This heavy duty lifting crane is a fine example of the typical “big hook” found on all but very minor railways in North America. Usually there was an auxiliary outfit stationed at every mainline terminal and some branchline points when conditions warranted it. The auxiliary was available on very short notice for dispatch to any point within its designated territory to attend to mishaps. Clearing the line was of utmost importance in order to restore service as quickly as possible.

A collision sometimes only involved crew members, but a passenger train collision compounded the problem. It was then that the crane and the people who manned the auxiliary were put to the test, clearing wreckage away gently but quickly in order to allow removal of passenger casualties.

The crews who manned the auxiliary were all specially trained and assigned to it, and were on call at all times. Engine and train crews were pulled from assignments still in the terminal or else were called as soon as possible depending on the situation.

The shops always had an engine available for just such occasions. The assigned crew, the grub, and the locomotive were assembled and could be underway in as little as thirty minutes. Since wrecks often involved injury or death, the survival of an injured person relied heavily on the prompt dispatch of the auxiliary to the scene.

The crane was also called upon to do routine chores found elsewhere around the railway such as maintenance, but these other uses were not as high a priority. Authorization was required from division officers – including the chief dispatcher – whenever the services of the “hook” were required for these other lower priority duties.

(Our special thanks to Ken Parker, whose father worked this crane, for providing additional information.)


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The Museum supports the efforts of Canada’s railways to promote safety. We highly recommend that our guests also visit the Operation Lifesaver website. There you’ll find more information about rail safety, including in-person presentations, videos, and other resources.


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