. Lastly, goods yard cranes are used in goods yards to provide lifting and transportation capability. They are usually small enough to be operated by hand, and are used in areas where mounted goods cranes could not reach.

Safety Features & Guidelines

Like all cranes, there are several important safety procedures to follow before and while you operate a railroad crane. Before you even begin operating the crane, it is vital to check all the equipment to make sure it works and is in good condition. You should also walk around the entire work area to make sure any potential obstructions or non-essential equipment or even people are clear of the work area. A daily inspection checklist includes checks for loose bolts, excessive wear on clutch and brake parts, and any other defected or deformed equipment. While operating the crane, make sure you have clear communication with people on the ground who can help guide you and warn you of any potential hazards.

Pros & Cons

Railway cranes are incredibly useful when it comes to accident management and general railway maintenance. Instead of having to transport a crane or use other machines to do tasks such as laying track or installing signals, you can simply use a railway crane to do the job for you.

They can be used by a small number of workers, meaning you can save on manpower as well. When it comes to working in a goods yard, however, railway cranes are often replaced by stationary or mobile cranes because they are larger, more powerful, and more efficient. Railway cranes tend to be smaller, and thus incapable of moving larger loads.