The brief history of lifting


The ancient Egyptians were the original masters of construction.  The earliest pyramid dates back to the 27th Century BCE (before common era/BC). The exact techniques for the building are speculation.

The Mesopotamians are credited with devising a system for hoisting water as early as 16th Century BCE.

The Greeks and, specifically the mathematician Archimedes, are credited with inventing the principles of leverage and the block-and-pulley systems around the third century BCE. They’d previously used ramps.


The Romans finessed the idea in the early first century. These techniques were used until the late sixth century to lift heavy stone blocks to build their temples, monuments, infrastructure etc.


The French introduced the treadwheel crane, in the Middle Ages, to help build cathedrals and castles.


The modern-day crane is a truly global effort, integrations of the latest technologies implemented into increasing the efficiency and safety of lifting. 


Modern cranes - what is an overhead travelling crane?

An overhead travelling crane consists of a cross beam [fixed/bolted] to two, end carriages which run on two, long, travel rails which may be supported by the building structure or freestanding on columns.

With an electric hoist on the cross beam, it gives means you are able to move loads in six directions:  up, down, left, right, forward and reverse. 

A hoist unit on a runway beam gives you four ways to move a load:  up, down, left and right.

The overhead crane’s origins in England lie in the 19th century, during the industrial revolution, the first use of the hydraulic crane was in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1847 by William Armstrong. In 1876, the engineer Sampson Moore, designed and produced the first overhead electric crane which was used to hoist guns at the gun factory of the Royal Arsenal in London.

The key integrations over in the modern era:


1.     Load sensors:  designed to override a hoist’s motion to prevent overloading to reduce mechanical wear and encourage safe lifting practices.

2.    Variable frequency drives (VFD):  used for creating smooth and step-less operation in all directions which in turn reduce mechanical stress in a crane.

3.    Anti-skew:  skewing not only damages the crane but also the rail and any other cranes on the rail. Anti-skew technology helps keep cranes running straight along the rail, reducing both wheel and rail wear.

4.    Sway control: this enables cranes to move more smoothly without swinging the load.

5.    Regenerative braking: this returns energy back to the electrical grid of the crane. As a result, cranes can operate using less electrical power. Regenerative braking has reduced cranes’ energy consumption by 40%.

6.    International standardisation:  ensures all cranes (both the original equipment and its accessories) are designed and function to a consistent standard.  ISO is accepted worldwide as the ‘guiding light’ standard but British custom and practice has led many of the continuous improvements which have led to the constant raising of those standards.

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