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The Fascinating History Of Lifting Equipment

Crucial within all manner of industries, and coming in many forms, lifting equipment ensures heavy and bulky objects can be transported, lifted and moved with relative ease. Of course, some of the most recognisable and iconic structures or buildings throughout the world wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for lifting equipment, and some of the monumental developments through the years have meant that cranes, hoists and more have completely transformed the way in which industries function. 


Your trusted hire experts and industry specialists, let the Macsalvors team guide you through the fascinating history of equipment, covering everything from the early versions of modern utilities, to modern interpretations and future possibilities.


In Basic Terms

Lifting equipment varies in size, use and practicality, with many interpretations of modern equipment requiring specialist training and equipment to operate properly. Nonetheless, common lifting equipment includes hoists and lifts, while cranes and the many variants of the traditional lifting crane make up some of the most frequently used utilities in the modern day. Operated manually or with motors, to assist with the vertical and horizontal movement of heavy loads, cranes are an essential in many industries.


Professionally, modern cranes and lifting devices are used for the loading and unloading of ships, trains and trucks, though they are also used within structural engineering and within the construction industry predominantly. In 2024, cranes have also been adapted so they can be either land-based or used upon vessels at sea, while they can also be mobile and movable for convenience - or permanently installed in one spot, and deconstructed once they have been used.



Interesting Origins 

The origins of lifting devices as we now know them is hard to trace, though we can safely assume that many of the ancient monuments erected thousands of years ago were constructed thanks to early interpretations of lifts and cranes. Built from stones that are unbelievably heavy. Stonehenge for example was made up of giant stones weighing tonnes, which would have been near-impossible to move manually. It would have likely taken considerable effort and some form of prehistoric sled or hoist system.


The same mystery surrounds ancient structures worldwide, including Puma Punku in Bolivia, Qin Shi Huang's Tomb in China and Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. The prevalence of these heavy stone formations is suggestive of an early device which would have been capable of lifting huge amounts of material otherwise impossible to hoist with human strength alone.



Ancient Equipment

Responsible for many inventions and early examples of machinery, the ancient Egyptians were recorded to have used crane-like pulley systems in order to extract water from rivers, depicted in drawings and recorded through time.It has been speculated  too that these same systems may have been used in the process of constructing the pyramids, while remarkably, similar systems are still used in areas of modern day India and Egypt to this day - longevity indeed.


The very first cranes recorded as being strictly used for construction purposes are often credited to the ancient Greeks - utilised in the construction of iconic temples and structures still in place today. Some of these smaller early cranes may have used animal or human strength to lift weights. It was during this time that the term ‘crane’ may have been coined too. The appearance of the lifting device, with a vertical column and boom pointing at an angle was seen to mirror the long neck and beak of a standing bird.



Roman Adaptations and More

Like many inventions and ideas the ancient Greeks proposed, the Romans adopted the use of cranes for their own construction needs and furthered them. The Romans significantly increased the mechanical advantage of available lifting equipment, which allowed them to carry much heavier loads and consequently work on larger structures. This saw the construction of many recognisable formations including the iconic Colosseum in Rome. 


It is widely accepted that The Romans shaped modern culture with numerous monumental buildings, and much of this was thanks to their grasp of the innovative equipment adapted from Greek ideas. After the fall of the Roman Empire, their ideas for functional lifting devices were repurposed once again. Northern European societies grew, which saw a significant increase in the number of large structures being built, at which point the treadwheel was essential in helping to build Europe’s large Gothic castles and churches.


The Industrial Era

The industrial revolution ushered in a huge amount of change, and as the UK embraced innovation at scale, cranes played an important part in the evolution of society as we know it. Maritime trade grew, with harborsides becoming hubs of commerce and trade, therefore to make loading and unloading even quicker, maximising profit for those involved, harbour cranes were adapted to allow an improved level of horizontal movement and manoeuvrability.


One of the biggest adaptations during industrial times was the invention of the steam-powered crane, a peculiar change that would shun manpower in favour of engines. Almost any load could be lifted via the steam crane as long as the engine powering it was capable, and combined with iron bodies and wire ropes, similar developments and smart adaptation of existing equipment would ensure that the UK and its European neighbours were able to dominate trade across the world for decades proceeding.





Modern Developments

Today, cranes and lifting equipment are used across a huge range of industries, while hoists and winches come in a range of sizes and styles. We have mobile cranes, tower cranes, crawler cranes, telescopic cranes, rough-terrain cranes and many other variants to rely on, each with unique advantages. The prevalence of hire companies means that construction stakeholders as well as those in other industries can quickly and effortlessly come about their preferred model too, with minimal commitment or expense.


Safety will play a major role in the future of cranes and lifting equipment, as will expense and sustainability. As the construction industry faces increasing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint, eco-friendly innovations in crane lifting equipment are gaining traction understandably. Take the hassle out of renting crane lifting equipment with our range of plant hire services. If you’ve already got a crane model in mind, or if you’d like more information about our crane hire solutions, we’re here to help



Macsalvors: Your Reliable Crane Hire Experts

Macsalvors (Plant Hire) Ltd are your expert mobile crane company located in Newham, Truro, but serving the wider region. Ensuring we always meet specific client requirements, we offer a vast selection of all terrain cranes, low loaders, compact cranes, mini spider cranes, crawlers, and HIAB lorries as standard. Our aim is to get involved at the earliest stage of your project, and help you to choose the correct kind of crane for your tasks. 


Once we understand the details of your project, we can advise you at every step, from the specifics of how much each of our cranes can lift, to discussing the hire process in more detail. With our crane hire service packages, you will receive a fully-fledged 24 hour service that is inclusive of emergency breakdown and recovery, so why not take the hassle out of renting crane lifting equipment by contacting us today.



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