Tag Archives: assembly

Building a Tower Crane

Tower cranes are ubiquitous in big cities.  The only way to construct tall buildings, there are the sign of a prosperous city when there are lots of them.  They can be a nuisance when you are taking photos of a skyline of course since they interrupt the flow of a cityscape.  You seen them all the time but you don’t often get to see how one is assembled.  When we were watching the tower construction across from our building in Chicago, we got to see the cranes being put together.

The first thing that is needed is a big crane!  Got to have a crane to make a crane!  The base was put in place and then the cab was lifted into place.  From this, the elements of both booms were lifted and attached.  Then the counterbalance weights could be added along with the machinery to do the lifting work.  It was fun to watch it all go together and to see the guys walking around on the structure once it was in place including all of the bracing elements.  Once the crane is complete, there is a sleeve section that allows the inner section to be slide up and a new section to be inserted.

Two cranes were built for this project.  They were both within the footprint of the building so it grew around them and they grew above it.  There was never terribly much of the crane exposed above the building so it was well supported.  One of the crane operators on this project used to take his camera up.  He had a great selection of images from up there with all sorts of things going on a round him and some incredibly variable weather.  I will have to see whether those images are still available online.

Tower Bridge

C59F0290.jpgLondon is full of iconic landmarks but possibly the most famous one is Tower Bridge – even if not everyone knows what it is really called. When taking a walk along the South Bank, it would be rude not to head to the bridge to see it in the evening light. The area also includes the London Assembly building which looks like a giant egg. The comparison with the modern architecture and the gothic style of the bridge is pretty interesting. I have never managed to get a shot of the bridge when it is open and this trip was no exception. If you want to do so, they do publish the opening times in the paper so you can make an effort to be there.

C59F0321.jpgOur time by the bridge was just before we went up the Shard so we had a chance to get a different perspective on the bridge from above a little while later.

Merchandise Mart video

In a previous post I showed some images I took at the Midwest Helicopters lifting job at the Merchandise Mart.  As is normal for me these days, I also took the time to get a bunch of video and, finally, I have got around to editing this.  I wanted to focus a little more on the guys working on the roof rather than just the helicopter operations.  Of course, there is still plenty of footage of the flying too!  I hope you enjoy.

Up a Big Pole!

Today we have a bit of a flashback.  Regular readers will know that I shoot a lot of helicopter operations.  Midwest Helicopters is the large local operator so they do most of the work in the city.  However, there other operators that undertake similar work and some of them will work in Chicago at times.  This is often a function of the weight of the loads to be lifted.  Construction Helicopters of Howell MI are one such operator and their S-61N aircraft can lift 10,000lbs – a big increase over the 4,500lbs of the S-58T.  If you need even bigger things lifted, Erickson Aircrane are probably your people!

This piece, though, is not about the helicopter so much as the people it was working with.  A few years ago, the Trump International Hotel and Tower was built here in the city – in fact just across the street from us.  We had the best seats to watch the demolition of the old Sun Times building and the growth from a hole in the ground to 92 floors of building.  It was fun to watch, even if it did take a chunk out of our view!  The building was topped off with a spire.  The parts for the spire were lifted to the roof by the construction cranes before they were assembled but it was going to be significantly higher than the rest of the building so those cranes were not suitable for assembling it.  The pieces would be lifted into place by helicopter.








The first attempt at this was unsuccessful as the winds were so strong that keeping each piece in place long enough to secure it proved impossible.  There was a long wait before the second attempt but the job finally went ahead.  The heroes of this story are the guys on the tower.  If you think that the tower itself is over a 1,000′ tall and the spire is a significant (and flexible) structure above that, you can see that this is quite an exposed location to be working.  From talking to the team that assembled it, the most senior guys are the ones at the very top – they want to be there.








Three guys were on the spire at the top.  As each section was brought into place, they grabbed the tag lines and pulled it into position.  When they had located it, they would put in a bolt in each corner.  Then, one would climb up the new piece to release the lifting line.  The other two would follow while a second group came behind them to insert the additional bolts to finally secure the section.  While they were finishing that off, the next piece was coming in.








To add to the fun of this, the spire narrows as it gets higher so the working space gets progressively more limited.  All the time you are dealing with whatever wind conditions there are at this height combined with the not inconsiderable down-wash from the helicopter and trying to make sure you maintain your grip and don’t drop anything on the team below you!

The job ran a little long but they did finish it off and put the final cap in place.  They seemed to do a great job but were so far away from anyone else, I suspect that very few people appreciate exactly what they had done.  It was only recently as I was culling a bunch of old images that I looked again at them as saw exactly what they were doing.  I feel guilty for paying more attention to the helicopter operations when I first shot the job so decided to give them a little publicity now.  Well done everyone.