Sennebogen Turns over America's Largest Mobile Coal-Handler to Midwest Generation

Midwest Generation formally accepted the keys to its new SENNEBOGEN 880 EQ counterbalance crane to launch the new barge-unloading operation at its Crawford Station in Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL - Erich Sennebogen Jr., Managing Director of SENNEBOGEN GmbH, recently joined Brenda Brock, Plant Director at Midwest Generation's Crawford Station in Chicago, and her project team to formally present the key to the station's new 880 EQ counterbalance coal-handling machine. Also taking part in the presentation were Constantino Lannes, President of SENNEBOGEN LLC, and Tom Ellis, General Manager of Howell Tractor, the regional distributor of SENNEBOGEN equipment.

Weighing in at more than 220 tons, the crawler-mounted 880 EQ is said to be the largest material handler now operating in North America. The machine is one of SENNEBOGEN's recently developed equilibrium models, which features a fixed counterbalance design to increase its reach and lifting capacity with minimal stress on the boom system.

With the inauguration of the 880 EQ, the barge unloading facility at Crawford Station on (Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal) finally returns to normal operation after its 50-year-old trailing tower crane was toppled in a wind storm in August, 2008. During his presentation, Sennebogen acknowledged the excellent support Howell Tractor provided to Midwest Generation through a 15-month period since the incident. "We are a global company; but we work closely with local partners like Howell. They are the arm of SENNEBOGEN reaching into the local region. Our customers rely on close local support and service, and our partners rely on close support from SENNEBOGEN."

Just a few days following the presentation, the firm's commitment to factory support was punctuated by the opening of a new 54,000 sq. ft. parts and training facility built by SENNEBOGEN LLC in Stanley, NC.

Building the case to go "green"

According to Cliff Maltase, BOP Specialist at Midwest Generation who coordinated the purchase of the 880 EQ, the station had been unfamiliar with SENNEBOGEN "green machines" prior to the summer storm. The station's first priority after the storm was to shore up the wrecked gantry to prevent it from tipping over completely into the river. Then, says Maltase, three teams where formed, one to establish a temporary unloading dock. This team was lead by Dale Morris, Crawford's Maintenance Planner. Two teams were established to investigate solutions for restoring the plant's unloading capability. "For the old technology, we ran costs from the OEM, from making repairs to completely replacing the unit. And at the same time, there was a parallel group looking at the new technology."

The second group investigated a wide range of alternatives, from hydraulic cranes to bucket unloaders to vacuum and screw-type unloaders. "It was capacity and dust control that really took the bucket unloader and screw unloader out. The vacuum type has the capacity but they didn't hold up to scrutiny. It came down to this (the EQ 880) and another company. There's a lot of machines out there right now in this industry, a lot of computer-controlled machines. Our team felt that we didn't want to go in that direction; we wanted something very reliable, and this machine stuck out. It was the SENNEBOGEN reputation for customer service that really pushed it over the top."

Howell makes a first impression

Through the time that the Crawford project team was searching for solutions, they had the opportunity to observe SENNEBOGEN service first-hand. As a stop-gap measure until the new facility was designed and installed, unloading duties were performed by a SENNEBOGEN 870 M model.

The Crawford facility needs to unload coal every day, delivered by barge, to meet the demand for electrical power. A coal stockpile is also maintained to sustain the plant through the terminal's downtime and through peak demand periods. Arrangements to get the 870 M to Crawford were made by Phil Linoski, the Area Manager for Howell Tractor who specializes in crane equipment.

Although the 870 M is smaller than Midwest Generation required for its permanent solution, Linoski and the Howell service team, helped Crawford's staff get through a full year with the smaller machine. "They were working hard!" says Maltase. "You have to give those Howell people full points for service."

A simple choice

Phil Linoski met with the project people and we started off looking at the standard 880 material handler. We realized that the Crawford terminal needs more reach to handle the barges two across. "That's when I suggested the new EQ-type crane. They were a bit skeptical, because they had heard of problems with some other counterbalance cranes, but they were assured from a number of sources that the SENNEBOGEN machine was something completely different!"

While the new 880 EQ with a 16.5' pedestal at Crawford Station is the first equilibrium crane commissioned by SENNEBOGEN in America, the manufacturer has 20 similar units operating around the world in various configurations, in ports from Russia to Taiwan. Unlike most equilibrium cranes which use a sliding counterbalance, the SENNEBOGEN design uses a fixed counterbalance design. Typical of SENNEBOGEN engineering, the EQ is simpler, with fewer moving parts and better control over stresses on the boom and undercarriage. The Crawford unit is fitted with a 12-yard clamshell and has a maximum reach of 100'.

Out with the old, in with the new

Once they decided on the 880 EQ as the preferred machine for Crawford station, the Midwest Gen project team turned the task of rebuilding the terminal over to Midwest's Mike Connelly and the erection of the 880 EQ to Gary Hammond, the Service Manager at Howell Tractor and his crew. "It was quite the project;" Linoski reports. "Midwest contractors had to tear down their existing crane, redo and configure their belt system, remove the old lighting standards and bring in new electrical lines. They pulled out a large section of conveyor to erect the new hopper, then built a concrete pad beside it to park the new machine."

Delivery of the 880 EQ was scheduled for mid-November but actually arrived in mid-October. Assembly began the third week of October and Gary Hammond recalls, "There is nothing special about getting an equilibrium machine running; nothing different. It's all mechanical erection, you just run the power in. It was just the logistics of getting people in and out; getting the cranes moved in with all the people working around us, and doing it all safely. Having said that, the assembly was a challenge even with the two experienced SENNEBOGEN factory people from Germany since this was the first one erected in North America.

Actual assembly of the 880 EQ took just seven days. "We put in some pretty long days. We had a lot of lifts. When we set the upper section up on the pedestal, it weighed 153,000 pounds. We had a 300-ton crane on one end and 160-ton crane on the other. It was an interesting assembly, I'll say. And it rained... every day!"

Keeping pace

When all equipment and supporting systems were complete, the machine was placed into service on November 17, 2009, and the 880 EQ has been running two shifts a day, seven days a week, since then. Cliff Maltase admits that introducing the equilibrium crane in place of the traveling tower meant a significant change in daily operations. "It's all new to our operators here, but they've done a really great job," he says. "The traveling tower was the only technology we ever knew - it was installed in 1959!"

"The operators are, at approximately 35 feet above the dock, getting comfortable with the SENNEBOGEN machine now. They're also learning the winch system at the same time. The tower used to move, not the barges. The operators had their routine down, to lift the load and move along at the same time - it was second nature. They're approaching 800 tons per hour now, so they're getting a better feel. 900 tons would be better, but they'll get there. It's just a matter of stick time."


SENNEBOGEN has been a leading name in the global material handling industry for more than 58 years. Based in Stanley, North Carolina, SENNEBOGEN LLC offers a complete range of purpose-built machines to suit virtually any material handling application. A growing network of distributors supports SENNEBOGEN sales and service across the Americas, ensuring the highest standard of professional machine support and parts availability.

For more information on the full line of SENNEBOGEN green line material handlers, contact:

Constantino Lannes, President


1957 Sennebogen Trail (formerly 7669 Old Plank Road)

Stanley, NC 28164

Call toll free: 1-877-309-0099

fax (704) 347-8894

E-mail -

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