The railroad crane, sometimes called a wrecker or breakdown crane, is a type of railroad car used for one of three primary purposes: freight handling in yards, track or right-of-way maintenance and finally accident recovery work. Although there are some minor design differences according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating operators crane body mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. Most traditional cranes are moved by a locomotive, although self-propelled cranes do exist to permit limited movement about a work site. Finally, for cranes with a boom (or jib) that extends beyond the length of the chassis, a idler or boom car is provided to protect the boom and to allow the crane to be coupled within a train. An idler car is usually a flatcar or a old converted freight car taken out of service and converted to be a boom car.
For Lionel, their style of the crane car is closest to the track maintenance crane. The early 2460 crane car with a die-cast base and prototypical six-wheel trucks is closest to a prototypical track maintenance crane of the postwar era. Additionally, Lionel offered many types of idler or boom cars to compliment the crane such as the 6262 weel car, the 6362 rail truck car and many plain flatcars.
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