Silo Hotel crane operator has best seat in the house

Sky-high: Crane operator Allan Dickenson at the controls of the 25 tonne tower crane at North Bank. Picture: Paul Scambler

Sky-high: Crane operator Allan Dickenson at the controls of the 25 tonne tower crane at North Bank. Picture: Paul Scambler

Crane operator Allan Dickenson says he has got the best office in Launceston – sitting 50 metres above the ground at the Silo Hotel development.

“If there’s anyone that’s got a better one they can come and show me,” Mr Dickenson said. “But up this high, looking over the Seaport, down the Tamar and at Penny Royal, I reckon I’ve got it made.” 

The 64-year-old operates the 25 tonne tower crane working at Errol Stewart’s North Bank hotel development.

Mr Dickenson said on a clear day he could nearly see the Batman Bridge but “when she’s all fogged in, she’s a little dark”.

The climb to the cabin takes several minutes – depending on breaks to catch your breath – and involves 230 ladder rungs.

“When I first started I’d only go one or two floors and the old heart was saying ‘you better stop and have a rest’ but I’ve been going a bit further now and I get up in one stop. It takes me 10 minutes or so,” Mr Dickenson said.

Mr Dickenson, who has been operating cranes since 1988, said the Silo Hotel tower crane was the biggest he had operated in Tasmania.

Reach for the sky: Climbing 230 ladder rungs takes you to the tower crane's cabin, 50 metres from the ground. Picture: Paul Scambler

Reach for the sky: Climbing 230 ladder rungs takes you to the tower crane's cabin, 50 metres from the ground. Picture: Paul Scambler

“It has got 70 metres of boom out there and you can go around 360 [degrees] so there’s a lot of area you can work within.

“If we sat this in the middle of Aurora Stadium we could nearly do all that work in the area of the oval.”

The Chinese crane arrived in 15 containers and took two weeks to piece together, anchored several metres into the ground.

The crane, which will be used to lift concrete panels weighing between three to 12.5 tonnes among other tasks, can lift up to 25 tonnes.

“Out at 70 metres, we can pick up 4.7 tonne and in between, 40 or 50 metres, [it can lift] about nine and a half tonne.”

A computer shows when the load limit is reached and automatically cuts the power if the operator tries to exceed it. When weight is put on or taken off the boom, the cabin rocks gently.

The glass-floored cabin has air conditioning for warm days and a radio for communicating with ground crews or workers in the cage.

Construction manager Craig Wood said weather had impacted work in previous months but the build was going ahead smoothly.

Construction manager Craig Wood

Construction manager Craig Wood

“Within six weeks we will be all out of the ground,” he said. “All the footings will be done and we get to start to do columns and cut out holes from now on and up we go.”

The $16 million development is expected to be finished by December 2017.

Mr Dickenson said he was looking forward to seeing the completed project and how it would join up with the Seaport and Josef Chromy’s Penny Royal redevelopment.

“Even though I work for Errol Stewart, what he’s done around here with the Seaport and creating work for all the blokes, it’s a credit to him, he’s a man with a vision. As well as Josef Chromy, between them two blokes they’ve made Launceston a nice place to be.”

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