UP's Burro Cranes

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This file was last updated on May 4, 2023.

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Available photos suggest that Union Pacific has owned at least seven Burro cranes, numbered as BC-25, BC-26, BC-27, BC-28, BC-29, BC-31, BC-47.

Jim Griffin has shared that he photographed UP BC-25 Burro crane in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on November 30, 2002. (Jim Griffin, email dated April 28, 2023)

More research is needed to determine if the numbers were consecutive, meaning that there were at least 23 cranes, or if the numbers applied were determined by a sequence among other Roadway equipment.

These Burro cranes are not shown in the UP Equipment Record ledger book.

Photos of two other Burro cranes have been found, showing former SP and MP cranes, BC150 (ex SP), and BC9703 (ex MP).

Burro Crane

A "Burro" crane is a small four-wheel mobile lifting crane with a very small lifting capacity, designed to lift railroad ties and railroad rails as part of track maintenance. As early as 1907, the Cullen-Friestedt Company, Chicago, Illinois entered the track maintenance business with four-wheeled cranes designed to operate on rails. Starting with their Model 15 Burro Crane, the Cullen-Friestedt company's Burro Crane became the "Pack Animal of the Industry". Although there may have been other models during the past century, the Burro Crane progressed at least from Model 15 to Model 20, Model 30, Model 40 and Model 50.

"The easiest way to tell a Model 30 from a 40 are the pulleys on the cab. Model 30's have pulleys that sit vertically above the cab. Model 40's have horizontal pulleys on a short hinged boom in front of the cab." (Evan Werkema, Trainorders.com, June 26, 2006)

One of the most mentioned selling points of the Burro crane was that when it was turned perpendicular to the track, the rear of its cab would clear a passing train on an adjacent track.

"The Burro has a 2 cylinder Quincy air compressor belt driven off the Detroit diesel, which supplies air for the pneumatic control system, and air for the horn is taken off that supply." (Railway Preservation News, January 28, 2014)

"As for the room in the back of a Burro it is very very cramped. You can't even get past the "A" frame. You just have to reach what you can, that's why they have doors on both sides, the front and the back. Burro 40s have around 12,000 lbs tractive effort in 1st gear. The higher the gear the lower the TE." "The boom drum is driven by a worm gear which has an automatic applying brake. There are 6 clutches "not counting the master Twin Disc clutch on the motor" that run off a common gear train. They run both hoists, left and right swings and both travel directions. The crane machinery can be disconnected from the travel gears so that when you shift to high gear you don't blow up the magnet generator which was not uncommon though that even can be taken out of gear on its own. The transmission on the 40s is a Cotta 4 speed. You were only suppose to run the craning functions in 1st or 2nd gear otherwise things could be damaged. There is also a two speed transfer case between the travel clutches and travel gear and a high speed notch on the throttle." (Mark Secco, Railway Preservation News, February 4, 2014)

Although Cullen-Friestedt started business in 1907, the first Burro crane was built in 1922. It was what the company called a Model 10 and had a 2-1/2 ton capacity. The Model 10 was in production from 1922 to either 1927 or 1928.

Various internet searches indicate the following basic timeline of later company history for Cullen-Friestedt, the makers of the Burro crane:

Cullen-Friestedt was one of four companies purchased by an expanding Federal Sign and Signal Corporation. (FundingUniverse.com)

(Federal had started as Federal Electric in 1901, and by the early 1930s was part of the Insull empire, which included Commonwealth Electric. During the 1930s, Insull sold its interest in Federal Electric and the company was reorganized as Federal Sign and Signal Corp.)

Western Industries, Inc., was one of four companies purchased by an expanding Federal Sign and Signal Corporation. (WCH.com)

(Western Industries had started in 1932 Western Railroad Supply Company. In 1953, it became a division of Western Industries, a privately held company.)

Cullen-Friestedt, Western Industries, and Hayes Track Appliance Co. (purchased by Federal in 1970) were combined as the Western-Cullen Division of Federal Sign and Signal.

Federal Sign and Signal Corp. was changed to Federal Signal Corp.

October 1977
Federal sold its Western-Cullen rail division, and the Hayes Track Appliance Co. to a group of private investors, and the two companies were reorganized in November 1977 as Western-Cullen-Hayes, Inc.

July 20, 1978
Burro buys Badger -- Warner & Swasey announced that its Badger Division, maker of hydraulic backhoes and rough terrain cranes, was to be sold to Burro Crane, Inc. Badger represented just nine percent of Warner & Swasey's annual sales.

A loading chart sticker on a BNSF Model 40 Burro crane shows that it was built by "Badger Equipment Company, Airport Industrial Park, Winona, Minnesota."

Additional (more current) information indicates that the Burro brand was later owned and supported by Badger Equipment Company, with archived web sites showing that they support "Burro-CF" lifters.

In July 2009, Manitex International, Inc. announced that it had acquired the Badger Equipment Company from privately-held Avis Industrial. The Badger line included its "specialized earthmoving, railroad, and material handling equipment, parts, and other products marketed under the Badger, Little Giant, Burro-CF, Cullen Friestedt, Western Cullen, and Burro brand names. The Cullen-Friestedt's branded equipment dates back to 1907." (Manitex International press release dated July 13, 2009)

(Read more about the Badger Equipment company)

Badger retained the Little Giant Corp. internet domain name <littlegiantcorp.com>. In a listing of brands supported by Badger, a note is made: "We also offer full-service parts, rebuild and re-certification of units made under the Burro-CF™, Cullen-Friestedt™, Western Cullen™, and Burro™ product lines."

"Manitex International now manufactures the successor to the Burro cranes. Model 1085R is built by Badger Equipment of Winona, Minnesota. Badger is a subsidiary of Manitex. Manitex was spun-off from the Manitowoc Company in 2003 as a condition of Manitowoc's 2002 purchase of Grove. Manitex also builds Load King trailers and Little Giant hydraulic cranes." (Trainorders.com, March 17, 2011)


UP BC-29 -- View this photo by James Belmont, and other photos of UP Burro cranes.

More Information

UP BC-47 at Seven Mile, Part 1 -- Part 1 of James McGillis' history of a Model 40 Burro Crane

UP BC-47 at Seven Mile, Part 2 -- Part 2 of James McGillis' history of a Model 40 Burro Crane

Moab Burro -- Read the story of the Moab Burro crane, at MoabLive.com

Burro Crane at Willits -- Read about a Burro crane at the web site of Roots of Motive Power in Willits, California

Parsons Burro Crane, April 7, 2014 -- Read the newspaper article about an ex MKT (or ex MP) Model 40 Burro crane, donated by UP in 2014 to the Parsons Museum at Parsons, Kansas.

Burro Crane on YouTube -- View the YouTube video, "The Legendary Cullen Friestedt Co. Burro Crane"