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Cranes, Trains, and Automobiles (Oh, and Big Ships, Too)

Spike the crane
Photo by: Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority

Muddy and Spike may sound more like a Saturday morning cartoon, but once the pair of high-speed, high-efficiency cargo cranes swing into action this summer, the Austrian-made twins will transform Toledo’s docks forever.

Big Lucas and Little Lucas performed well, steadfast, and true for decades. Now it’s time to retire those cranes to the big scrapheap in the sky. Their progeny will be twice as productive, handling bulk, break bulk, project cargo and containers. These cranes will modernize material handling capabilities at the Port of Toledo and are the only twin cranes of this type in operation at any Great Lakes port.

The Wonder Twins, named after Toledo’s two minor-league mascots, are seen as the centerpieces of the region’s cargo-handling resurgence.

The hope is to draw more trains to Toledo—and bring in big ships. Not just the Great Lakes freighters we see every now and again steaming down the Maumee River. But the big boys: ocean-going vessels that carry those box-like cargo containers you see on the trains that stop traffic numerous times each day on McCord or Holland-Sylvania—speeding through Toledo on the way to somewhere else.

Why? Because we couldn’t handle them…until now.

Spike and Muddy will load and unload those bad boys on and off ships, trucks, and trains. Port authority officials hope it’s part of a riverfront renaissance.

They’ve bet heavily on this poker hand, using $35 million of Uncle Sam’s federal stimulus money. Which, when you think about it, is your taxpayer money. So you’re betting this hand, too.

But port officials would rather you see it as an investment, rather than a gamble.

One that means jobs—logistics jobs, transportation jobs, warehousing jobs, construction jobs.

Spike and Muddy are big, strong boys—140 feet tall, weighing in at 240 tons each. They can each bench press 84 tons in one lift. But it’s about the repetitions—and those mobile harbor cranes can turn up to 1,000 tons per hour. They can even work in tandem to increase maximum lift capacity.

They’re quick and agile for their size, too. They run on rubber tires, where Big and Little Lucas relied on rail for their weightlifting.

But Spike and Muddy are hardly the big bullies on the block. Wait until you see their neighbors in North Baltimore—the REALLY big boys. Those five wide-span cranes are so big that it took 215 subassemblies and 65 container loads of parts to bring them to Northwest Ohio.

Those new ultra-efficient neighbors won’t be far away—less than 40 miles from the Port of Toledo. Their new home is the new Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal being built by CSX. Guess you could call’em Spike and Muddy’s Austrian cousins, because if all goes well, they’ll be working together—a lot.

This is where the automobiles from the headline fits in. The aim is to take advantage of our natural and geographic assets—land and water—to diversify our economy away from the auto industry. That will still play a part. With our shipping capabilities, it is hoped we can attract more auto parts manufacturers here—meaning even more jobs, manufacturing jobs.

Get to work, Spike and Muddy. There’s a lot riding on your massive shoulders. Hope you can carry that load, along with all the other stuff coming and going at the Port of Toledo.