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Crane tip-over causes rail chaos

A German built 100 tonne capacity Kirow 810(UK) rail mounted crane belonging to Balfour Beatty Rail toppled over this week blocking two of the four rail tracks into the UK’s busiest station, Clapham Junction. The incident caused a huge disruption for main rail operator, South West Trains, and caused chaos for up to 75,000 commuters.

The crane was carrying out routine point replacement duties, lifting a 14 tonne load between Clapham Junction and Waterloo station when it toppled over. No one was hurt in the incident.

Specialist engineers from the Kirow factory in Leipzig, eastern Germany, later flew into London to help assess the cause of the accident. It is understood the crane’s computerised load management system which carries a record of all the crane’s lifting sequences will hold the clues as to what caused the crane to collapse.

The load management system is supposed to control the crane’s various lifting configurations, taking into account factors such as counterweight position and extension, outrigger location and degrees of rotation, in order to prevent such an occurrence.
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The Kirow 810 (UK) rail crane that collapsed at the UK's busiest rail station earlier in the week.

A Kirow official said that once engineers had downloaded data from the crane’s computer, it should be become clear what was happening when the crane collapsed and whether or not mechanic failure or human error played a part in the incident.

The Kirow 810(UK) is currently the largest rail crane in the UK and has numerous lifting configurations. With a horizontal boom and a fixed counterweight in-line with the tracks, the unit can pick and carry a load of 29.5 tonnes at a 20 metres radius through plus/minus 3 degrees slewing angle. In the same configuration but with outriggers set, the KRC can pick and carry a load of 29.5 tonnes, again at a 20 metres radius, but through a plus/minus 20 degree slewing angle. Maximum load with the boom elevated, the counterweight in-line and the outriggers set, is 100 tonnes at an 8 metre radius through plus/minus 30 degress slewing angle. It is also capable of working within a low overhead environment, as well as on banked tracks without the need for de-rating the crane.

* The UK’s Grant Plant also operates a Kirow 810C(UK), which was previously the largest rail crane in the country. In February 2003, Balfour Beatty Rail ordered a even larger capacity Kirow KRC1200(UK), which is claimed to be the world’s largest rail crane, capable of lifting 150 tonnes at radius of over 34 metres.

It turned out that the operator had overidden the overload system to reach a few hundred millemetres more.The crane was rented out on what were basically standard crane hire terms.