model train set on track

Review: Dorfan Crane

e*Train Issue: Mar 2002   |   Posted in:

by Brad Kaplan

One of the most sought after train accessories is the Dorfan crane. Dorfan had a problem with the diecast metal they used, and, if you can find the original, chances are parts will be missing or cracked due to metal fatigue. It would probably never operate, and, if it did operate, one would not dare run it.

T-Reproductions has taken on the task of reproducing this crane. It came in what was one of the largest boxes I have yet seen. The crane is HEAVY. The base, legs and boom are all diecast metal and the cab is sheet metal.

I never have had the opportunity to try the original, but, comparing photographs, this is a faithful reproduction. T-Reproductions actually sacrificed an original $4,000 crane in the production of this piece. They sent the crane to their manufacturer in Korea in good working condition and received it back in pieces. This one original had to be sacrificed to give us all this incredible reproduction.

The only difference between this and the original is a can motor is used instead of the original Dorfan motor. The motor is housed in the red container on the base, and cannot be seen unless you lift up the crane. This is a worthy sacrifice to reduce the cost of the piece.

The clutch drive mechanism and the motor control is an exact replica of the originals. The blue/green control box has a lever that controls the direction of the motor. Then the silver shaft in the middle spins at a high RPM speed. One of the levers off the shaft controls the movement of the hook and the other controls the spinning of the cab. To raise or lower the hook, or reverse the direction of the cab spin, you have to switch the direction of the lever from the blue/green control box.

My question then became, how much weight the crane can lift?

The original Dorfan catalogs said it could lift any Standard gauge engine so I figured I had to put it to the test. I put a Lionel #10 under the hook and it lifted without a strain. I got a lot of nice pictures of this. I then figured I would try a 408e, which is the heaviest standard gauge engine Lionel made. The motor did not strain at all on the crane. The crane slowly started flipping itself over (The crane must weigh over 20 lbs so this is no easy feat!). I obviously stopped this. There are mounting holes in the base of the crane but I was not ready to screw the crane down, so I used my hand to hold the base of the crane as it lifted the 408e! It lifted without any trouble at all. The motor did not strain at all. My concern was if the rope would hold the weight of the 408e or snap.

I was not able to get that great of a photograph of this since one hand held the crane and one hand held the camera. When I was ready to lower the 408e, I hit the wrong lever by mistake and the cab started going on its 360 swing to my horror with the 408 rocking back and forth through the air! I promptly hit the proper lever to stop the cab rotating and lower the 408e.

I examined the crane in detail to find any imperfection, and I could not find any flaws at all. The fit and finish is 100% perfect. The crane is available exclusively from T-Reproductions for $795.

Tel: (877) 271-9448