Bucyrus Erie Hydrocrane

As you know I’m a daily visitor to the government surplus clearing house that is Auctions International. A few years back the Town of Tonawanda, NY was auctioning off a International Loadstar with a strange looking crane on the back. At the time I thought it was a cool unit worth saving but figured it would probably just go for scrap as it was listed in non running condition. Outside of a few special like minded individuals most just see a hunk of steel. I saved a few pictures from AI and moved on with life. Imagine my surprise this past Sunday morning when I arrived to the CNY ATHS chapter show and saw that old beast from so many years ago in fully operational condition.

Not only did someone save the truck but they brought it back to CNY and have been using it around their property for the past few years. True to the auction inspection details the truck was not running. While it would turn over with gas placed in the carb it wouldn’t catch and stay running. A little poking around revealed that both the truck and the Ford power unit for the crane ran from the same tank. A loose hose was found and reconnected which quickly solved the engine problems for good.

Loading the truck onto the trailer for the journey home turned out to be the hardest part. A leaking hydraulic system meant that all four outriggers need to be manually ratcheted into their closed position. With the engine running and just a little bit of braking power to be had the loading process turned out to be an adventure. With just a few inches to go before success the teeth of the clam shell bucket bit into the ground. Fortunately town employees were able to help push the truck onto the trailer with their front loader.

The Bucyrus Hydrocrane represents a time when the construction equipment world was in transition between cable and hydraulics machines. The Hydrocrane is memorable combination of the two systems. On most modern cranes the cable drum action is provided through a hydraulicaly operated drum. In the the Hydrocrane no such device is to be found. The operator lets out a length of cable from a spool located behind his seat. The cable then runs through a series of pulleys mounted in a cage near the rear of the machine. This cage is raised and lowered through a hydraulic ram which in turn moves the cable in our out. Despite the Rube Goldberg style of engineering the system works! I saw it with my own eyes.

The Hydrocrane has many modern amenities including a three stage boom (1st stage manually powered) and a 360 rotating turntable. A unique locking system on the rear axle keeps the truck still for those jobs when you need to do some light lifting but can be bothered to screen with outriggers. With just 1100 on the power unit and 21000 on the truck this odd combo is still capable of putting in a days work. The truck was used by the town water department to pull pumping equipment for maintenance. Lest you think this equipment is outdated I’ve been told that Tonawada still has a second Hydrocrane mounted on a “newer” chassis and use it on regular basis!

Thanks to current owner Kevin for taking the time to explain the operation and history of this truck. He also put on a few demonstrations throughout the day the drew large crowds for obvious reasons. My how times have changed.

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3 Responses to Bucyrus Erie Hydrocrane

  1. Andy R. says:

    You looked fine when I was talking to you on Sunday… But the number of photos of this one truck, says to me you might not have been yourself that day… Ha ha ha

    So many photos… So many angles…

    You will be a photog yet!

  2. rich allen says:

    Hello i just bought a 1974 ford with a b&e hydro crane on top I dont know how to let out some lifting cable it has a lever behind the seat with a button . it will crank the cable in but i cant seem to figure out how to let some slack out .. !!! help !! cell # 2039946535

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