Engineer Tony Frost kneels as he works on a generator aboard the Quad Cities heavy lift crane barge.
Engineer Tony Frost kneels as he works on a generator aboard the Quad Cities heavy lift crane barge. (Photo Credit: Kelcy Hanson) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The Rock Island District’s newly christened Quad Cities heavy lift crane is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s million-pound lifting capacity makes it a useful asset to the region but the team of people operating and maintaining it on a daily basis make it a truly valuable resource.

The Quad Cities crane crew, made up of a master, operator and engineer, takes pride in keeping the vessel in a pristine condition. They are constantly inspecting and monitoring all aspects of the vessel to ensure its operational for years to come.

Anthony "Tony" Frost, who serves as the engineer for the Quad Cities, knows every working inch of the crane barge. His career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began May 2017 but he’s been serving in the military since 2005. Today, he continues to serve as platoon sergeant for a U.S. Army Reserve unit, in addition to working for the Corps.

Over the past 16 years, Frost’s military experience as a generator technician, heavy construction repairer and field maintenance team leader provided him with the training and mechanical expertise needed for operation of the Quad Cities. As the engineer for the Quad Cities, Frost spends most of his time behind the scenes in the control room, working on the vessel’s two, 150-kilowatt generators. Since the barge is a self-contained floating workstation and not connected to land-based utilities in any way, all power needed for operations must be produced on board.

“Generators are very valuable in this business,” said Frost. “My technical background of working on generators in the Army has greatly assisted me in my job for the Corps.”

Engineer Tony Frost kneels as he works on a generator aboard the Quad Cities heavy lift crane barge.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Engineer Tony Frost kneels as he works on a generator aboard the Quad Cities heavy lift crane barge. (Photo Credit: Kelcy Hanson) VIEW ORIGINAL
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Another one of Frost’s roles on the vessel is to control the movement of fluids. The barge can carry up to 53,000 gallons of fuel and nearly 10,000 gallons of drinkable water. It also has ballast tanks where river water can be added or removed to provide stability when performing a heavy lift and keep the vessel balanced while underway. Most of the barge is operated by touch-screen computers, while equipment such as valves can be turned on or off with the touch of a button. This is a major upgrade from the previous heavy lift crane barge owned by the District and helps with ease of operation and offers added safety features.

When asked about his favorite part of the job Frost’s response, without hesitation, was “the view.” But he was quick to offer additional benefits he enjoys about the work and traveling the river.

“The scenery, the things we do, different places every day and we get to travel from New Orleans to Minnesota,” said Frost. “The work we do is fun and it is a blast being an engineer on a barge.”

When it comes to daily operation of the Quad Cities, Frost plays a key part in keeping the vessel up and running but when the barge arrives on-site for a job, crane operator Cary Hahn, also known as “Shorty,” is vital to completing the task at hand.

Due to the size and lifting capacity of the Quad Cities heavy lift crane, and the fact that it’s mounted on a floating surface, a highly trained operator is needed to perform lifts. According to Shorty, safety has always been and will always be his number one priority when he’s operating the crane.

Crane operator Cary Hahn “Shorty” stands on a landing of the Quad Cities heavy lift crane, just outside the cab where he works on a regular basis.
Crane operator Cary Hahn “Shorty” stands on a landing of the Quad Cities heavy lift crane, just outside the cab where he works on a regular basis. (Photo Credit: Kelcy Hanson) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It can be a very dangerous job at times,” said Shorty. “You have to pay close attention to every detail and sometimes I have to rely on cameras in the cab of the crane to see all the aspects of the lift.”

The cameras Shorty mentions are not only important for him to see the item he’s lifting but to ensure safety for the rest of the Mississippi River Project’s Structural Maintenance crew that is on-site for the job.

Shorty has been a crane operator for 25 years and says his best years have been the 13 he’s been with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His time working with smaller cranes in the military gave him valuable knowledge and experience he now uses to operate the largest heavy left crane on the Mississippi River. “Anybody that is looking to go into this field of work needs to love equipment,” said Shorty.

Although the crane crew mainly resides in and around the geographic area known as the Quad Cities, the team is considered a regional asset and regularly travels for up to a month at a time to complete a job.

“My favorite part of the job is knowing my ‘family.’ There isn’t anything I don’t know about or anything I wouldn’t do for any of the people I work with on this barge,” said Shorty. “We are truly a family.”