Best-seller, eye-catcher, children’s book hero

Sometimes it even becomes an attraction – particularly if there are lots of passers-by who can watch the crane operating. One LTM 1500-8.1 has now even become famous. May I introduce ... Steve, the hero of a children’s book.

In Northern Virginia, right near Manassas, Traffic moved just like molasses,
Dad was complaining every day “This is the year we’ll move away!”
“No” I cried. “This is our home, If you leave, I’ll stay here – alone!”
Running out of the house, above the ridge Between the highway and down by the bridge
Stood this… a thing with a hook Arms of steel and a strange look
It smiled and said: You are a child, I believe. Pleased to meet you - just call me Steve!

Katherine Gotthardt, author
Katherine Gotthardt, author

That is exactly how the story starts in which a small boy meets his new best friend – Steve the Crane. Steve tells a boy about his family and the work that they all do – in wind farms and building motorways and bridges. Finally, the boy is lifted back into his bed by Steve where he can finally relax and go to sleep. That is because he now knows that Steve will soon end his work and the traffic will then be able to move freely again. And then his father will be able to drive to work again with no traffic jams and the family will not have to move house.

Having a crane as a friend sounds like a great children’s story. And it really is. Nevertheless, the story is based on reality – in parts at least. The LTM 1500-8.1, which is the hero of the story, belongs to the American contractor Digging & Rigging, Inc. This family-run company is based in Maryland and serves the East Coast region from its six outlets. Digging & Rigging uses the very latest technology in superbly maintained cranes. It currently operates over 30 Liebherr cranes. And Steve is one of them.

Vice President of Digging & Rigging, Jim Gregory Junior, was the person who won the order for bridge building work on the Interstate 66, which he thought would be a routine job on the main traffic route between Virginia and Washington DC. The plan was to work at night to avoid traffic jams whilst the fully equipped crane with Y guying would then be shut down during the day. It was a good plan, but it did not quite work out that way – which meant that every day commuters from North Virginia found themselves at a standstill in traffic jams.

However, they accepted the situation with humour, photographing the crane and posting their pictures of it in a Facebook group “Western Prince William Chatter”. When they christened it with the name “Steve”, the Digging & Rigging crew actually added a name plate. And of course the media soon picked up on the situation. The crane caused much amusement and from within the commuter community although all of them suffered due to the daily traffic situation.

This whole thing gave Katherine Gotthardt, prize-winning author and educator, the idea of writing a children’s book about Steve. “When I saw the memes, the sheer creativity and the fun, I was enthralled. Who would have thought that a crane could bring us together, particularly in traffic? Then I thought that Steve would be the perfect character as a star in a children’s book. So I contacted Patrick King from imagine, a design company in Manassas. He liked the idea and agreed to do the illustrations.

What is the story about? Well. We live in a transitory area with lots of military families and people from all over the world. Lots of them have to move frequently and put up with traffic problems. So in my book the family fights against both and the child is also affected by them. Steve then comes to the rescue – an understanding new friend who is also a fascinating crane with a story all of his own.

When I was writing the story, I did not know how personal it would become. I didn’t find that out until a book signing session which was attended by the crew’s family members. A boy came up to me with his mother and said it was as if I had written his story. This touched me a great deal and I felt blessed because my work had a meaning for people.”

On the day that Katherine Gotthardt told Digging & Rigging about her plans, Jim Jr. was initially surprised. “But I immediately understood the idea. And as we knew a few stories about our 500-tonne crane “Steve”, we wanted to help. We also decided to give a little back to the community here is the locals had actually created the story. So we agreed with Katherine that the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to local charitable organisations.”

The book is available in the internet in English in paperback form or e-book (A crane named Steve, ISBN 9781707812257). We hope you enjoy reading it.

This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 01 | 2020.

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