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Potain MDT 178 Tower Crane

Maker:  TWH Collectibles
Model No:  047
Scale:  1:50
Review Date:  February 2008

TWH Index
Tower Crane Index

Cranes Etc Model Rating
Packaging   (max 10)9
Detail   (max 30)27
Features   (max 20)17
Quality   (max 25)23
Price   (max 15)12
Overall   (max 100)88%


The Potain MDT 178 model in 1:50 scale stands tall.
The box sets a new record for length at over 1.1m.
Where to buy
The 'Vision' cab and walkways are all very detailed.
Mast sections are excellent with no plastic at all.  Ladders have safety cages.
Distinctive Potain styling is replicated perfectly.
An achievement of the model is the very straight jib.  First class model engineering.
Mast sections make a good haulage load on a Talbert Trailer.
Mast sections include modelled connecting pins in holders for joining sections.
'I feel perfectly safe - it's only a model after all'.
Exceptional detailing continues through into the tube of the cab mast with a ladder and a cabling.
Jib sections are screwed together at the bottom but riveted at the top.
Just a great model.  Here the hook is rigged with two falls of rope.
The Potain MDT 178 is a medium size tower crane with a jib of up to 60m length at which a 1.5t load can be lifted.  The maximum capacity of the crane is 8t.  It is a 'topless' tower crane and has a distinctive style and profile. To see photos of the real crane click here.

This model was the first large mass-produced tower crane model in this scale.  It is provided as a scaled 50m jib version standing on thirteen 2mx2m tower sections giving a scaled under hook height of around 67m.


A 1:50 scale tower crane was always going to be big and so unsurprisingly the box is very large measuring over 1.1m (44 inches).  An outer plain cardboard box encloses an inner picture box which has picture of the model occupying its entire length.  Opening the box reveals two huge expanded polystyrene trays, one of which is the lid and the second holds all the model parts.  The box offers good protection to the model and although the outer cardboard box of the review model had seen some rough handling, the model was undamaged.

A manual in English is provided in the form of a brochure.  The first few pages contain data sheets for the real crane and the rest has a very clear 11 step guide to assembling the model.  A Potain branded screwdriver is provided with the model as the screw sizes used are very small.  Assembly is not difficult, with the only real skill required being the handling of the very small screws used to join the pieces up.  It is possible to build the model fully in comfortably less than an hour.  The model is fully reeved inside the box so there no stringing up to do which will be a plus point for many collectors.


Initial impressions on getting the crane out of the box are that TWH have produced a very detailed model on behalf of Potain.

The base of the crane consists of a large heavy base plate on which the cross-shaped support structure is mounted.  It includes a short piece of ladder which provides access to the mast even though this becomes largely obscured by the ballast blocks provided and this indicates the level of attention to detail throughout the model. 

There are 16 ballast blocks which interlock to form the base ballast which may not represent a common arrangement on a real crane but they are much less vulnerable to being knocked off at model scale. They are textured to resemble concrete and two have the Potain insignia. Overall a very heavy base results and this provides robust stability for the model.

The mast sections are excellent including detailed lattice work, and jacking points for a climbing frame.  The ladders set a new standard as they are complete with a safety cage.  The intermediate platforms are of fine mesh and there are even pin holders to hold the mast pins for joining the sections together.  Thirteen mast sections are supplied with the model.  The only detail missing on the mast is a capacity board which is a pity as this would have looked good in this scale.

At the top of the mast is a reducer section which reduces the mast from a scaled 2m square to 1.6m square.  It also includes the connections for the climbing frame.  There is a short section of ladder which is fitted to provide access to the cab mast.

The cab mast section is a superb piece of modelling in 1:50 scale.  There is a heavy toothed slewing ring which sits on a support section which is modelled in a simplified way compared to the original.  The cab has good internal detail including a footrest, and the windows have windscreen wipers as well as subtle sun shading.  There are two opening doors one of which is an equipment cupboard and includes electrical wiring.  On the inside of the access door to the cab there is a tiny printed load chart.  Outside the cab, the access platform has a mesh floor and realistic handrails and a host of detailed electrical cabinets and wiring.  There are also two excellent slewing motors.  The detailing continues into the tube mast section with a ladder and wiring visible internally.  Above the tube mast the structure concludes with a derrick and the model includes the auxiliary winch which is an option on the real crane.  Strangely the 'A' sections at the top of the crane miss out a horizontal member, but on one side only.  Icing on the cake here would have been the addition of a model anemometer for measuring wind speeds. 

The counter jib holds a fine auxiliary winch with associated wiring, and has mesh flooring and hand railing extending to the rear.  At the back the counterweights are copies of the arrangement on the real crane and are textured to represent concrete.  Each weight has a couple of lifting eyes modelled.  On the rear platform the Potain name is perfectly rendered in metal. 

The construction of the main jib is interesting.  It is formed of six separate lengths rather than the eight of the original for a jib of this length.  The separate sections are joined by screws on the underside but surprisingly rivets are used for the top connections which means the sections are not easily split.  The skilled collector will be able to carefully drill out the rivets and replace with small screws and nuts in order to vary the jib length, or to display pieces as transport loads.  Each section itself is not a single casting but is made up of two pieces.  One is the top two sides and the other is the horizontal underside, and the two pieces are joined together. The main jib has the hoist and trolley motors together with access platforms and are all modelled very well, and the mesh walkways extend for nearly half the length of the jib.  Both motors have electric cable running back to the cab area.  Various pulleys are present for either the hoist or trolley wire.

The trolley is all metal and allows for four falls of rope to the hook.  It also has a fine basket attached with railings and a mesh floor.  The hook is also metal and accurately represents that of the real machine. 

A further accessory is provided with the model and this is a concrete bucket which provides interest as a load for the crane.  This is no makeweight part of the package however.  It is a fully detailed bucket, all in metal and has a working chute mechanism which works very well.  The only issue is that it appears on the large size scaling at over 2m high. If a set of lifting chains had been provided this would also have complimented the model well.


Any tower crane model depends on being able to stand straight and be strong enough to withstand a degree of handing when erected.  The screwed connections on the Potain mean that a strong model results and combined with the heavy base weight it feels very stable.  To help get the mast precisely vertical the pads on the cross-shaped base are adjustable. 

The mast height can be set at any combination up to the maximum of 13 sections that are supplied.  The mast sections are all identical except the topmost one which has a slightly different arrangement of ladders into the reducer section.

All the main tower crane functions can be operated.  The crane turns, and the hoist, trolley and derrick can all be worked by using the supplied key, and they work well.  Operation of the hoist can be on two falls or four falls of rope and this is set by using a pin in the hook block.  Other features include the opening doors on the cab platform, and the concrete skip.

Much of the model can be split down for transport like the real crane although this requires some adjustment to the model in terms of the rivets on the main jib mentioned earlier.  The cab mast cannot fully fold for transport as per the original and the counterweights can only be displayed in the full configuration because of the support system employed.  It would have been better if each counterweight was supported separately on the counter jib such that a part loaded configuration was possible along with a shorter main jib.  The counter jib also does not have the ability to fold for transport like the original.


By comparison with other 1:50 scale models reviewed by Cranes Etc there is very little to complain about with this model.  The level of detailing is very good, and the quality of the castings and model engineering matches the best of modern standards. 

The paintwork and lettering are to the standard of the rest of the model and the review model had no defects in this regard.  There is hardly any plastic used at all.  By any assessment this is a high quality model.


As a fully fledged tower crane the model is large and this combined with the high level detail means that the cost is a significant investment for the average collector.  However it is very good value for money when it is considered what is offered.


TWH have produced an exceptionally fine model which combines first class model engineering with excellent detailing to produce something which is almost indistinguishable from the real crane.  The addition of a separately available climbing frame will enhance it further. 

The crane is easy for the novice collector to assemble and the whole philosophy applied to the model reflects this.  The model is easy to assemble out of the box and requires no reeving.  For the experienced collector this means that a compromise has been made in that the crane is not fully flexible in how it can be configured or split down as transport loads.  Although the jib sections cannot be readily split down to form transport loads a skilled collector will be able to achieve this by small modifications to the model.

The size of the model is such that anyone who sees it will be impressed as it is over 1.3m long end to end and 1.4m high if all sections are used.  It is a first class model and is very highly recommended.


The model was displayed at the Bauma Equipment Exhibition in February 2007 as a pre-production prototype.  Deliveries to customers commenced in December 2007.  The model is distributed by TWH in the USA and outside the USA distribution is by NZG and it appears in their catalogue as model 690.  A separate climbing frame accessory was produced (TWH 047A; NZG 6909).  Two versions were initially produced: Potain yellow in a run of 1000 models and Manitowoc red in a run of 1500 models  In February 2008 a version in red and white was announced in a run of 475.  The concrete bucket was also sold separately in Potain and Gar Bro liveries (TWH 047B; NZG model number 738).  In May 2008 a version in Arcomet colours (orange and blue) was announced in a run of 525.

Inside the box it becomes clear why it is so long.  The main jib is fully assembled and reeved.
Some of the other parts.  A manual, concrete skip, ladder section, winch key, Potain screwdriver and screws.
Mast head details are faithful to the original.
It is hard to distinguish the model from the real machine. 
Trolley and trolley motor.  The hook is rigged with four falls of rope out of the box.
The base is fixed onto a substantial plinth with heavy blocks as ballast.
If you have the space, tower crane erection can be posed.  Here it is posed with the big Grove GMK7450, the Grove GMK3055 and a Talbert Trailer.
Counterweight slabs all have lifting eyes.
Opening doors to the cab and electrical cupboard.
Skip provides a load to keep ropes taut.
'It's very high'.  A large concrete bucket comes with the model.  It features a working chute - here shown open with the handle pulled down.  See separate review here.