Reference, Der Strabokran, German Gantry Crane 1942-45
December 11 2011 at 1:21 PM
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VOLKER RUFF PUBLICATIONS
Der Strabokran, German Gantry Crane 1942-45. By Volker Ruff. Hard covers, 9.75 x 12-inches (landscape format), 255 pages. Contains 254 B&W photographs, 44 contemporary documents and line drawings, dozens of 1-35th-scale line drawings by the author, nine tables, one graphic organization chart, appendices, glossary and index. ISBN 978-3-00-034002-4.
A welcome trend in our hobby is the slowly increasing number of modelers (who are also students of the history and technology that holds our fascination) who publish books. Usually, these books cover a lesser-known subject in extraordinary detail, with the time, expense and effort spent on the project far outweighing any possible financial reward. These books only come to us because it was a labor-of-love for the author. The latest author to join this modestly-sized group is Germanys Volker Ruff.
Mr. Ruff has chosen as his subject a piece of mobile field maintenance equipment unique to the German armed forces in World War Two: the Fries-built Strabokran, or Strassen Bock Kran (road [mobile] gantry crane). This mobile lifting device, which, depending on the version, had a capacity of up to 16-tons, was required in the maintenance units of the heavy Panther, Tiger and Elefant battalions; it also served in a general heavy-lift capacity, as well as with A-4 (V-2) ballistic missile units. Variations existed: there were 15-ton and 16-ton production versions, as well as an experimental 20-ton version. The production versions were constantly modified, making these things essentially custom-builds.
Most of us know of this device from photos and descriptions in various books. Extremely brief but relatively detailed coverage was seen some years ago in the Trojca book from AJ Press, Panther Vol.4. However, no detailed, specific coverage of the Strabokran has been presented in book formuntil now.
To put it mildly, then, this remarkable book fills a rather unique gap.
The book combines parallel English- and German-language text and captions with archival photos, illustrations and documents. There are several sets of tabulated data and a K.St.N chart (organization chart) showing vehicle silhouettes of a 1943 Panzer-Werkstatt-Zug, as assigned to a Panther-Abteilung. The coverage is further amplified by an extraordinary series of complete and thumb-nail CAD line drawings, by the author, in 1/35th-scale, of the various types of Strabokran. To cap it off, images of preserved examples are sprinkled throughout the book where necessary; these also make up the bulk of a separate section of the book.
After the usual acknowledgements and an introduction, ten sections follow. In turn, they cover:
Company history of J.S. Fries (the manufacturer of the Strabokran).
Strabokran and variants.
Operation Backfire (British post-war tests of the A-4/V-2) report.
Strabokran in action.
K.St.N. for units with Strabokran.
Patent application and patents (archival documents).
16-ton Strabokran Walkaround.
Comparison of 15-ton and 16-ton Strabokran.
These sections are then followed by an appendix, which contains the 1/35th-scale drawings, a list of terms and abbreviations and a keywords segment (basically, a short index).
The text ably relates the story and the captions do likewise; the author knows his subject and can communicate his knowledge quite readily. Subject matter covered includes the differences between production versions, which due to the fact that numerous small and large changes were seen within a given production series, is critical. This information is especially valuable when the item described was not produced in very large numbers; the author is completely justified for dwelling in detail on this aspect of the subject. Other items detailed in the text are colors and markings, a history of the production firm, unit use, etc.
The various tables, which compliment the text, provide data related to the following areas:
Unit issue from 1942-45 (year-by-year), showing type and quantity of Strabokran issued (also replacements), plus relevant organization (K.St.N.) type. There are six of these, on as many pages. Units covered are as follows: Tiger (1 page), Elefant (1 page), Panther (2 pages), Rear Area levels (training and depot maintenance, 1 page), Armee-Gruppe level (1 page) and V-2 launch (1 page),
A summary of sub-unit types, showing quantity and types of vehicles and equipment as seen down to company level. The unit types are listed and they are correlated with their relevant K.St.N.s, to include dates of promulgation.
A summary of sub-unit types showing unit types correlated with their relevant K.St.N.s, to include dates of promulgation.
List of Strabokranen that survived the war. This details type, location (city and country) and current, known status. Suffice to say, two 16-tonners are known to be on display, one in France, the other in the UK.
Overall, the photographic content is nothing short of outstanding. Although there are indeed a number of old favorites seen throughout the book, the majority of what is presented is all-new. At least to me! Most come from period archives, showing the Strabokran in action and repose. A fair number of images come from German technical manuals, while other images show original drawings or documents. Many of the original drawings have numbered call-outs, which are annotated next to them in German and English. Finally, there are a number of images of the preserved examples of the Strabokran. All images are well-reproduced with the quality of the original being the determining baseline. Paper stock is a medium weight coated type.
By far, the most remarkable aspect of this book must be the sheer number of the authors 1/35th-scale drawings. Even more remarkable is the clever way in which many of them are used. For instance, in the section entitled 16-ton Strabokran Walkaround. The section runs from page 160 through page 195, where a series of detail photographs taken of surviving examples will typically have a scale line drawing immediately next to them. This provides clarity in a very convenient manner.
Likewise, the section entitled Comparison of the 15t and 16t Strabokran, which is where all the full 1/35th-scale drawings reside, is the reverse of the previous section. It has small thumb-nail photos, dispersed here and there amongst the drawings, to help clarify matters. The author also repeats drawings of the various types, side-by-side, in order to clearly illustrate detail differences. It is in the presentation of drawings of the entire, deployed Strabokran where the reader will also appreciate another thoughtful design decision: that which caused this book to be printed in a landscape format.
Unique accessory items such as the various turret-lifting adaptors for the Panther and Tiger I are shown as photos and as full sets of scale drawings. Cable rigging diagrams for various turrets and loads are also provided as scale line drawings.
In essence, then, and considering that I left lots of things out of this report, such as the Rarities section (after all, time is a consideration), this book is simply fantastic. If I seem to heap accolades upon it like an infatuated schoolgirl, so be it; I do not apologize. I sincerely hope that a company like Bronco or DML will purchase copies of this book, see the potential here and bring us a styrene Strabokran. Certainly, once modelers get their hands on this book, their interest will have been piqued.
Frank V. De Sisto.
This book is available direct from the author/publisher at: www.strabokran.de. E-mail: Volker.Ruff@t-online.de.
For availability in the USA and the UK and parts of Europe, see the Panzerwrecks web-site at: www.panzerwrecks.com. In North America, e-mail Bill Auerbach at: firstname.lastname@example.org; for the UK and parts of Europe, e-mail Lee Archer at: email@example.com.