Spectacular vehicle installation

Feb 12, 2016
A custom-built 40-tonne crane is concealed beneath the ceiling of the atrium. Its purpose is to install or remove vehicles on levels 2 to 7 via the atrium with the greatest precision. The exhibits on level 8 reach their positions in the exhibition by conventional but no less spectacular means: they are lifted over the roof terrace from outside, to a height of over 40 metres, by a heavy-duty crane.
Everything must be precisely timed when new exhibits are to be brought into the Mercedes-Benz Museum. After all, those responsible cannot simply push a bus or racing car into a lift and press the button for the level required. Instead a so-called crane cradle carrying the vehicle is moved into the atrium via an external elevating platform. It is then manoeuvred precisely into the right starting position for the upward journey by a system of air cushions.  As the crane cradle itself weighs around 20 tonnes, there is a remaining payload of 20 tonnes – enough even for heavy commercial vehicles. The crane's winchgear is concealed within the ceiling of the atrium, therefore the system goes unnoticed by visitors when in its retracted position - only the yellow eyes of the crane in their recesses can be discerned from below.
The crane is only in operation on Mondays or at night, when the Museum is closed, Markus Tomiak explains. The Head of Event Management at the Mercedes-Benz Museum was responsible for the Facility Management department for many years, and in winter 2005/2006 he also supervised the installation of the vehicles. Nowadays exhibits are installed or removed every four weeks on average – either for special shows or to update the permanent exhibition. This last happened at the end of November 2015, when the current 2014 Formula 1 and 2015 DTM championship cars were integrated into the "Races and Records" display. On the same day, 14 vehicles for the Safety Cars special exhibition were moved into Collection room 5. All in all there are an average of two dozen or so vehicle movements each year.
The crane takes the strain
It was clear from the start that heavy commercial vehicles would also form part of the permanent exhibition. This was after all one of the differences from the old Museum, whose construction was unable to cope with the loads involved. "The statics of the new building were configured so that in theory we would be able to present five Actros trucks in each area," says Ursula Wehinger, head of Museum Development. The crane system allows even very heavy vehicles to be replaced.
The idea of installing a permanent goods lift was rejected at an early stage, as this would have occupied too much space in a size suitable for commercial vehicles and buses. Moreover, three of these lifts would have been needed, one in each structural core. A crane was therefore decided on, custom-built by a company specialising in hoisting equipment.
The 40-tonne crane with a cradle resembling a steel bridge is the centrepiece of the vehicle logistics. It operates in tandem with a hydraulic lifting platform located outside, at the rear wall of the Museum. It is used to raise the loaded crane cradle from road level to the level of the atrium. The cradle is borne by air cushions, and together with its load and despite the immense weight, it can be moved around the floor of the atrium relatively easily by remote control.
To raise vehicles to the correct exhibition level, the cradle is brought into position precisely under the crane and attached to the steel cables hanging from above. Three positions are possible to reach the different areas of the Museum with its cloverleaf groundplan. The load is then gently and precisely raised to the required level. For loading and unloading, the crane cradle is fixed to a docking point at the edge of the level concerned. Anybody looking up from the entrance level in the atrium will discover balustrades – these are the docking points for the cradle. The balustrades are opened when required, clearing the way into the Legend rooms. The other docking points are at large doors which are almost invisibly set into the concrete walls and actually look like concrete. In fact they are not made of concrete, but have been expertly painted to give that impression by a specialist. These doors are so large that even a touring coach will fit through them.
The logistical system was first asked to prove itself in early October 2005: the very first vehicle for the permanent exhibition was a racing truck destined for the "Races and Records" area on level 2. Since this premiere (which was of course preceded by tests), the temporary crane/cradle system has proved its worth hundreds of times and given the Museum the operating flexibility it requires. In technical terms its payload capacity of up to 20 tonnes has proved to be exactly right.
As the winchgear for the crane is installed on level 8, the system is unable to carry vehicles which are to be exhibited on the same level. These exhibits are installed in a no less spectacular way: a heavy-duty crane raises them up outside the building and deposits them on the roof terrace. From there they are manoeuvred to their destinations.
The planners also found another solution for the vehicles on the lowest level of the Museum, in the "Fascination of Technology" area: a compact, mobile heavy-duty crane also used for transporting machinery brings them into position on their plinths.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, vehicle installation by crane at the end of the construction phase, October 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, construction phase, a compact special-purpose crane enabled the racing and record-breaking cars to be installed on the banked curve in October 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, construction phase. For the Legend 1 level - "Pioneers – The Invention of the Automobile" - situated above the inner crane system, the exhibits were lifted over the outer facade of the Museum by a crane, December 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, vehicle installation by crane at the end of the construction phase, November 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, crane system for the installation and removal of exhibits, detail, November 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, vehicle installation by crane at the end of the construction phase, December 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, installation of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 W05 Hybrid, the 2014 Formula 1 championship car, on the banked curve in Legend room 7, “Silver Arrows – Races & Records”, November 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, installation of the championship cars from Formula 1 (2014) and the DTM (2015) on the banked curve in Legend room 7, "Silver Arrows - Races and Records", November 2015.