Thomas Wilson does not mind the commute to work, but the morning climb to his office can be a bit taxing.
That’s because the Karalee dad is one of three crane operators on the Nicholas St redevelopment and often starts his work day with a 78m climb to his office.
Mr Wilson has been working with cranes for about 20 years but the steel giants of the skyline have enchanted him since childhood.
“I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with cranes, right from my early childhood. I think it’s just the size of them,” he said.
“I started off as a dogman – that’s the person on the ground who hooks up loads and directs the crane driver.
“It can be pretty hard to get into, you’ve got to get good at dogging very quickly. There’s not a lot of room for error, if you don’t hook something up right and a load comes loose you can potentially kill someone.”
A view across Ipswich from Thomas Wilson’s ‘office’.
Mr Wilson shares dogging and driving duties with two other crane operators at the Nicholas St site.
He said it was rewarding to be helping build a rejuvenated CBD for his hometown.
“I’ve just come off the 90-storey Skytower in Brisbane which was pretty amazing, we were working 300 metres up on that one,” he said.
“The views were amazing but the traffic into Brisbane wasn’t, so this job being 10 minutes from home is great; I feel like a new man.
“This development is really massive for the city, I think it’s exactly what is needed to bring activity back to the centre and revitalise it.
“There is a big local contingent on the job too; it’s good to see the jobs going to locals, which is good for the community.”
Mr Wilson said crane driving was a demanding job, but did come with some perks for those who don’t mind heights.
“It’s a dynamic job and part of the skill is not swinging around and hitting something that was not there previously but is now, which is why we’re always communicating with the person on the ground,” he said.
“Our site is changing hour to hour because you could have scaffolding going up around you or the wind will pick up and make a lift more challenging.
“In Ipswich the wind seems to pick up from 1pm. If we had been operating earlier this week when the wind picked up we would have had to shut the crane down. We shut it down once the wind speed hits 54km/h.
“It’s a great vantage point in the cab, we can see Flinders Peak and all the way to Brisbane.
“It’s pretty well set up, we have a fridge and a microwave up there. I usually get out of the cab and climb up to the top section to the back deck to eat my lunch and take in the view. It’s a bit of fun. Heights don’t bother me at all.”
While the view from the crane’s cab is spectacular, the same cannot be said for amenities.
So what does Mr Wilson do when nature calls?
“I get asked that a lot, actually, people always want to know. If we need to take a leak, it’s a milk bottle and then we bring it down at the end of the day,” he said.
“If you need to do something a bit more serious it’s a quick trip down the ladder.
“If you’ve got an upset stomach you tend to stick to the ground that day, we have had a few guys who haven’t made it down in time.”
Looking out over Riverlink Shopping Centre and beyond.
Since being installed last month, the crane has been helping construct the jump system and lift core which will form the spine of the new Ipswich City Council administration building.
“That will climb up every floor and people will see the building take shape around that,” Mr Wilson said.
The Nicholas St redevelopment will be completed in stages with the new council administration centre due for completion in mid-2021.
The view from the crane cab looking down on the work site.