The Cullen-Friestedt Burro Crane - An Untold Story of Engineering Innovation
Railroads, as we know them today have existed since the middle of the nineteenth century. On a typical rail system, rail cars move along a pair of steel rails that are evenly spaced apart. Although narrow gauge systems still exist, the standard gauge distance between the inside edges of the rails is 1,435 mm but in the United States, Canada and Britain it is still called 4 ft. 8 1⁄2 in. Wooden ties, laid in a bed of gravel secure these rails. This system of rails and ties we call a railroad track.
Originally, a group of workers (commonly known as a rail gang) would prepare the rail bed and lay down the tracks. Using hammers and spikes, the gang would manually set each individual tie on the rail bed. The process was labor intensive, and potentially very dangerous. The ties and rails were quite heavy, and there was always the potential to drop either, for example, on a worker’s foot.
Early on, the need for mechanical assistance was recognized. Soon enough, railcar mounted tamping machines and various cranes helped ease the burdens of rail construction and maintenance of way (MOW). Although some cranes were large enough to lift a locomotive back on to the tracks, many others were just large enough to lay ballast, lift ties and to position steel rails. As early as 1907, the Cullen-Friestedt Company, 1300 S. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago, Illinois entered that business with four-wheeled cranes designed to operate on rails. Although there is a contemporary Cullen-Friestedt Co. in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, that company is a closely held export management firm, not a manufacturer of mobile cranes.
Hearkening back to a pack animal of the Old West, the original Cullen-Friestedt Co. used the trade name “Burro” to market their rail-mounted cranes. Later, the Cullen-Friestedt tag line for the 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 20, 30, 40 and 50.
In the early twentieth century, the Burro started big, with the Model 15. It was a boxy piece of equipment, but the operator had good visibility through the cab’s seventeen windowpanes. Projecting from the front of the cab was a double-girder boom, stiffened by metal latticework. In order to counterbalance the relatively heavy boom, the cab extended aft, wherein lay heavy cast-iron ballast. In the early twentieth century, gasoline and diesel engines were relatively small and inefficient. Although wood gave way to steel, lightweight materials such as aluminum were not yet widely used. Other than excess weight, another other major drawback was its extended cab. On a rail-mounted crane, the wide swing radius of an extended cab meant that the stern might overhang an adjacent set of rails, thus raising the danger of collision.
Since there is no separate Wikipedia entry for “Burro Crane”, many highlights of its invention and evolution may be lost to history. Thanks to a Google archive of old patent records, we can deduce that Mr. Edward V. Cullen was the design genius behind the Cullen-Friestedt Burro Crane. In a review of Cullen Friestedt patent images, there is a 1945 patent submission for a wheeled mobile crane bearing the signature of “Inventor, Edward V. Cullen”.
As befitting the logic of sequential numbers, the Burro Crane Model 20 was next to go into production. After scouring the internet, I found only a few images of the Burro Crane Model 20. One was from an ad for the Cullen Friestedt Company in Railway Engineering and Maintenance Magazine. According to that 1930 ad, provided by the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in Perris, California, the Model 20 could act as its own engine, pulling construction or maintenance trains to needed locations. Referring to the self-propelled nature of Burro Cranes, the ad read, “With draw bar pull of 6,000 to 7,000 lbs. Burro Cranes frequently eliminate work trains or locomotives. On new construction, Burro Cranes handle their own trains”.
The second set of images derive from a 1929 patent submission, which included an Albert Y. A. Schmidt as co-inventor. The apparent differences between the Model 15 and the Model 20 were the introduction of a lattice boom and a new "truck for rotatably mounted structures" on the latter model. Representing a breakthrough in mobile crane design, the new truck featured a retractable crawler track for work beyond the railhead. The retractable crawler track allowed the Burro Crane to go where no rail-mounted craned had ever gone before. Later, Cullen modified its new truck design, fitting it with flanged steel wheels for travel on a mother car. With that option, MOW workers could quickly transport a Burro Crane over distances than would be economical in self-propelled mode.
Although I cannot place a specific date on it, I found an early Model 30 in an image taken by Mitch Goldman and posted on Railpictures.net. The Strasburg (Pennsylvania) Railroad’s Model 30 Burro Crane features both the multi-paned windows and the double-girder boom seen on the Model 15, but its cab configuration and diminutive size are pure Model 30. Since the Burro Crane Model 30 had a long production run, it continued to highlight the improvements in materials and design we associate with the mid-twentieth century. With the advent of high-strength safety glass, the number of windowpanes surrounding the operator dropped from seventeen to four, which were larger, water-sealed units.
Taking a cue from naval turret guns, the Model 30 featured a welded steel cab and compact construction. With its internal cast iron ballast, the Model 30 could operate on one track without danger of the stern overhanging an adjacent track. From the markings on a 1950’s Lionel Model 3360 Burro Crane; we know that the tare weight of the real crane was 67,000 lb. I found records of a Model 30 Burro Crane built in 1952. According to salvage auction website, a Model 30 Burro Crane manufactured in 1977 recently sold in fair to poor condition.
During and after World War II, there was widespread acceptance of diesel electric locomotives on American railroads. Although the new locomotives often weighed no more than did their steam age precursors, tandem diesel engines commonly pulled more cars and ran faster. With all of that speed and weight, American railroads upgraded their rail beds to include heavier ballast, ties and rails. To keep up with the trend toward heavier railroad infrastructure, Cullen-Friestedt introduced the 75,000 lb. Model 40.
Although Cullen-Friestedt continued to manufacture and overhaul the Model 30 for many years, the larger Model 40 became the MOW vehicle of choice for many American railroads. In 1972, Federal Sign and Signal Corporation sold Burro Crane #40-324 (construction #127005) to Northwest Pacific Railroad in Ukiah, California. That retired Burro Crane now finds its home at Roots of Motive Power in Willits, California.
By 1972, the old Federal Sign and Signal Corp. (now Federal Signal Corp.) had purchased the Burro Crane name and its manufacturing facilities from Cullen-Friestedt. From then until the current day, there has been a dizzying succession of mergers, acquisitions and assumptions of the Burro Crane name. Federal Sign and Signal did not own the Burro Crane name for long. According to one source, in 1978, Avis Industrial, “owner of Burro Crane Corporation” purchased Badger Construction Equipment.
Badger Equipment commenced operations in 1945, specializing in earthmoving, railroad, and material handling equipment, parts, and other products. According to Badger company archives, Badger marketed Burro Cranes under the Badger, Little Giant, Burro--CFT, Cullen FriestedtT, Western CullenT, and BurroT brand names.
In 1982, Badger introduced the heavier Burro 50 and Burro 6000. In 1990, Burro Crane Inc., then a subsidiary of Avis Industrial Corporation, moved from its Chicago facility to subsidiary, Badger, which acquired the Burro 40 & 45. Burro Crane was a sister company at the time. In 1997, Badger produced the last Burro Model 40 crane. In 2009, Manitex International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MNTX), a leading provider of engineered lifting solutions acquired Badger Equipment Company of Winona, Minnesota.
On the Badger Equipment Company website, is information on the current Model SPR48 Workrane. Looking like an updated and larger Burro Crane, Badger describes the SPR48 Workrane as follows: “When you need a true workhorse on the rails, look no further than the SPR48 Workrane. The only 20-ton, lattice-boom, rail-dedicated crane on the market, the SPR48 operates with dragline, clam shell or magnet attachments, has been completely updated with railroad safety items and meets the latest EPA emission requirements”. Other than its larger size, the description of the SPR48 sounds like a Burro Crane to me.
This is Chapter 2 of a two-part article on railroad Burro Cranes. To read Chapter 1, please click HERE.
at 08:19 PM |
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Union Pacific Railroad Burro Crane BC-47 at Seven Mile Canyon
In May 2013, I drove from Downtown Moab, via U.S. Highway 191 North. My destination was the turnoff to Utah State Route 313, which is the gateway to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Although the distance was only eleven miles, the turnoff at Route 313 seemed like another world. Far from the shops and restaurants that make Moab so inviting to tourists, my destination was hot, dry and desolate. “Seven miles from nowhere”, I said to myself.
Almost as soon as I turned on to Route 313, I spied an interesting contraption parked on a nearby railroad siding. With my pickup truck, I had easy access to the location of this unusual mechanical beast. Nearby, a weathered railroad sign identified the place as “Seven Mile”. Union Pacific Burro Crane BC-47 became “The Burro at Seven Mile”. In six-inch letters on the rear of its turret, the words, “BURRO CRANE” stood out on its cast iron ballast. In the dry desert air, that cast iron emblem could last for millennia.
On first glance, the turret of the Burro Crane looked like an antiaircraft gun from a mid-twentieth century warship. Upon further inspection, the function of the Burro Crane as “maintenance of way” equipment became obvious. With its flatcar as a tender, the Burro Crane was a mobile track repair vehicle. The burro’s compact, rounded turret allowed it to swivel without its ballast overhanging an adjacent rail line.
Nearby, old and worn-out railroad ties lay in a pile. In addition, at trackside was a collection of bent and worn steel rails. Rather than utilizing welded steel rails, the old the Potash Branch line features 1960s railroad technology. In keeping with railroad construction throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, wooden ties were set into gravel. Using large wrenches, nuts and bolts secured one track to another. For stability, spikes held the rails to the ties. Replacing earlier manual labor, the Burro Crane and its tender helped to automate the track repair process.
Accompanied by a small crew, the operator could use the Burro Crane’s diesel engine to propel both burro and flatcar to a prospective repair site. If rails required moving, the repair gang would first remove the bolts between the affected rails. After removing the spikes on the affected rails, the burro would use a cable-strung electromagnet to lift each rail from the roadbed. If the repair required new railroad ties, the Burro Crane could lift out any damaged or derelict ones. A bucket could scoop up new gravel from the flat car or reconfigure existing ballast at the scene. Once the ties were in place, the gang could bolt the rails back together and then drive spikes into the new ties.
By today's standard for automated track-laying along mainline roadbeds, the Burro Crane and gang system seem archaic. Still if repairs are only occasional and are not extensive in nature the Burro Crane’s throwback design and relatively diminutive size can be more economical than the use of heavier equipment. With weather and monkey-wrench protection for its powertrain, this vintage piece of equipment could go on operating indefinitely in the dry climate of the high desert. In wetter climates, most similar units have disintegrated into piles of rusty scrap metal.
The geographic setting at Seven Mile is epic. The crane's block and tackle dangled only six feet from the ground. The angle of the lattice-boom appeared ready for business. In the background are the Klondike Bluffs of Arches National Park. From another angle, the view beneath the long boom is of the La Sal Range, far past Moab. Other than the power poles and their high-voltage lines that cross near Seven Mile, the Burro Crane was the most prominent human-made object in sight. In fact, it appears on Google Maps (2014 version) much as it did the day of my visit.
With a Union Pacific emblem on the side of its cab and its faded yellow paintjob, the Burro Crane appeared to be authentic Union Pacific rolling stock. Soon I determined that Burro Crane BC-47 more likely started life with the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (DRGW), which is a precursor to the contemporary Union Pacific.
The giveaway is the flatcar tender, which appears to be even older than the venerable Burro Crane. The flatcar still bears DRGW markings. Spray-paint on the side of the flatcar indicates that the last date of inspection or repair was 4-‘84, almost thirty years prior. In the Old West, a prospector and his burro were mates for life. Since the arrival of this burro, more than half century ago, the old flatcar and the new burro mated and then stayed coupled for life.
As I began my research into Burro Crane BC-47, I found that it might be the last Model 40 Burro Crane operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. My Google searches yielded only two pictures of Union Pacific Model 40 Burro Cranes and both were of BC-47. In the past decade, BC-47 has apparently stayed close to home. Those two photos of the crane and tender were taken in nearby Green River, Utah and Grand Junction, Colorado. With its age and size, it is unlikely that BC-47 would stray beyond the Western Slope of the Colorado Plateau.
If indeed the Burro at Seven Mile were the last of its breed operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, it would be interesting to see it in action. I propose that rail buffs in Moab and fans of the Union Pacific Railroad request a public demonstration of Burro Crane BC-47. Since it already sits on a siding, that demonstration could include lifting old rails and ties on to transport vehicles for disposal at an appropriate location. If anyone out there can help to arrange such an event, please contact me at my email address below. I shall be happy to attend.
This is Chapter 1 of a two-part article on railroad Burro Cranes. To read Chapter 2, please click HERE.
at 05:15 PM |
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Brightsource and Bechtel Missed the Opportunity for Co-generation at Ivanpah Solar-Thermal Station
Less than two years ago, I wrote about the rush to industrialize the Mojave Desert with ever-larger solar thermal arrays. The most notable example was Brightsource Energy’s mega-solar plant in California’s Ivanpah Valley, near Primm, Nevada. Together, the three Brightsource units at Ivanpah obliterated 3,500 acres of fragile desert habitat, replacing it with 170,000 motorized, articulating mirrors and three massive receiving towers.
On September 24, 2012, Brightsource confirmed that it had synchronized their Unit 1 station with the existing electrical power grid. Although a photo on their website shows most, if not all of the Unit 1 mirrors in operation, no one other than the plants operators knows how many of the articulating mirrors pointed at the receiving tower during synchronization.
While testing prior to synchronization, operators focused many of the Unit 1 mirrors to either side of the receiving tower. Photos taken during the test procedures show an ominous “solar flux” to either side of the receiving tower. As additional heat for steam generation was required, operators quickly moved standby mirrors to focus directly on the receiving tower. Although it amounted to a “proof-of-concept” connection, in the months that have followed, Brightsource has yet to announce repetition of the synchronization process.
Since the Ivanpah project represents a quantum leap in solar thermal power generation, no one knows if it will work as planned. Will plant operators be able to point all 170,000 panels at the three receiving towers on any given day? Will the intensity of the reflected solar flux destroy the steam generators at the top of each tower? If Brightsource knows the answer to these questions, they are not talking. Their press releases featured platitudinous and self-congratulatory rhetoric about their first synchronization, but little else about testing protocols and procedures.
Maybe the Ivanpah mega-solar plant will succeed and maybe it will fail, but one mega-mistake is obvious. When Bechtel Corporation planned the facilities for Brightsource, they omitted any onsite thermal storage capability. If the plant ever works, it will produce power only when the sun is shining. When questioned, Brightsource said that they needed to get “several” plants working without onsite thermal storage prior adding that complexity to future projects. In other words, the technology is not yet ready to do it right.
As we know, the electrical grid is a complex and vulnerable infrastructure. Adding or subtracting too much power too quickly can cause cascading shutdowns of the adjacent grid. If Brightsource and Bechtel can simultaneously synchronize all three units with the grid, the lack of onsite thermal storage will limit electrical power production. If liquid-sodium thermal storage was present at Ivanpah, it could help balance and augment power generation at the site. With onsite thermal storage, co-generation could begin prior to sunrise and the mirrors could come online as the thermal storage dissipated. That would allow for a smooth ramp up of power entering the electrical grid. Without co-generation from onsite thermal storage, operators must bring each unit slowly up to power. Once operators achieve that elusive synchronization with the electrical grid, they can then focus additional mirrors on the receiving towers. At some point during the day, one would hope that all 170,000 mirrors would focus on the towers.
In the late afternoon, operators would refocus more mirrors away from the receiving towers. By sunset, the towers would go dark, steam generation would cease and the process of disconnecting each of the three units from the power grid would commence. The following morning, each unit would go through the delicate process of reheating and synchronization with the grid. The situation almost guarantees that the massive plant will rarely achieve maximum power output and will spend much of its time ramping up and ramping back down.
No one has said what would happen if a desert thunderstorm were to move rapidly over the solar array. What effect would so rapid a withdrawal of power do to power generation and synchronization to the electrical grid? What effect would a downpour have on the superheated receiving towers? If storms were in the forecast, the plant would have to operate at lower power, in anticipation of possible weather related shutdowns.
Like an old-fashioned steam locomotive, contemporary steam generators are more efficient and last longer when they operate continuously. Unlike a diesel electric locomotive, which can be brought up to operating temperature quite quickly, the firebox of a steam locomotive is kept hot until it is taken out of operation for maintenance or repair. Restarting these ancient “steam generators” is a time consuming and delicate process. Likewise, daily thermal cycling of the superheated steam generators at Ivanpah guarantees premature wear and increased operating costs.
In their haste to design and build the largest solar thermal energy station ever, Brightsource and Bechtel have made two potentially fatal errors. First was the aforementioned lack of onsite thermal storage and co-generation. Second was their use of single-sided mirrors for focusing sunlight on to the receiving towers. Had Bechtel taken a little more time in designing the systems, they could have designed the 170,000 articulating mirrors to flip over, thus exposing passive solar electrical panels affixed to their undersides.
If they had utilized this scheme, the majority of panels could start each day in passive solar mode, generating sufficient electrical energy to synchronize with the grid. Upon achieving synchronization, operators could begin flipping panels so that their mirrored sides would focus on a receiving tower. As sundown or a thunderstorm approached, operators could begin flipping panels from reflecting mode to passive reception mode, thus smoothing the ramping down of electrical generation and eventual disconnection from the grid.
The key to this plan is to switch quickly from solar reflecting mode to solar receiving mode. Before state and federal regulators approve construction of any additional solar thermal plants in our fragile desert environment, they should require both thermal storage and passive solar additions as part of any new plant construction.
at 05:42 PM |
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In 83 Years the Family Sedan Has Gone From 40 to 563 Horsepower
Where else but at the Detroit Auto Show would you hear such a gratuitous falsehood about the new crop of performance cars? Upon the release of the Lexus RC F Coupe, which boasts “more than” 450 horsepower, Toyota Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi said, “There’s a misconception that race cars are hard to drive. In fact, they’re easy in the right hands, because they’ve been purpose built for the skill level of their drivers”. So there you have it, the chief engineer at Toyota unabashedly admitting that Lexus is selling racecars for the street.
At the same auto show General Motors 625 horsepower, Z06 Corvette made its debut. Last year, Shelby American, based in Las Vegas, Nevada announced a conversion plan for the production model Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500. With its stock 662 horsepower not considered sufficient by Shelby, they offer to raise its vector thrust to 1,100 horsepower. I could go on, but you get the idea. The horsepower race that started in the 1930s, with the widespread acceptance of V-8 engines goes on unabated.
Formula 1 racecars, which are the fastest driveable vehicles in the world, have a mere 750 horsepower. If such were the case, why would anyone need 1,200 horsepower in a sport coupe that will rarely see a legal speed limit above seventy miles per hour? The first answer is “look at me” ego gratification. The second answer is illegal street racing and demonstrations of power and speed.
I grew up in Southern California and got my first driver’s license in 1964. At that time, the car culture centered on power and speed. By 1970, perhaps epitomizing the muscle car era, the Oldsmobile 442 boasted 365 horsepower. Although you could use it to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard, it had two main purposes, legal and illegal drag racing.
Today, you can watch any number of TV shows where builders will recreate or resurrect old muscle cars for the nostalgia market. Ironically, even the fastest of the restored muscle cars cannot hold a candle to the power and maneuverability of a current high-end production vehicle. For instance, The BMW M6 Coupe weighs almost two tons, features a twin-turbo V8 that cranks out 560 horsepower and goes from zero to sixty mph in four seconds flat. Goodbye Oldsmobile 442; you are left in the dust.
If you drive in Los Angeles, where a disproportionate number of supercars find their homes, you know the trouble that they can cause. A quick trip down almost any LA freeway will expose you to the wrath and fury of the everyman supercar. Whether it is a Dodge Avenger with a 5.7 liter Hemi V8 or a 426 Horsepower Camaro SS, you can expect to be overtaken by someone “blowing out the carbon” from their supercar engine.
The original 1962 Volkswagen Beetle featured a four-cylinder engine producing 40 horsepower. The 612 horsepower 2005 Porsche Carrera GT in which actor Paul Walker recently died was a racecar by design. As such, it only tacitly met the legal requirements of for registration as a street vehicle. It could do zero to sixty in 3.8 seconds and zero to one hundred in under seven seconds.
About seven seconds after driver Roger Rodas put his foot down on the accelerator of the Rodas/Walker death vehicle, he hit a street reflector and went airborne at one hundred miles per hour. With no stability control to save them, both the driver and passenger faced near instant death in a fast and furious single car accident. The only thing we can be thankful for is that there was not a Volkswagen Beetle noodling up the street at that time.
Typically, drivers of supercars see themselves as fully capable of handling whatever happens on the freeways of California. They will tout safety features, such as bigger brakes and elaborate stability control features built into their cars. Horsepower, they say, helps get them out of trouble, not into it. For some that may be true. Other supercar drivers are nothing more than a menace on our roadways. The problem is that even the most mild mannered driver can become ticked off and turn into a road-raging maniac.
Since 1978, the U.S. has had a gas-guzzler tax for low efficiency vehicles. Depending on how poor the mileage actually is, the tax ranges from $1,000 to $7,700. Since no one in Congress or any state legislature is planning to limit the horsepower in street-legal vehicles, we need to take another tack. What we need is safety training and mitigation fees for high horsepower vehicles, similar to what the State of Missouri already assesses. Depending on the horsepower of any particular passenger car, I propose the following:
Beginning at 400 horsepower, each new passenger vehicle owner should be required to take a one-day driver-training course, which would focus on performance car driving. They would also pay a $1,000 fee that would increase the number of highway patrol officers and vehicles on the road. A vehicle with 500 horsepower would require a two-day course and a $2,000 highway patrol mitigation fee. Likewise, a 600 horsepower vehicle would require a three-day course and a $3,000 fee. For each additional hundred horsepower, add a day to the driving course and $1,000 in fees.
In the case of the Shelby GT 1000, with 1,200 horsepower, we might top out with a five-day driver-training course and $6,000 in highway patrol mitigation fees. With the total cost of that supercar estimated at $210,000, it would be a small price to pay. Rather than putting a dangerous weapon in the hands of an unskilled driver, we would know that the driver had received sufficient training to handle the power available under foot. Then, if the driver misbehaves on the freeways, blowing an unsuspecting Volkswagen Beetle off the road, there would be a better chance that the highway patrol would catch and reprimand the errant supercar driver for his indiscretion.
at 05:49 PM |
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