Near my apartment is a building site with a tower crane; great fun to watch of course. This crane seems to have a lift / elevator / vertical-people-transporter (arrowed in the picture).
lift on tower crane

As far as I can see the lift is only used four times a day (morning-lunch(2x)-afternoon) which is no doubt very nice for the operator but this can hardly be cost-effective. I have seen the operator climb between the operator's cabin and the lift but never any other movement.

Probably there is some other reason for the lift, so what is it? Also, why doesn't the lift go higher? Currently the operator has to climb about 20m, I see no reason why the lift couldn't go 10m higher (the next floor).

PS Tagging was tricky and I don't have the rep to make a "crane" tag. Advice?

EDIT: In response to comments that it might be a climbing crane, added hi-res photos with lift down. There's also a photo with lift up on https://i.sstatic.net/yT6bn.jpg; I don't have the rep to add a link to it.

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    $\begingroup$ If this is a 'climbing' crane there are special complications at the upper end that allow it to jack itself up and insert another mast section. These may limit the travel of the elevator to the penultimate mast section. $\endgroup$
    – BobT
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Also, at the base of the penultimate section there is something more substantial for the lift occupants to stand on when they exit the lift, rather than just a ladder - which is probably enclosed in a "tube" for safety which prevents you getting onto it except at the top and bottom. (The purpose of the tube is so that if you have a problem while climbing you can just lean out and support your back, until some help arrives.) $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ As @BobT said, this could be a climbing crane. While it's not very tall (as far as tower cranes go) now, it could be able to more than double its' height. The operator could probably climb up the crane via ladder now, but the ascent becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous as the crane's height increases. The crane would therefore be designed with this elevator in place, and so it isn't worth the bother to remove/replace it when the crane isn't particularly tall. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ @BobT as far as I can see the crane is static and never changes its height. I googled "climbing crane" and I don't think that this is such, it's on a regular building site for an 8-storey apartment block. I watched it being built (using a road-riding mobile crane); and it looks straightforward to my (electronic engineer's) eye. By that I mean that the tower, beam, counterweight and so on are in what I see as the logical places. I'll try to get some telephoto shots. $\endgroup$
    – NL_Derek
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I've never been on a tower crane.

My logical guess for the elevator stops a distance below the operator cab is two-fold:

  1. Safety - ample distance is required for the elevator to make a safe stop shall equipment malfunction occur.

  2. The elevator is limited to reach an elevation that won't interfere with the crane operation, and the ancillary equipment around (hydraulic jacks, hoses, electrical panels...)


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