Freestanding Workstation Cranes

The 8 Types of Overhead Cranes

Author Headshot - Thomas Feldman
Thomas Feldman
Sep 01, 2021

Introduction to the Types of Overhead Cranes

Knowing the difference between overhead cranes can do several things for your business.

Overhead cranes can greatly improve production and efficiency in your work space.

Choosing the right overhead crane  can make work much easier. Choosing the wrong one, not so much.

The different types of overhead cranes include gantry cranes, jib cranes, bridge cranes, workstation cranes, monorail cranes, top-running, and under-running. 

By reading the following article, you will get a brief,  informative overview of all of the different types of overhead cranes.

You’ll know enough by the end of this article to decide what type of overhead crane would best suit your needs and who you need to get in touch with to get your overhead crane. 

Gantry Cranes

PWI Gantry Crane Front Black
Gantry Crane on Caster Wheels

What is a gantry crane? 

Gantry cranes are a type of overhead crane that is built on a gantry

A gantry is a movable framework that supports large equipment. Some of the common things it supports are railroad signals, rockets, and (hey you guessed it) cranes!

Putting two and two together, a crane on a gantry is a gantry crane.

Gantry Crane Uses

Gantry cranes come in a range of sizes – from something that fits in your garage to something that could lift your garage, house, and everything in it.

The really big gantry cranes are most commonly seen at shipping and container yards, rail yards, and places where they form big concrete slabs.

The smaller gantry cranes are much more common for garage use and smaller fabrication shops.

The smaller gantry cranes are typically on heavy duty casters so they can be easily moved around. This makes them extremely versatile and mobile.

If you’ve got a need for a mobile overhead crane system, and don’t plan on moving more than a few tons then the smaller mobile gantry cranes are an excellent choice.

If you have a need for an outside overhead crane that needs to move many tons and would be fine on a track system, then a larger gantry crane might suit your needs

Gantry Crane Cost

The best part about the smaller gantry cranes is that they are fairly inexpensive.

For around four thousand dollars, you can get a gantry crane that will move several thousand pounds.

This really makes them a viable option for home mechanics and hobbyists that have a lot of weight to move or hold.

The larger gantry cranes can get much more expensive.

The biggest gantry crane in the world, the Taisun Crane, has an estimated build cost of around $40 million dollars. But if you need to lift a barge one hundred feet above water then you can’t beat that price.

Jib Cranes

1 Ton Jib Crane
Jib Crane

If you’ve never seen a jib crane before, they look kind of like an upside down letter L.

They are usually floor mounted via their own dedicated support or to a building’s support beam.

Jib cranes are usually equipped with an electric chain hoist and are able to be rotated by hand. This makes them very efficient at doing many lifts over short distances. 

Jib Crane Uses

These types of cranes are typically used in production and assembly lines, factories and mines.

Their lifting power is not as great as that of some of the other cranes on this list (usually capping out at one ton).

Still, due to their high reliability and ease of use, they make for an excellent choice for short distance needs.

Jib Crane Cost

A one ton floor mounted jib crane will cost you around three thousand dollars.

The more weight you need it to lift the more expensive it will be, but remember that they don’t go much higher than a few tons.

Bridge Cranes

PWI Overhead Bridge Crane 10 Ton
Bridge Crane

Bridge cranes are what you would most likely think of when thinking of an overhead crane.

This type of overhead crane is built inside of a building and will normally use the structure of the building as it’s support.

An overhead bridge crane almost always has a hoist which will move left or right. A lot of times these cranes will also run on a track, so the whole system can move forward or backwards through the building.

Bridge cranes come in two common variations; single girder and double girder.

Bridge girders are the beams that span across each runway. 

Single Girder Crane

Single Girder Bridge Crane
Single Girder Bridge Crane

The single girder bridge crane has one I-Beam or “girder” which supports the load.

These cranes are typically lighter, and lift less weight than their double girder counterparts.

They can still lift quite a bit compared to some other cranes, but their load capacity usually caps out around 15 tons.

Double Girder Crane

Double Girder Bridge Crane
Double Girder Bridge Crane

Double girders are bridge cranes that have two i-beams or “girders” which support their load.

These are the heavier type of bridge cranes and they have more lifting capacity than single girder cranes.

The biggest double girder crane load capacity caps out around 250 tons.

Bridge Crane Uses

Many industries use bridge cranes from automotive factories to paper mills.

If you need to move something very heavy inside of a building, you can’t beat a bridge crane.

They are highly reliable and make work inside buildings much more efficient.

Bridge Crane Cost

The single girder bridge cranes are the less expensive of these two cranes, but also don’t have as much lifting power.

So if you need to lift very heavy things, you may have to spend the extra money to get a double girder bridge crane.

Workstation Cranes

Freestanding Workstation Cranes
Workstation Crane

Workstation cranes are bridge cranes like the ones mentioned above, except instead of using the building as their support they have their own floor mounted supports.

Sometimes you don’t have the need for a bridge crane that spans the whole width of your building. You might just need to lift heavy things in one part of the building so anything more would be a waste.

Alternatively maybe your building isn’t strong enough to support a single or double girder crane.

There are a lot of pole barn buildings around my area and I personally wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a pole barn that is trying to support a 15 ton load!

In these cases it is much safer, and I would say necessary to use a workstation crane.


These cranes are very popular options for garage mechanics and fabricators.

Because they don’t rely on your building’s structural integrity, they can be placed almost anywhere.

They are also used in big manufacturing plants that don’t need to have a crane accessible to the entire factory floor.

Their lifting capability can range from around half a ton to several tons.


These can start around the ten thousand dollar mark and work their way up from there, depending on how much weight needs to be lifted.

The cost also depends on how much space needs to be covered. The bigger the area that needs covering, the more supports are needed.

Monorail Cranes

Monorail Crane System
Monorail Crane System

Monorail cranes are pretty unique looking overhead cranes.

Their hoist doesn’t move side to side like that of a normal bridge crane, it just goes up and down.

The interesting thing about monorail cranes is that the rail they run on can be formed to adjust for curves.

The ability to move around curves is a major advantage when you need to work around certain structures in your factory.


Because they can adjust for some unique situations, monorail cranes are often incorporated into assembly lines.

Now because they have to move along some interesting curves, they don’t have the same upper lifting capabilities that a normal single girder bridge crane.

The upper limit I’ve seen for monorail cranes is roughly six tons, with most of them being less than that.


The cost of a monorail crane is largely dependent on how much track you need and how many curves will be needed. The other cost factor is, as with every crane, how much you need it to lift.

Top & Under-Running Cranes

Our last two crane types should look pretty familiar.

These are just single girder or double girder bridge cranes. The term “top running” and “under running” describes how the crane is mounted inside of your building.

Top-Running Cranes

3 Overhead Cranes in PWI's New Building
Top-Running Bridge Crane

So you know “running” describes how the overhead crane is mounted. Top running therefore refers to the crane being mounted on top of its runway beams.

The runway beams it’s mounted on can be a part of the building structure or a part of a freestanding system (aka workstation crane).


The uses of a top running crane are the same as that of the bridge cranes we discussed earlier.

The benefits of top running cranes come in with increased lifting capacity and an increase in their mobility.

Because they won’t run into any of the supports, they can traverse a greater distance than an under running crane.


The cost will be dependent on all the factors discussed under the bridge cranes section.

Maintenance costs will be less than that of under running cranes, as top running cranes don’t carry suspended loads (i.e. the weight of the girder and hoist will always be supported by the structure it sits on, rather than having an attachment to the floor supports that holds the crane assembly).

Under-Running Cranes

Underhung Bridge Crane
Under-Running Cranes

Well if top running cranes are easier to maintain, cheaper, and can generally hold more weight, why would I want an under running crane?

Well, how tall is your ceiling?

Ceiling height is a pretty big factor when you want to put a large crane inside your building.

Many times people don’t have very tall factory buildings to work in. In these cases an under-running crane may be their only possible configuration.


Also used just like any other bridge crane, though typically spanning less distance than a top running crane.

The benefit businesses get from under running cranes is definitely the amount of space savings.

And for some businesses it may be the only option they have to get a bridge crane in their building.


Under running cranes generally have higher maintenance costs than top running cranes.

This is because the crane will always have a suspended load to bear. When it comes time to work on its supports that load won’t go away so the work is more costly.


After having read all of this you should definitely feel more comfortable talking about overhead cranes.

But the biggest benefit is now you’ve got a fairly good understanding of many different cranes and how their uses and capabilities could benefit your business!

We’ve touched a little bit on the cost of each type of crane too. Not only what kind of price tags we expect to see but also what some of the long term costs might look like.

Now as much knowledge as you’ve got right now about these different types of overhead cranes, there is always more to learn.

Or maybe you’ve got some questions about how any of these types of cranes could benefit your business or suit your needs.

For more information on these cranes I highly recommend talking to a member of the PWI team.

They’ll be able to help you determine what will suit your specific needs and give you estimates on the crane or cranes that will make your business more efficient.

You can also get a free quote on PWI cranes.

See Also