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Steam Breakdown Crane RS1054/50

This crane, a Steam Railway Breakdown Crane, was built for the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) under Order number 5111-13 of 30 May 1930 by Cowans Sheldon of Carlisle. It was shedded first at Motherwell in Scotland, moving on to St Margaret’s in 1961 and finally Haymarket, near Edinburgh in 1966, before making the journey south to Didcot in 1987.

Cowans started building and supplying railway cranes in 1892, with a lifting capacity of 10 and 12 Tons, but larger ones of up to 36 Tons capacity were built in the 1930s and some were subsequently strengthened to 50T capacity, ours among them.

These cranes were used to lift heavy loads, such as locomotives and carriages involved in crashes or derailments. They ran on the track and were towed to the job before being detached from the train and making their way to the actual lifting scene under their own power. They were also capable of lifting other railway-related objects, such as bridges and lengths of rail.

The crane can lift loads of up to 12 tons without the need for the outriggers to be deployed; this is known as operating ‘free on rail’. For loads beyond 12 tons and up to 50, the crane must be stationary and the outriggers deployed to spread the load as shown in the photographs.

The small 4-wheeled trucks at either end of the crane itself are the ‘weight-relieving (or Stokes) bogies’. They are able to take a proportion of the weight of the crane itself to permit the consist to travel over rail capable of taking only light loads. The axle load of the crane itself with the bogies attached is between 12 and 13 tons: without them, the load rises to around 20 tons per axle.

Target date for return to operation 2020

The Steam Railmotor's boiler ticket expires in February 2021 and the only machine on site at Didcot that is capable of lifting the boiler out of the body is our 50 Ton Crane, RS1054/50. The target date for the return to operation and allow for crew-training, therefore, is June 2020.

The Didcot crane is currently being restored to working order and the following items are major items of expenditure needed before he can operate again:

New steam pipes
c. £500
Water tanks and coal bunkers c. £5,000
Hoist rope
c. £5,000
Load-cell (We will need it for the insurance test-loading)
c. £1,500
Steel sheet for the Weight-relieving bogies
New tools
c. £1,000
Electrical system
Boiler (dependent upon results of a formal inspection by our insurers, a sum in the region of ….)
TOTAL £46,100

Graphic of Crane lifting bags of money

Please help if you can and be part of this important piece of the country's heritage - Let the crane lift your money!

Thank you to all who entered the Summer Draw, which raised a net sum of just under £10,000. Please support our fundraising by completing one of the options below.

How you can help

If you would like to make a donation to assist with this important project, please click on the link below.

Download the 50t Steam Crane appeal form (68 kB .pdf document)


Alternatively you could set up a Standing Order (111 kB .pdf document) to make regular contribution to the fund, but don't forget to Gift Aid (31kb .pdf document) it as well if you can!

Whatever help you are able to give will be most welcome and will move the Project forward considerably towards final completion.

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