Pittsburgh Railways M283


Crane car M283 is specially designed for use by electric railways. It was built in 1929 by the Differential Car Company; it is one of three special purpose cars built by Differential in the museum’s collection. One of the special features of this car is its ability to work under trolley wire. Its patented design allows for a maximum height above the rail of 12’3″ and the crane swings in a complete circle. Allowance is also made so that the crane will not interfere with streetcars passing on opposing tracks when reaching off to the side.

These cars were designed to perform a wide variety of tasks including the setting of line poles, placing and removing track, and transporting materials. Notice that the crane tub and the operator’s cab are designed with clearance underneath to allow the car to carry long items like rail and poles. Optional features of the car included a clamshell bucket for digging, a boom extension, and air-hydraulic wing plows attached to the sides of the car. These wings and an optional wedge-shaped plow attached to the end of the car could be used for grading and snow removal.

Pittsburgh’s Differential crane was purchased as a base model with none of the aforementioned options. During its life at Pittsburgh Railways, the car was assigned to the Ways and Structures Department and stationed at Millvale Car House. In 1973, the car was completely rebuilt by Port Authority Transit (into whose ownership it had by then passed) following a derailment. At that time it received a new operator’s cab and rebuilt trucks.

When the light rail system opened in 1984, the car was converted to pantograph operation. Problems with the mounting of the pantograph and the car’s safe operation on the new computerized system ultimately rendered it surplus in 1989, and it was acquired by the museum. Since that time it has proven to be an indispensable tool for developing our museum as well as a unique and interesting display.

Car Number


Year Built




Year Acquired


Car Builder

Differential Car Company




WH 532B


Under Repair: Galbraith Shop

A Collection of Nearly 50 Cars and Counting

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