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HJR Customized Lionel O Gauge Conrail Trackside MOW Gantry Crane

December 31, 2022

Here is a very interesting project for the O scalers out there. As some of you may know, ShowMyHobby has had a consigned Gantry Crane up for sale for about four years now. What makes this crane so unique is that the state I received it in was never previously made by Lionel. Yes, Lionel makes Gantry Cranes. They make some that are very similar to this one and some might even say they make better ones than this one. But, they did not make this particular combination. What I received on consignment appears to be a combination of 2 different items available from Lionel. Item #1 is the trackside gantry platform base which is part of Lionel’s Command Control Trackside Crane. Gantries are structures built typically to straddle over a track or other workspace. Item #2 is the Crane from a Conrail Command Control Crane Car by Lionel. Apparently, someone removed the crane from the car and placed it on top of one of the gantry platforms. I received the gantry crane as 2 detachable pieces: the crane and the gantry. Until about the middle of December, 2022, I only displayed this crane for sale at train shows. Quite a few people have looked at it over the years, inquired about it, and even shown a little bit of interest in it. But, thus far, no one has purchased it. So, to increase the exposure and let even more people know about this interesting gantry crane combination, I decided to list the item for sale on around the middle of December, 2022, which also listed it on eBay.

Here are some pictures taken of the gantry crane combo before I started upgrading it and making it work:

I took pictures of the Gantry Crane combo practically the first week it was consigned over 4 years ago. I have taken other pictures of it over the years too. Finally, wanting to sale all of the big Lionel O scale train items in my inventory, I put it up for sale online as a 5-day auction using some of the pictures I have taken. I think 2 people added it to their watch list on eBay. I’m not certain how many people looked at it. The listing was very lengthy full of my observations and some of my history of the item plus a little bit of the information that I could piece together about it from Lionel and the internet. As the item didn’t come with any type of power source or control methods, I didn’t have an easy and convenient way to test the item. Additionally, in the previous 4 years, I just had not invested the time to dig really deep into this item. To me, the crane looked attractive, and I felt as if it could probably be made to work. I promised in the write-up of the first listing to take the time to pull out my multimeter and a 9-volt battery and check whether or not the motors inside the crane actually work.

Finally, early morning on 12/21/2022, I pulled this item out of storage, weighed it, and took the time to try to test the crane electrically using my digital multimeter. I wasn’t able to get any readings or feedback at all from the 4 contact strips located underneath the round base of the crane. I unscrewed the diecast metal shell from the frame via 4 screws underneath it. As I looked around inside, I saw 4 horizontally positioned motors.  I could also see why I couldn’t get any readings using the multimeter.  There appears to be a missing PC Board or DCC decoder as I could see several plugin connectors that must plug into something that should be inside the cab shell.  I also could see an on-off switch that is accessible via one of the sliding doors. I originally thought this might be an On-Off power switch or a switch that turns on the lights. I would learn later the true purpose of this switch. There were no connections between the contacts on the bottom of the crane’s base and the motors inside. The missing board would provide those connections. Hence the reason my meter returned no feedback.

I also noticed the gears that engage with the motor that rotates the crane 360 degrees has 1 gear that is spring loaded.  It looks like that gear is designed to engage and disengage with the main drive that rotates the crane. When disengaged, the motor runs but no rotation occurs, plus the crane can be manually turned by hand in this mode. By default, the gear is disengaged.  When the gear is engaged, the crane can rotate 360 degrees when the rotation motor is turning and the crane cannot be rotated freely by hand in this mode.  Whatever causes the sprung gear to engage/disengage was not present inside the cab of the crane. Apparently, this is something else that is missing. I could push the sprung gear into place with my hand but of course, it didn’t stay in place when I took my fingers off of it.

In the process of turning the crane upside down and removing the shell, some of the strings that represent wire cables slipped off a couple of the pulleys and at some point, the large hook fell off the pulley assembly that shuttles the hook up and down. Eventually, I would also notice that there is a set of metal cross braces missing from the boom. Additionally, both lights are missing. I can also see 2 trigger switches that appear to activate at the maximum extents of the boom. My guess is those trigger switches are supposed to stop the boom from electrically moving too far and causing harm to the motor when it is in operation (provided the PC / Decoder board is present). I updated the listing with some of these details including suggestions on how I felt someone buying the crane might be able to get it working.

After the auction expired without receiving any bids, I decided to delve deeper into the suggestions that I made within the listing regarding ways a buyer might get the crane operating.

Here are the suggestions that I made (slightly updated into numbered steps with part numbers and links):

A couple days went by after the auction ended. Christmas arrived. I wanted to get this Lionel Gantry Crane combo working. relisted, and sold (as quickly as possible). So, I did some more research and followed some of my own suggestions. I visited Lionel’s parts website to see if they have parts available for either the crane car or the gantry crane. The first time I did this, I found a crane car, but not the Conrail Crane car. When I looked at the list of parts for the crane that I thought was similar, I didn’t see any available parts that were needed. I mostly saw large sub-assemblies. It could be that I was looking at the wrong item. Who knows?

On the day (12/30/2022) I started writing this article, I searched again (to obtain links) and found the actual Conrail Command Control car. Lionel does have some necessary parts available that I suggested might exist. They did not appear to have all the necessary parts available to make this crane combo work, especially the way I felt would be the quickest and easiest way to get it up and running via TMCC. Additionally, the parts are somewhat expensive. There may come a day when they have all the necessary parts available again. I have already spent a good amount of money replacing parts and upgrading other items consigned by the same consignor of this gantry crane. Most of the repaired or upgraded items have been sold. However, an S scale Lionel American Flyer Minneapolis & St. Louis Baldwin Diesel Switcher locomotive that now runs absolutely great using the newly replaced parts from Lionel also has not sold yet. It too has been listed online for at least 2 to 3 years. So, feeling a little bit discouraged with the switcher’s selling results, I am unwilling to put hundreds of dollars into this crane to purchase the Lionel replacement parts that I suggest would work. {Little did I realize that I would invest thousands of dollars of my time in getting this crane to work and relisted.}

I located examples of Lionel’s trackside crane. They have made many different crane models over the years. I have seen some of their older models with their own wired controls. The gantry Command Control Trackside Cranes Lionel is selling now have decoders in them and work with their Legacy Control Systems. I found a video of someone at Lionel demonstrating the operation of the Command Control Crane Car with the use of a TMCC Cab-1 remote and command base. The model being demonstrated is the Burlington Northern crane car and includes the RailSounds Boom Car as well. The boom car has a sound module in it. I have searched for parts for both the trackside crane and the crane car. Seeing the video and reading the online manuals for all of the aforementioned items explained exactly how the original Conrail Command Control Crane car should work. The instructions for the crane car include details about how the pulley strings should be arranged and about the lever inside the car that prevents the crane from rotating. Lionel states that the crane should be in free-rotation mode during transport such as shipping the item probably to prevent the rotation drive gears from getting damaged. Research also revealed that the switch inside the cab is used to switch between Run and Program modes of the decoder that is supposed to be inside the crane and/or to allow the car to operate on standard AC track powered layouts or Command Control layouts. Armed with this updated knowledge, I reexamined the Gantry Crane combination that I am selling by taking apart the rotating disc underneath it. There I discovered that it is not possible to run any wires up through the rotating base of the crane to make it operate. Only with the Decoder board installed can communications through 3 wires that can be attached to the rails allow for remote control or any physically disconnected control of the crane. This would make my previous suggestions of someone creating their own trackside motor drive practically impossible to implement.

However, all this research brought about the following additional suggestions:

On Christmas Day, I decide to binge-watch the 4 Home Alone movies. While doing so, I pulled out the Gantry Crane combo. I updated the listing on my site again but didn’t have my site relist the item on eBay. As I wrote more and more about how to get the crane car working, I realized that the reason this item probably isn’t selling is because no one wants to buy it and then have to do what is necessary to make it work. So, I made the decision to MAKE THIS TRACKSIDE GANTRY CRANE Combo operational. Why did I do that? Well, I feel like this: If the crane car works and I can show people that it is working, then perhaps people will have more interest in it and I can soon give it a new home. Little did I know that making the crane work would take up nearly 40 hours of my holiday time.

Pictures of some of the odd items that I used to get the Gantry Crane combo to work:

Starting Christmas Day, 2022, late afternoon, I committed myself to a new TRAIN PROJECT with Getting this Gantry Crane combo working as my goal. The steps I took are as follows:

1. I thoroughly examined both pieces. The gantry platform is in great shape with no discernable issues. The crane, on the other hand, has a few issues. My overall assessment of the Gantry Crane on Christmas Day is as follows:

2. To make the crane work, I wanted to use materials and items that I had on hand since ordering anything would delay my progress. The materials I felt I would need are identified below:

3. The first thing to fix was the missing lever that controls the rotation of the crane across 360 degrees:

4. I decided to create a control box for the crane:

5. The next objective was to come up with a way to deal with the missing work lights at the front of the crane:

6. The next obstacle to overcome is something that I have been concerned about from the moment I discovered that the 9-volt battery would actually sit inside the shell on the frame in the area where the Decoder board probably typically sits. In this step I needed to make a decision on how to get that battery to stay inside the shell:

7. In my head, I had already formed the idea that I would label the control box so that one can easily look down at the labels and know which switch controls which crane function:

8. Time to button everything up and put the shell back on.

9. I then TESTED all the controls. And to my dismay, 1 of the LED lights did not come on. I was shocked. I had tested things along the way during and after each step. So, I wondered what went wrong:

10. Time to take photos and videos:

Below is a video made of the finished Lionel Conrail MOW Gantry Crane combo. The video demonstrates that the crane is now working. It is up for sale here: O Lionel MOW Conrail Gantry Crane combo –

Battery Operated O scale Lionel Conrail MOW Gantry Crane for sale
The completed and working battery operated O scale Lionel Conrail Maintenance of Way Gantry Crane

Although I finished working on the crane pretty much on New Year’s Day, it is now the 15th of January 2023, at 2:17 AM in the morning and I am just now getting to this point in this documentation of what I did to the crane combo. Keep in mind that over the past 20 days or so, I have made many updates, edits, and revisions to the listing of the crane for sale as well as to this documentation. Sometime around 10:30 PM yesterday, I finally told my website to publish the auction listing on eBay which caused the listing on this site to refer viewers of the listing to eBay to make a bid. So, officially, the crane is now up for sale as a 5-day auction. You can view the listing here on my site and participate until it is sold: Lionel O Gantry Crane Combo for sale.

Here are some more photos of the crane that were taken during the construction of this project.

Listing as of 10:30ish pm, January 14th, 2023. Starting bid $250. Buy It now price: $500.

If this Battery-operated O gauge Lionel Maintenance-of-Way Conrail Trackside Gantry Crane combo interest you, visit the listing for this crane and make a bid on it or buy it now (before it is sold to someone else): Lionel O Gantry Crane Combo for sale.

Last Updated: 01/15/2023 @ 5:22 AM