Like many people who've visited their tower manufacturer's website, I came away with the belief that the pricing of their motor drives was a bit over the top, so I avoided buying one. Being a long-term cubical quad owner means occasional broken wires, not to mention the fact that here in Florida we see squalls move in quickly from the Gulf, necessitating the need to lower the tower in short order. It can get old fast!
I looked at some possible solutions that might involve both electric hoists and winches to raise and lower my tower. I quickly found out that there is a difference between a hoist and a winch. Here's a couple of explanations that I found on the web that will help to clarify:
This hoist has the same motor as the winch and is operated by a handheld remote. Although the hoist appears to be very similar to the winch, when suspending a load rather than pulling or dragging it, there are different safety circumstances involved that one should be aware of.
Some safety feature differences between a winch and a hoist include:
The load-rating are different because winches are rated for pulling capacity, while hoists are rated for safe working loads.
Hoists are not equipped with a free-wheeling clutch because free spooling while lifting vertically would be dangerous.
Hoists are equipped with a better brake design.
Hoists have a travel limiter so that the load is not lifted high enough to jam the spool.
If we were to visualize what a completed system might look like from above with the original Fulton K1550 removed; a plate sufficient in size ("A" plate) to mount the flat plate hoist to, where the adapter sleeve is allowed to project through - along with a corresponding plate ("B" plate) attached to the tower to which the drum is mounted and attached to the adapter sleeve might look like what's diagrammed above. Both plates (A&B) welded together along their intersection would provide a simple solution to supporting both the hoist and drum. The two plates welded together as one act to provide mounting for the flat plate hoist (rotational forces) and drum (tensional forces).
The links below are just a sample of what's out there on the web. You'll see some of the very same company sites displayed more than once under different categories. Because pricing varies so much between companies, I tried to include a cross section. If you happen upon a link that's gone bad, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy & paste the bad link from this page in your message and I'll search out a newer link that works.
Well, there's no longer a need to try and visualize what a boat hoist drive attached to a crank-up tower might look like. As of May 2011, Dave Banner - N7BAN with the help of metal crafter extraordinaire Christian Perri - KF7P of KF7P Metalwerks have a working example of one of the EBD drives that's depicted below - up and running. See the whole series of N7BAN's pictures at
With all of that said, the primary objective is to raise and lower a heavy load in a controlled manner and hold it in place for extended periods of time. A hoist was obviously in order.
I did some searching on the web for hoists and came up with two distinct categories: engine hoists and boat hoists. Within the boat hoist category, there's a further distinction and that's closed vs. open type drive. The open drive being the most common type, but we'll touch on them both. In looking over the differences between the engine and the boat hoists, what was most obvious to me was that the engine hoist - once mounted in an inverted fashion didn't need anything else to make it work other than an attachment point. I had a welder fashion an aluminum plate/tray to which the engine hoist is mounted. I then bolted the mated pair to the existing tower mounting points where the original hand crank was mounted and simply routed the existing tower lifting cable onto the engine hoist's drum and I was ready to go!
Why not use the larger, more durable boat hoist? The typical boat hoist is only half of the equation. It lacks the take-up drum. Take a look at the pictures below and you'll notice that the engine hoist is a self contained, ready to go unit. Motor, housing & take-up drum are all there. All you have to do is mount the hoist in an inverted fashion to something. With 650 lbs. of single line hoisting power it's enough to lift two TX-455 tower sections at under 350 lbs plus some room for antennas and a mast. On headroom - probably not enough for some.
The Harbor Freight Tools 1300# Engine Hoist in use on my US Tower TX-455
Note how clean it is. It is kept that way under a canvas cover with a slit cut in it to
accommodate the cable from above. It was built for inside use. Additional pictures here.
Phil Glagowski - W1TRrecently sent me news of a new addition to his Tristao HG52SS tower and the innovative way in which he protects his hoist from the weather. Note: Phil owns a home based server and pictures may be slow to open but they always do.
Thanks, Phil. 10-29-11
The typical Flat Plate Boat Hoist is available, rated anywhere from 3000 lbs. to 8500 lbs. and lacks only a mount, adapter sleeve and drum for tower use. Looking at the specs for the smaller units (4000 lb. class) they have a travel speed of about 3 ft. per minute. You'll sometimes see these advertised as 'open' units because the wormgear is exposed. These units are usually covered in their entirety with a white plastic weather shield.
Some examples of take-up drums.
The upper picture depicts a drum with cable winder grooves.
Now that we see what the major components look like that are required to place a flat plate hoist into operation we only need to adapt the assembled pieces into something that will do the required work while attached to the tower.
Attaching any one of the drums pictured above to the face of the tower shouldn't be a problem as there is already a mounting surface for the original Fulton K1550 hand operated winch and brake set.
Adapter sleeve connects the flat plate hoist's large
Above are a couple of pictures of what are known as an Aqua Marine Supply (AMS) 'EBD' Enclosed Belt Drive Hoists. The upper picture depicts a wired package that's available at Boat Lift Warehouse.com. The 3000 lbs unit with 3/4 HP motor retails for $535.00. The 4000 lbs unit with 1 HP motor retails for $545.00 These units are reportedly a bit faster with advertised travel speeds of 4 - 4.8 ft. per minute.
As you can see from the bottom picture, the output shaft is just peeking out from above the belt at the 6 o'clock position. They claim that this unit never needs greasing.
Rick Karlquist - N6RK has written an exhaustive, painstakingly diagrammed treatise on the subject of motorizing the tilt over function for those of you struggling with larger crank up & tilt over towers. Rick's paper is titled Using a Boat Lift Hoist to Tilt Over an HDX-5106 Tower. http://n6rk.com/boat_lift_hoist_tilt_over_tower.pdf