When Were Cranes Invented? A History of Construction Cranes

When Were Cranes Invented? A History of Construction Cranes
When Were Cranes Invented? A History of Construction Cranes

The crane is a device used to lift heavy objects and transport them to difficult-to-reach places. This machine has been developed, upgraded, and configured in many ways over the centuries.

Crane History

The crane was invented around 2,000 B.C. by the Ancient Egyptians. The crane was used to load and unload cargo. When it was first invented, it did not look like the modern crane, although records of later models looked similar in design.
Next, Greek engineers improved the crane and created a version that could move around on wheels. It meant that the crane’s mechanical advantage could be increased.
Centuries later on, during the Roman Empire’s golden age, there was also an improvement on this original design in the metal-working industry. A crane that could pivot had been developed, which meant that one could use it to lift heavy loads rather than just objects conveniently located at the end of a rope.
While there have been improvements on this design over time, it is essentially the same primary machine. The first crane was invented in Ancient Egypt about 2,100 B.C. and is essentially a device that allows objects to be raised from the ground or moved from one place to another.

Crane Evolution

The first actual crane that we would recognize today was created by a Frenchman named Trebuchet in 1344. His crane had a simple design, consisting of two tall structures known as the crane’s legs and a winch. The winch controlled the side-to-side movement of the wooden platform; however, contrary to popular belief, this crane could not extend upwards.
Over the years, manufacturers began to mix Trebuchet’s design with others to improve it. The legs of the crane became more developed, while more powerful winches and gear-operated gear wheels were added to control the movement of the wooden platform.
In the Industrial Revolution, they further improved upon them: it was common practice to couple a steam engine with a crane to lift heavy loads. It meant that the crane could lift impressively heavy loads. The steam engine was also able to lift heavy loads when other methods proved unsuccessful

Early Design

Trebuchet’s early design had several limitations; his machine could not extend upwards, and its side-to-side movement was not powerful enough.
Many manufacturers improved Trebuchet’s design over the years, which led to the creation of the ‘modern’ crane. The crane’s legs became more structured and added a winch to control the platform. This platform gave more stability when lifting heavy loads.
The size of a crane has also grown over the years. The first steam-powered crane was simple yet could lift heavy loads; however, it could not extend upwards. Many manufacturers made improvements to this design to extend upwards and lift even heavier loads. It added another element to the crane’s flexibility, with the ability to reach previously impossible areas for a crane to access.

Cranes in Today's World

Today, cranes are mainly used for lifting heavy and awkward objects. They can be found on construction sites and industrial estates, where they are used to lift materials such as large bricks, pipes, and steel into place. They are also used in shipyards to lift machinery into place; they can also lift containers and other cargo onto ships before leaving port.
The modern crane’s design has not changed much over the years; in fact, many of the designs resemble Trebuchet’s original design. They are powered by a steam engine, which provides their lifting strength. The steam engine draws power from an electric power source and is usually situated on a safe platform away from the material it is lifting. The steam engine is attached to a winch, which controls the movement of the crane’s platform. The steam engine can also use different gears to change the speed of rotation and lift force.
The cranes that are used on building sites are usually smaller than their industrial counterparts. They have a short reach and are usually capable of lifting to 100 tons; however, larger versions can reach over 160 tons. These cranes can be used in difficult areas for other means of lifting, such as cliffs and steep slopes.

Mobile Cranes

They lift materials on construction sites. Their role is to lift bricks, metal pipes, and blocks into place. The crane may also be used to move materials on the construction site. Check out our mobile crane hire.

Light-Duty Cranes

They are used for lifting materials that weigh up to 100 tons crane. They are usually suitable for lifting materials during construction and come in handy during road works and other landscaping projects. They have a short reach and operate on either compressed air or a diesel engine.

Heavy-Duty Cranes

They are capable of major lifting operations on industrial sites. More giant cranes are used for construction sites and can be seen on roads and building sites and during road works. The crane’s role is to lift heavy loads; however, their size means that one can only use them in planned areas.


Over time, crane designs have evolved and have developed from the simple lifting machines of early times. The evolution of the crane in its modern form has been a process that has included minor modifications to the original design over time, with each new model always retaining key features from Trebuchet’s original design. Crane hire is still a common requirement for many construction businesses.