Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki

Me (right) and my mate Eddie as apprentices in 1978 standing next to a P125 prototype at the Vickers AWD Jones Cranes at South Marston near Swindon based works. Eddie was in the machine shop and I was involved in the construction of the machine behind us, at the time this chassis was being sold to the MOD as the C567.

A 1980s Iron Fairy Six Diesel yardcrane at Finning UK the Caterpillar distributor for the UK

A 2015 IRON FAIRY IF15AT 4WD Diesel Hydraulic Mobilecrane

A 2015 IRON FAIRY IF15AT 4WD TDI Hydraulic Mobilecrane

Iron Fairy was the Brandname for a very successful range of mobilecranes and yard cranes that were designed and built by the British Hoist & Crane Company Ltd (or BHCC Ltd for short) a small crane specialist from Compton a village near Newbury in the countryside of West Berkshire, England the company was active until 1983. They were founded and started in 1956 by ex Coles Cranes staff a technical quartet who wanted to start a new independent mobile crane engineering operation of their own and sold hundreds of different crane models each and every one of them are all described in the Model Range.

The Brand was happily resurrected in the late 1990s from a brandnew factory at Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire. The same hometown where another historic firm called Mercury Trucks Ltd (1936-57) were once based there before.

Company history

IRON FAIRY is the brand of mobile crane of many types entirely developed, built and marketed by UK firm BRITISH HOIST & CRANE COMPANY LTD (or BHCC Ltd for short) and were based in rural Compton in West Berkshire on a large site acquired by this company to build wheeled mobile cranes and yard cranes starting in early 1956 and today as of 2012 are currently operating in West Yorkshire.

The name was adopted by a group of ex Coles Cranes Ltd engineers and designers who were Reg Keats, Arnold Hallsworth, Gordon Innes and Ron Millyard who have left Coles in 1953 to start creating and designing their own models and the group later opened BHCC British Hoist & Crane Company Ltd the manufacturer of every original IRON FAIRY mobile crane and yard crane built.

Their models were normally named after precious stones and materials such as Sapphire, Onyx, Zircon and so on with few exceptions on some models as described on the model range list below. Though just newly founded BHCC Iron Fairy firm made all its crane range based on complete technology of the 1970s with deep influences inspired from Coles Cranes Ltd such as reliable diesel engines, full hydraulics use, with dual steering, front wheel drive or rear wheel steering and even orbital 4WD with 4WS on some models. Mechanicals employed were usually a huge choice of diesel and Turbodiesel options sourced from Ford, Perkins , Bedford, Leyland, Cummins Engines and Newage (a rare UK designed and built) diesel engine. Later after a proud successful sales career of the very popular IF Sapphire mobile crane and IF Six yard crane new larger and later heavier models were launched in association with another engineering company called Vickers AWD Ltd a manufacturer of cranecarriers from South Marston near Swindon in Wiltshire who also worked closely with AWD Ltd of Camberley in Surrey. AWD were involved in vehicle conversions with several other UK lorry and tractor companies such as Bray, Foden, Jones Cranes Ltd a regular customer and Leyland Trucks to name a few. So their main work at AWD Vickers was converting their own standard road models with go-anywhere All Wheel Driven axles in 4x4, 6x6 or 8x8 modified form for offroad use and Vickers AWD Ltd also constructed medium to large cranecarriers for most UK brands of several cranetrucks and mobilecranes so they got closely connected and deeply involved with BHCC, Iron Fairy, Jones Cranes and Smith Cranes regularly.

BHCC Ltd were receiving huge orders and sold hundreds of their models, demand was plentiful for heavy cranes although they tried to keep active, this small firm could not handle or compete with other UK giants Coles Cranes and Jones Cranes who were too advanced with much bigger and superior mobile crane production and developed engineering but that didnt stop BHCC IF to keep them busy in production and were doing well into the early 1980s.

The threat of other makes arrives

BHCC workers outside the factory

The very complicated and nerve grating 1980s UK crane industry was disturbed all of a sudden by American, German, Italian and Japanese mobile crane brands and other smaller brands that were also slowly entering the market and most of these were available with the modern high technology fully hydraulic operation for steering, slewing, jib turning and jib closing nearly all newcomers makes and models using good mechanicals but superior modern hydraulics as they were often with all-wheel drive and fierce mobile crane competition was quite obvious those days from 1980s to mid 1990s and that became a very struggling time for our domestic general crane manufacturers John Allen & Sons Ltd, BHCC Ltd, Redler Conveyors Ltd, Coles Cranes Ltd, Jones Cranes Ltd, Ransomes & Rapier Ltd , Priestman Brothers, NCK Rapier and Lambert-Hydrocon Ltd so clearly some were no match to them or forced to close down and either they vanished or were swallowed up by larger firms or survived due to large capital investments sums that saved them.

BHCC LTD are rescued & relocated

Although BHCC IF LTD were frequently receiving good orders Iron Fairy crane production was soon ceased and were closed within a few months in 1983. Meanwhile a separate Northern firm called Crane Travellers Ltd. of Shrewsbury who supplied special finished parts for and were working closely with the larger Jones Cranes company. Crane Travellers Ltd were makers and designers of complete parts, bits and pieces who also stored in their premises several stockparts new and used for most domestic brands of many other construction vehicles and mobilecrane/yardcrane makes of most British manufacturers in Shropshire and they managed to slowly restart IRON FAIRY mobilecrane models being built again and assembled under licence granted by BHCC so another reasonable variety of readybuilt 135 IF Opal units, 111 IF Sapphire units and 56 IF SIX units more were made and remained in production here under the legal name of IF IRON FAIRY using many local parts now based in Shrewsbury reusing an old steel foundry with assembly line where these bestselling mobile cranes were now made and that kept BHCC-IF LTD brand name active and they remained busy for the next years by the late 1980s part of the old model range the IF Opal, IF Sapphire, IF Garnet and IF Six yard cranes the last models all ended their careers here under full Crane Travellers assembly and control.

Jones Cranes Ltd rise & fall

Main article: Jones Cranes

Then their big rivals called Jones Cranes Ltd based in Letchworth who were in the crane making business since 1938 and earlier, they soon bought the firm Crane Travellers Ltd and became the industrial partners of JONES (BHCC were the true owners of IRON FAIRY name so they kept unharmed) so once they united the whole operation was moved again South to the huge busy Letchworth factory site where every single Iron Fairy crane unit was now made entirely within Jones Cranes premises and control where most models were re-engineered entirely and plenty of machine upgrades were done on them for 1991 after some 30 years barely untouched with very little improved construction and technology employed on the IF models and every Iron Fairy mobile crane made there were now branded as "JONES IRON FAIRY".

Sadly Jones Cranes Ltd could no longer remain active in the crane manufacturing business for there was too much competition involved and they too were forced to close in mid 1994 due to serious financial difficulties which were the main cause of their demise just like other British brands of cranes. However there were still two UK firms that could compare with them: the giants of Coles Cranes and Grove-Allen Ltd. the Anglo-American crane operation formerly known as the John Allen & Sons Ltd of Cowley Oxford now under new American Grove control and management who rebuilt their old factory. So both Coles Cranes and Grove Allen still kept trading but most of the other UK brands weren't able to survive in the cranemarket and many were closing down.

Besides Coles and Grove other manufacturers just about resisting the sudden arrival of foreign hightech machinery invading the UK cranemarket, there were a few strong domestic brands around still active like NCK, NCK-Rapier, Rapier and Preistman Brothers all of them were specialist crane manufacturers or large crawler cranes based in industrial North England and were both still selling dozens of their models everywhere they were taken for sale. They latter suffered from imported Japanesse and Korean built fully hydraulic models taking there market share.

They were suddenly joined by another manufacturer with a grim past that caused a tremendous surprise on the entire UK cranemarket returning in 1997 unfortunately not reliable Lambert-Hydrocon LTD.

The revival of BHCC Iron Fairy Ltd

The Iron Fairy brand was resurrected in 1995 by Severnside Machinery Ltd, a mechanical engineering company from Bradford who acquired the trade rights of the original IRON FAIRY trademark.[1] The company has two years later brought back one of England's best known crane names having restarting model production from a brand new modern factory site at Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire, a county traditionally known for general machinery industry where BHCC IF LTD presently undertakes production of several new generation IF models. The company building a redesigned and uprated Iron Fairy IF Series the Iron Fairy Onyx 4WD crosscountry go anywhere mobile crane plus the larger IF Cairngorm 4WD go anywhere cranetruck and also the smallest and famous the IF Sapphire all 4 now built with late 1990s technical improvements and modern construction methods. The rest of the original old BHCC-IF LTD range from the 1970s and 1980s have not been resurrected.

The JONES / IRON FAIRY name returns

Until recently in 1999 the British brand of Jones Cranes Ltd were too rescued by a successful family owned and run mechanical engineering business of South England with a 25 yearlong experience in the business were able and managed to reopen their original factory but only for assembly rebuilding and reconditioning unfinished and abandoned large crawler crane models of Jones own original design and construction using mostly spare parts found around waiting in the factory warehouse some had previously made by JONES here and other parts made in 1994 by former business partner Crane Travellers Ltd stocked in before their demise.

Southdown Engineering / Jones Cranes

Main article: Southdown Engineering

The once great Jones Cranes Ltd trademarque and traderights were soon acquired by a small company called Southdown Engineers Ltd a family run mechanical engineering business based near Albourne in West Sussex who have just resumed production in Letchworth too but new and old JIF mobilecranes are now carefully rebuilt and assembled at their Albourne factory site and several new models have included a few IF Six and IF Garnet with new parts fitted. They also carry on work on rebuilding, reconditioning and repairs to any Coles Cranes units they get.


IF Mobile Crane

1956-1964 - This was Iron Fairy's first ever model built, a four wheeled basic machine with Fordson tractor mechanicals and steering, a drivers seat on the right and levers for raising and lowering the loads beside him using a large T shaped jibmast designed to lift any loads up to 5 tonnes very common on yards and farms. Available with or without a weather cab and also had optional rear wheel steering or front axle steering and big wheels.

IF Six

Main article: Iron Fairy Six

1961-1978 - A very much improved new bigger model the IF SIX was the first useful yardcrane with twin luffing cylinders, new hydraulic slewing jib, closed drivers cab in the middle, rear wheel steering and front axle drive with truck axles and wheels. Power was now a British Newage 6-cylinder diesel engine and as its name says it could lift anything needed up to 6 ton loads and some 1000 units were quickly sold for lightwork everywhere in the UK.

IF Garnet

Main article: Iron Fairy Garnet

1973-1978 - This model was a large useful yardcrane and was a further development of the smaller IF Six model still with front wheel drive and rear axle steering but featured several new parts like new cab, power steering, a new hydraulic 360 degrees turning jibmast system for raising lowering and turning, powered by a new Ford Diesel Lorry 6-cylinder engine similar to those fitted on FORD D-Series trucks of that decade and could lift anything heavy at 10-12T.

IF Tourmaline

Main article: Iron Fairy Tourmaline

1973-1978 - This was the manufacturers first ever new cranetruck model powered by Leyland TD 6-cylinder engine and mechanicals for extra power at 246 bhp with optional version using Ford Diesel engine as fitted to the Ford Custom D-Series lorries of the same period. The IF Tourmaline could lift 12T resembling a large Jones KL1010 6X6 mobile crane because of its design and construction but built on a 6x4 carrier. The wellknown Vickers-AWD Limited company developed further and became Iron Fairy Tourmaline AWD with 6WD axles, which was a very rare model option.

IF Sapphire

Main article: Iron Fairy Sapphire

1971-1980s - This model was the most famous of the entire range and the most successful mobilecrane sold in thousands with a front cab with controls and steering, rear mounted cranejib and mechanicals, four hydraulic outriggers and also hydraulic operations inside the cab with roofcab opening hatch for entry/ exit for the driver and on later units a large protective rollbar on the front of the cab. The IF Sapphire was heavily influenced on a Coles Husky crane unit with standard large wheels and power was a Perkins Diesel 4 or 6-cylinder engine or a Ford 6-cylinder Diesel/TD engines both with 5 speed gearbox and could lift around 10T.

IF Opal

Main article: Iron Fairy Opal

1973-1980s A further development of the IF Sapphire but with AWD axles fitted with a new cab using the same mechanicals and options of the IF Sapphire but also with a new Leyland 6-cylinder TD engine and Leyland 6 Speed gearbox. They became very popular with the British Army and the RAF for any 10T lifts and they were only finished in dark green or grey.

IF Cairngorm

Main article: Iron Fairy Cairngorm

1977-1980s This whole new concept was developed entirely by BHCC-IF alone using a new genuine crosscountry chassis with several new parts such as 4 bigger hydraulic outriggers, power steering, Allnew larger cab with fully glazed roof and sliding doors with full crane controls using 4 levers, including both 4WD/4WS for the first time in an IF model ideal for use on sandy uneven and rough terrain work using tractor type wheels. The new IF Cairngorm was a true unexpected good seller as they were sold everywhere for forestry work, scrapyards, harbours and 100 units bought by the British Army and RAF. Most of them used Cummins Diesel V8 with Leyland TD V8 option. They could handle any heavy loads until 15T lifts and carry them anywhere and everywhere thanks to its good 4WS and 4WD traction.

IF Onyx

Main article: Iron Fairy Onyx

1973-1978 - This model was a closer version of the IF Cainrgorm but without the new 4WS (Four-Wheel Steering) system and it could be bought with optional Cummins or Perkins 6-cylinder Diesel and more powerful Leyland TD 6-cylinder with optional automatic or manual transmission using 4WD axles was co-developed by Vickers-AWD Ltd of Bilston. These could lift and carry 12T loads anywhere and it could be driven or used everywhere largely because of its cross country developed chassis and light construction.

IF Amethyst

Main article: Iron Fairy Amethyst

1972-1980 - Built jointly by BHCC-IF and Vickers-AWD this was the first large Iron Fairy crane truck using many new parts such as a low Motor Panels Cab fitted, inside were new hydraulic crane controls, with front dual-steering and one rear axledrive layout with four new external hydraulic outriggers for stability. Another new extra was a rearmounted crane controlbox with 4 levers for all the crane moves fitted with a new longer hydraulic powered telescopic jib. Designed to tackle general lifting work it could carry any large 12-15ton loads. A common model found working in rail yards, scrapyards, boatyards and harbours in the UK. Power was a choice of 6-cylinder Bedford TD, Leyland TD, Cummins Diesel V8 engines and also Scania TD 6-cylinder engines, all of these could be used though some IF Amethyst units were built with automatic transmission using an American Clark powershift option to special order.

IF Zircon

Iron Fairy Zircon

Main article: Iron Fairy Zircon

1973-1978 - Another new IF cranetruck made by Vickers-AWD together with BHCC it was a model based on the IF Amethyst crane but built with a new crosscountry 6WD chassis made by Vickers AWD Ltd powered by Leyland 6 cylinder TD engine and gearbox linked to a 4 speed transfercase box for sandy or uneven surfaces and terrain. IF Zircon now used 2 cabs one for cranedriver beside the jib on the crane itself and a normal front oneman halfcab. This whole new modern Iron Fairy featured 3 all driven heavy duty axles the front one was both steering-driving and the rear two axles were driven. Another version the V521 used a lower new cab with front dual steering and the rear one was axle-driven. The allnew IF Zircon V531 6WD was built alongside the IF Amethyst as they both shared several major mechanical component parts. The IF Zircon model was fully hydraulic for any 12-15T lifts and was able to be driven anywhere.

Iron Fairy 500P

Main article: Iron Fairy 500P

1975-1983 Resembling very much like a normal Cowans-Sheldon Ltd heavy railway crane model of the same decade the IF 500P was their very first and only railway service crane to be launched by BHCC-IF Limited who in conjuction with Jones Cranes developed and produced them entirely for British Rail Co Ltd, the State-owned National Railways who placed a large order of the IF 500P model intended to replace both the steam powered old Ransomes & Rapier and also the Taylor & Hubbard railcranes of the 1950s or ealier. The IF 500P was capable to lift a maximum of 50 tonnes hence its  "500P" name meaning these new railcranes could tackle any needed work up to 50 T and used extensively for several tasks in railway lines & railway yards all over Ireland and the UK sharing the same mechanicals used for the more popular Coles Ranger Rail 18202 model usually a powerful Cummins Diesel Straight-six lorry engine with automatic gearbox. The new IF 500P model was usually found coupled to a British Rail 12 wheeled waggon standard gauge used as a platform for storing its long lattice jib and this was also useful for moving freight trains and could be moved backwards or forwards when hauling goods every now and then. This crane could perform 360 degrees turnings and was able to perform work needed from any angle.But the IF 500P railcrane was never very popular after 1980 as Coles was the most common railway crane available and found but by 1983 Jones Cranes had produced an improved hydraulic larger version based on the original Iron Fairy 500P. 

Iron Fairy MK6 Yardcrane

Main article: Iron Fairy MK6

1972-1976 This model was one of the first most successful Iron Fairy models available which was designed & manufactured by BHCC-IF to date except its running gear. It was built using other parts sourced from other independent English manufacturers. The IF MK6 yardcrane was sold in great numbers during its career and it was incorrectly called the Fordson Yardcrane because it was also Fordson engined, however it really was an original Iron Fairy MK6 model. Powered by Fordson Diesel Major Straightsix tractor mechanicals and steering, it also shared many parts from the very popular Fordson Major tractors of the period. Rear mounted mechanicals and a new angular wide one-man cab for easy access was fitted.Once inside the IF MK6 the driver could control all the crane hydraulic movements that also powered the 17m long non slewing jib for any 10 ton loads making this another original model for the time. Later IRON FAIRY MK6 models were also available with alternative running gear.


Add your Iron fairy Crane photos here;

See also

References / sources

External links

sites with images of Jones Cranes