The Making of a container crane

(Part 3)


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The first light check turned out that the red blinking LEDs are working as I hoped. All three blinker have a different pulsating speed which is really a cool effect.

After finishing the booms, I was searching the internet for pictures of the trolley but it seems not much attention is devoted to this piece of the crane. I found some information from cabin manufacturers and pieced together a trolley that properly looks completely different than what Kalmar uses on that particular crane.

The cabin would be painted yellow outside and gray inside and after and equipping with glass and a Preiser worker, it would be glued underneath the cable motors. Unfortunately there was no way to add light to the cabin or the spreader since I could not find a place for a battery. The Kalmar model does not have visible cables like the old style do but it has a cable channel where the cable folds nicely when the trolley moves to the back of the boom. That did not work in the N-scale world but I did not want to give up on the manually moveable trolley.

The trolley part with the cable motors and the electric wheel was the toughest part to find pictures. My search turned out only two pictures, but luckily one was from the top and the other one from underneath. I doubt that it is even close what the Kalmar trolley looks like but it fits my crane.

The next piece was the spreader. There are many companies on the internet that advertise their products and I chose the one that was easily to built in my scale. A spreader is actually made of two pieces and the lower piece switched according what type of containers need to be unloaded. The pictured part is the piece that grabs the containers, in this case two 20 or one 40 foot, while the other piece is always attached to the cables and only moves the spreader up and down.

This picture shows the complete spreader with the top piece and the four cable rollers. The middle (loose) cable brings the power and control impulses to the spreader.

The last major pieces I needed were the wheels and wheel cases. I also had to borrow the case design from another crane since there were no close ups available from Kalmar . All wheels have brass wire axle and are moveable. I used round tubing for the wheels and cut a groove into the middle of the wheels for the track the crane will move manually up and down the docks. I also filled the cases with lead to make the bottom of the crane as heavy as possible. Although this is only a model, the Kalmar design is so well balanced that my fear of tipping over, was completely unfounded and all the lead in the bottom of the crane properly was unnecessary.

After finishing the last piece, and six month of work, and two years of research, I was so tired of this project that I stowed it away. The next day, the Greenlight Intermodal, a web site dedicated to N-scale intermodel modelers announced a contest in kitbashing and scratchbuilding rolling stocks and structures. This encouraged me to bring the model out again and continue my work. I glued together the two boom parts and connected the electric cables for those pieces. I also test fit the boom and the pillar.

This gave me to the first time a sense of the size of the crane and I had to realize that I needed to re-design the harbor part of my layout. The container storage area now became the new home of the crane since I did not want the back boom extend over the railroad tracks of the yard.

After I glued the boom to the pillar, I hooked up all the wires and added the last railings and stairs just to find out that I must have cut a wire to the flood lights between the pillars. After making sure that no wires were visible, I had to add a magnet wire on the outside and connect two LEDs to get the power flowing.

The last challenge was to paint the crane. The original crane is green with yellow wheel cases, trolley, spreader and cable rollers. I kept the yellow but used a nice blue, GTW blue from Polly Scale, which would really stick out of the gray fog of the San Francisco Bay . It took over two hours to airbrush every little detail and every overhang while trying not to hit the small detail pieces. I almost succeeded, almost. The railings over the Kalmar signs where ripped off while airbrushing the zig-zag staircase from all angles and had to be reattached and repainted. After a few coats of glossy finish, I applied the decals and added the yellow pieces. For cables I used the EZ-line from

The nice part about EZ-line is that it stretches without putting much pressure on the attached pieces. The cables that would lift the boom were installed in a few minutes and I had not problems to keep them tide which would have been a major undertaking with regular yarn or thin magnet wire.

The connection with between the trolley and the spreader took more time since I had to make sure that the spreader was perfectly level. The little weight the spreader has was enough to stretch the shortest EZ-line pieces. I will also add some weight in the container that will be hooked up to the spreader just in case.

I also added an EZ-line piece for the electric cable but this piece is kept purposely looser since in the real world it should not pulled tide or it could snap.

More pictures of the finished crane can be seen here Photo Page

I entered the Greenlight Intermodel 2007 Contest and the judges were so kind to award me the first place in the Scratchbuild category with the top honor of Best In Show.

Check out the 2007 Contest page for great showcase pieces of my fellow model railroaders.

 If you missed the 2007 Contest, Steve from Greenlight Intermodal has already announced the 2008 Contest and information can be found at

I have added 5 PDF files (4 with drawings and 1 part list) if you like to tackle this project. Some of the measurements are slightly off and I had to adjust them before I cut the profiles, but I did not update the files since I did not intent to build a second crane. You can download the Plastruct catalog from their web site.





Crane Part List


Next project: Kalmar Straddle Carrier

Roland Ruesch 2007

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