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Every boy’s dream

Rhonda costa-landers
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Chris Betz, a Bragg Crane operator, moves pieces of the proposed V&T Railroad bridge on April 19.
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At age 10 while riding in the family pickup, Chris Betz was asked by his dad what he wanted to do when he grew up.

“I want to play with cranes,” was the answer. He has been in his dream job for the past 20 years.

Betz, 40, is a licensed and certified crane operator. He is endorsed to operate the maximum classifications of cranes, four. The biggest load-capacity crane Betz has operated is 400 tons. The crane he used to move three sections of the V&T Railroad bridge recently was a 220-ton Manitowoc.

“I’ve got ’em all,” Betz said. “I had to pass a 200-question test to do it. This allows me to work in all 50 states.”

Betz was the operator for Shaw Crane when an 800-pound steel cross was placed atop St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community’s new church in May 2001.

He also helped fix the flagpole at the Capitol recently.

He worked on a movie set while living in Southern California.

“I held the sprinkler bar, which created the rain for one of the scenes in the film ‘City of Angels’ with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. I also helped build The Viper roller coaster in Valencia, Calif. But one of the most impressive jobs was placing the old trolley cars in Los Angeles back online. They were called ‘Angels Flight’ and were worth $2.5 million each.”

Betz said working a crane requires being able to put a load chart in perspective and some common sense. The crane he trained on was what is referred to as a “friction rig,” operated with clutches and clogs. Newer rigs have hydraulic systems.

“I move anything from air conditioners to bridge girders to tilt-up concrete walls. We also move large rocks for landscaping. For that we use a basket with special rigging.”

Betz and his family moved to Carson City in 1997. He worked for Shaw Crane for seven years until the company was sold to Bragg Crane.

“I’m very happy with Bragg Crane. These guys are the greatest to work with.”

Married to Jan for 16 years, he has three children and one grandson.

Betz’s hobby is auto racing. He is the 2003 Street Stock division champion from Champion Motor Speedway in Carson City.

“But I gave that up this year for Jan. It’s my wife’s turn to have me this summer. We have a new truck and travel trailer. We like to get out and go fishing and just look around.”

Betz said his job is seasonal at times, and he finds it fascinating yet stressful.

“Some days are diamonds, some days are coal,” he said. “But I like working in God’s country. The best part about this job is working in the great outdoors. It’s fascinating, some of the things I get to do.

“It’s stressful because of what could happen should something go wrong. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I’m very careful.

“But I would never do anything else but this. I love it so much. Except race – if I could make a living at it.”

Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at rcosta-landers@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.