Our initial business of right of way clearing gradually migrated over to power line and pipeline construction which, of course, required cranes and Sidewinders or Pipelayers, as we called them. Before we knew it we had the basic equipment necessary to rerail cars and engines. This was about the time the major railroads were retiring the large rail bound derricks and I sensed an opportunity. With a background in engineering and a penchant for tinkering with something I designed and built a hi-rail system for my largest crane.
Most derailments require moving cars and engines and in the past the Sidewinder was king. It soon became apparent these tractors, including my own, were extremely limited. They were being used in a capacity never intended. They could not rotate with a load, they had poor flotation, and their lifting capacity, and counterbalance were lacking. The market offered no remedy so I decided to engineer a derrick with a specific purpose, derailments. Beginning with a basic excavator frame assembly, the “Big John” derrick was developed and has far surpassed all of our expectations. It’s wide and long undercarriage, coupled with awesome brute lifting capacity and very high drawbar power make it the machine of choice on a derailment.