Moving a Linotype

I’ve finally found my ‘dream machine’, a Linotype Model 31. It’s in another city and country (I’m in Kelowna, BC, it’s in Spokane, WA), so I’m currently planning my expedition to go and pick the thing up. There won’t be a fork lift available on-site when I go to pick it up, but there is a palette jack. I can’t find any tilt deck or drop deck trailers to rent locally, so I’ll have to block it up a bit at a time to get it onto the 20” high trailer deck.

I’ve read David M. MacMillan fantastic description of his experiences with moving Linotypes, and it’s very helpful.

Has anyone else had any Linotype moving experience, that would be willing to share the wisdom gained?

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Let’s see. First, I’d look _real hard_ for a trailer that gets flush with the ground. When I moved my Intertype, having a trailer that could get to the level I wanted sure made things easier. I don’t like the idea of blocking the machine up any higher than is absolutely necessary.

The most amazing thing I had was a pair of angle iron caster sets that the previous owner had made. I can move my Intertype all by myself, on flat ground at least. The casters are far enough apart that the machine is very stable, much more so than it would be on a pallet jack. But I don’t know anything about how he had those made so they may be a one-of-a-kind thing.

The slickest thing I’ve seen in loading a trailer with a Linotype was the use of a commercial truck wrecker. We loaded a 31 onto a trailer in Ft. Collins, Colo. that had been pulled out of the building with a pallet jack, then using cloth straps, the machine was lifted straight up, the trailer was then backed in under the machine, and the Linotype was lowered onto the deck of the trailer. It took 10 minutes—no inclined ramps, no come-alongs, no blocking up, no pipes, and most importantly, it was really safe as no one was any where near the machine as it was lifted and lowered. The cost (in 1996) of $75 for the wrecker was well worth it in saved time and safety. Gene McCluney from Van Buren, Arkansas was the fellow who drove off with the Linotype. One 31 was scrapped, the other went to a check printer in Colorado Springs.


keelan - We moved my Linotype via a powered forklift and a flatbed double-axle trailer. (Our story should still be active on briarpress.) We used binders, chains, straps and strategic placement of the Lino over the axles. We also had a forklift ready at the other end, for the off-loading.

Andykeck is right: block these as low as possible. That is why raising a complete Lino with cribbing to achieve upward lifting near a trailer isn’t safe at all. The machines will tip with little more than a few (4-5) inches of lift on one side.

I have to say if I did it over, opt for Fritz’s method. The online map services show the distance from Spokane to Kelowna as about 250 miles. If I were in your shoes, I’d want to pass through border customs with as professional and safe-looking a job as possible.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes! :)

Lots of food for thought here. Here in Kelowna, I think I’ve rustled up a fork lift to help with the offloading, which is half of the battle. As for loading — I’ll give some wreckers a call tomorrow. That would be the ideal situation, and I’ll pick up a skookum lifting strap to be prepared for that possibility.

I know that blocking the machine up 18 inches sounds like a frightening proposition, but I’m trying to plan it in the safest way possible.

The first stage would be to use a pry bar to get under the linotype, to lift it up 3”, 7/8” at a time, going round’n’round until It’s at the required elevation. Each foot would be sitting on a 3” stack of 7/8” plywood squares (1’ x 1’). From there, I can roll the palette jack under, and lift it up another 4”, so that I remove the stacks of plywood and sneak 4x6 skids with protruding bolts under the feet. The the machine lowered on to the skids, then the bolts tightened.

The next step would be to add another set 4x6’s below the first pair; this stack of skids will form the ‘parting line’ when the Linotype is at trailer level. This lift would be accomplished with the aid of the palette jack again, this time, with ‘packing’ added on top of the palette jack (7/8” plywood with 2x4 spacers attached flat-edge-on). These skids would ratchet strapped to the first set, so that they go up with the machine.

Now, with the help of the palette jack, the machine can be elevated the remaining 14 inches, with spacers added every 7/8” of lift, until the ‘parting line’ is at the level of the trailer. The ratchet straps would be removed, and using a come-along, the linotype would then be drug on to the trailer (the rear end of which is blocked up so that it doesn’t sag with the weight). The bottom set of 4x6’s would stay butted up against the trailer on the blocking, and the top set, attached to the machine would slide on.

Now that I’ve written it out, it does sound like a bit of a perilous proposal, doesn’t it…

A linotype machinist told me to block the pot so it can’t slap against the mold disc, it can be tied back to prevent this, if it moves against the disc it can break the heaters.

If you have a suitable forklift and enough room, you can lift the Linotype with chains through the central column. It is much easier than lifting from beneath. With no auxiliary the 31 should balance easily.
I’ve moved three, a Model 5 and two 14s. The 5, I moved with 2” pipe rollers and (non-drop) trailer and a ramp, and we broke the first elevator off-loading (there should always be just ONE experienced person in charge of such a move, not collective decision-making). The second I hired a rigger using steel skids and 1/8” rods as rollers, a forklift and 30’ trailer; no problems. Smaller rollers make for slower, safer movement. The third I used skates and johnson bars and come-alongs to load onto a drop trailer, then a forklift to off-load with overhead lift, no problems. It gets easier with the right tools and experience.

I still think the extendable boom truck wrecker, with 2 straps, is the cleanest way to lift a linotype.

In the absence of one of these trucks, forklifts are the next best way to lift these, but with care. We moved my 31 using 2 different forklifts and a trailer in between, for a move of about a mile. I just upload 2 pictures of this last move to a flicker set of Dave Seats recent quadder conversion on this Linotype:


As Fritz’ photos suggest, if you should wish to go the forklift route, but a “conventional” forklift of sufficient capacity is either unavailable or unsuitable (due to terrain, for example), one alternative is a call to the local Bobcat dealer (or equivalent). While the ordinary small Bobcat isn’t sufficient, they have larger units which are. (I rather like that GRADALL unit in Fritz’ photos.) The dealer near me will send out such a unit, with an experienced driver, for $75/hour (total time from his door and back).

Here is a picture of a Bobcat “Versahandler” with a Model 5 Linotype at the bottom of my rather steep dirt driveway.

The same Versahandler has also moved a Model 29 (less maybe 200 lbs because we’d removed the Distributor Beam for height), an Intertype C-4, and a (much lighter) Model X.

If using any forklift, I would, myself, approach the Linotype from the back (where there are large structural members to strap to) rather than the front (where there are small delicate bits to break off). I would always strap the machine to the frame of the forklift (in the photo above I used one strap; that was two years ago - now I’d use at least two straps).

A Model 31 is going to weigh at least 3,600 pounds. I would want a forklift rated substantially higher than that.

David M.

A month ago I made the trip, and brought this machine home! With the help of my brother, the move was painless.

I finally had time to sit down and update my website with the details.