Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Catching the MLC300 crane at Microsoft in action

I've already discussed the MLC300 that is helping to expand the Microsoft server farm in Northlake, IL. We had our first day in 2019 when the temperature got into the 70s on April 8, so I celebrated by making another trip to see the crane. In case they eat lunch from 12-1, I timed my arrival for 1pm. When I got there, it was obvious that they had removed some boom segments from the luffer jib that morning, and hopefully they would soon be loading them onto truck trailers. Note in the photo below that the truck is carrying a second flatbed trailer. I've seen that before when I watched a Liebherr crawler crane get disassembled and hauled away between Midnight and 7am one Sunday morning.

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Once again, I'm going to start with the ending because it is the most interesting action that I saw.
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Since nothing was happening when I arrived, I did my usual walk of first getting photos on the other side of the street, which is right next to the tollroad barrier. Then coming back close to the fence.

You can see the tops of the removed boom segments that they will be loading and hauling away.
These two service trucks and the tractor truck for the flatbed trailers were labeled Central Crane.

 How is that for a "glint shot?" I don't own Photoshop. If I did, getting rid of that billboard would be an interesting homework problem for Photoshop.

Another "boom in the clouds" shot when I got back to the gate. I wonder if those streaks are airplane cantrails. O'Hare is just north of here. That is, it is behind me. We normally don't see cantrails in the Chicago area because the planes are low for landing. They keep the planes that are going cross country out of this area.
Last Winter, the aperture of my 18-50mm zoom lens broke wide open. I ended up replacing it with an 18-200mm zoom. Here I'm taking advantage of the 200mm setting to get a closer shot of the front of the crane. While they were backing up the trailers onto the mats, I went back to my van to get my tripod.
I had not noticed the mats the first day that I visited. I had assumed that a concrete parking lot was a good enough footing. But I looked around, and they have laid mats over all of the parking lot.

Now that I have video editing software, I took segments of video, cut out the boring parts, and "glued" them together into one video showing the afternoon's action. The segments show:
  • 0:00  I got the camera set up on the tripod in time to catch them lowering the hook. I threw away the video after the hook was below the billboard because it went down very slowly from there. The operator is lowering the hook to the side to pick up the four-strap rigging we see in the subsequent segments. The green fork lift is the source of the beeping. It was carrying loads from the rear of the building to the door in front of the building. And we will see, and hear, it in subsequent segments.
  • 0:29  Lowering the rigging to hook it to the trailer that is on top of the trailer.
  • 0:52  Lifting the trailer and setting it on the ground. One advantage of having the camera on the tripod is that I din't have to worry about my arms getting tired while holding the camera. And I had topped off my battery before I left for this trip. So I just let the camera run. Note the tag lines at the front and rear on the right side of the trailer. After the hook is raised, I decided that the slow descent of the hook is because the luffer jib is being lowered to extend the radius from the trailer that is close to the crane to the boom segment that is further away from the crane. Obviously, a side shot of that action would have been better in theory. But, in practice, because of the billboard and the traffic on the road, it is probably better to use your imagination of the luffer being lowered. Note that the fork lift waits until the major crane motion is done. At 3:33, you can hear a jet overhead that is climbing away from O'Hare. At 3:59 the hook is raised again to provide more room to lower the jib further.
  • 4:12  I resume with the rigging close to the first boom segment. At 4:17, you can see how the boom of the forklift can be extended. Cranes are like draw bridges, the last few inches take much of the time. That is why I let the camera run until the rigging went slack. When the boom segment is close to the trailer, you can see some hand signals just above the boom at the far end. 
  • 8:39  For the second segment, I switched to taking photos except for the last part where they nailed the landing on the trailer.

Here are the photos of the lift of the second segment.


In the 4:12 segment, you see someone at the office talking to someone. He was the driver of this vehicle that had just pulled in. (The man in the yellow safety vest is the man that walks along with the forklift as an extra set of eyes that can look around corners and let the forklift driver know if the coast is clear.)

After they were done loading the boom segments, I went to the rear of the building to catch another crane in action. They were loading cabinets into the building directly from a truck. I assume these are the cabinets that hold the racks of processors for the server farm.
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While I was back there, I caught a couple of UP locomotives moving in Proviso Yard. The second unit is #673, a GP38-2/GP38N (EMD) built in January 1980. It was a former Missouri Pacific loco. [The Diesel Shop] And this is a lesson to not delete photos. I deleted the shot I took before this one because it had only part of the first loco. But the number of that loco would have been visible in that photo. It is covered by weeds in this photo.

On my way back to the front of the building, I noticed they had parked a trailer with a segment until the tractor truck can come back for it. According to Google Maps, Central Crane has three sites in the Chicagoland area, all on the south side. It looks like this one is the destination for these boom segments. I noticed the web site provided in Google Maps is

 Since some of the workers were goving on the bus, and...
...other workers were having a meeting, I knew it was close to quitting time. I wondered, since the luffer was now shorter, if they would park it in the jackknife position. After all, a 570' crane wasn't jackknifed overnight, and bad weather was predicted for the next day. But I waited in case they were going to lower the luffer. I'm glad I did wait because they did lower it. See the video near the top of these notes. I then got another set of photos of it in the jackknifed position. It looks like the luffer has been reduced from about three times the length of the main boom to "only" about twice as long.

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