Our iconic red crane has seen its share of adventure.
For 24 years, a Manitowoc crane, affectionately dubbed “Big Red,” has traveled from one jobsite to another, assisting the company on various, high-profile projects across the globe. If cranes could talk, what tales it might tell!
Big Red’s story began in 1995, when it was purchased from Steel City Crane in Bessemer, Alabama. Its first overseas job was already on the books; Big Red was headed to help construct the new Ritz Carlton resort on the sunny shores of the Jamaican coastline. According to BL Harbert International’s Equipment Division Director, James Stone, shipping the crane was a challenge in its early days, “We had to completely disassemble it, put it on a boat, ship it to Jamaica and put it together upon arrival. We had to get everything in operation in just a matter of days.”
The crane remained overseas for a couple of years before returning to the United States, where it has worked on more than 20 projects in the southeast.
Stone says Big Red’s specialty is wastewater treatment plants. The crane has worked on multiple projects locally at the Ensley Treatment Plant, the Shades Mountain Filter Plant, and at similar facilities in Georgia and South Carolina.
Big Red also has an impressive higher education portfolio, having worked on several projects at the University of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Mississippi. Big Red’s relative maneuverability, lift capacity and size made it an integral part of construction for the Auburn University Basketball Arena and the Pavilion at Ole Miss.
As Big Red aged, there came a point came when its work schedule began to slow. As the company expanded into different markets and had fewer needs for the crawler crane, Big Red sat on the yard for nearly two years and all signs pointed to its sale.
But by fate alone, we never sold Big Red, and in 2018, BL Harbert began yet another project at the Shades Mountain Filter Plant in Birmingham where its services would be needed. The job team requested Big Red specifically, as it had worked well for the site in years past. So the BL Harbert Equipment Division set to work getting Big Red ready for its encore performance.
Big Red currently still towers over U.S. Highway 280 on the Shades Mountain Filter Plant project, standing at a minimum of 200 feet. Its easily spotted vantage point does more than catch the eye of passersby, however. On a daily basis, Big Red moves equipment and materials into and out of an existing clear water well, aids in the installation of large-diameter ductile iron piping, offloads equipment, and materials, and pours concrete via buckets on the extremely narrow site. It’s easy enough to contribute the project’s continuing success at least in some part to the work of our favorite red crane.
It’s true that over the years, Big Red has become more than a piece of equipment; it’s a special part of the company’s history and beloved icon as one of the few cranes still owned by BL Harbert International.