The History of SPMW 7020
Bucyrus-Erie 160-Ton Railroad Wrecking Crane
This Bucyrus-Erie crane, serial #9869, was delivered to the Southern Pacific at Ogden, Utah on Sept. 11, 1928. Our knowledge of its history is somewhat incomplete, consisting of bits and pieces of information, some confirmed and others not. It was originally numbered 680, but was renumbered to 7005 in 1932. SP changed their numbering system at that time, as numerous pieces of equipment were renumbered with 4-digit designations.
The crane is believed to have been bought specifically for use by the Shasta Division in the Dunsmuir, CA area. Its larger capacity and longer boom were helpful in pulling wreckage from the Sacramento River and many deep canyons in the area. It is known to have been stationed in Dunsmuir by 1939. In that year it was tipped on its side while attempting to re-rail a steam locomotive at the Cantera Loop. The locomotive’s engineer refused to drain the water from the locomotive to lighten it, and during the lift, soft ground failed under the outriggers of the crane, causing it to fall on its side. It had to be dismantled and hauled out of the canyon, to be repaired and rebuilt at the shops. Railroad Crane 7005 undoubtedly saw much action around the Cantera Loop, which remains a trouble spot to this day. In 1949, 7005’s boiler was converted from coal to oil firing, allowing much easier operation overall.
In 1958, Crane 7005 was traded to Klamath Falls for a 120-ton Industrial Works Crane. Crane 7005’s long boom made it difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate the many tunnels and sharp curves of the Siskiyou Route. In Klamath Falls, operation of the crane was taken over by Chuck Johnson, who ran it for about 14 years. Chuck works with our crane crew today, sharing his valuable experience and skill with us. He estimates that he worked over 300 wrecks with it during his career, and entertains us with many stories of working the Cantera Loop during the ’64 flood, pulling carloads of 747 parts out of the Sacramento River, re-railing numerous locomotives, and so forth. Chuck retired around 1973, and shortly thereafter, 7005 was sent to Seattle for major boiler rebuilding. Not long after that, SP was in the process of scrapping its remaining steam equipment, and the order came down to send 7005 to “the torch”. However, the yard crews liked the old Bucyrus, so they did a clandestine number swap, the 7005 that was scrapped was a 120-ton Industrial, and our crane became 7020.
By the mid 1970’s, Crane 7020 was stationed at Eugene, OR, where its trucks were retrofitted with roller bearings. At the same time, the final drive gears on the axles were eliminated, so the crane was no longer self propelled. It was still maintained for use, but on cold standby, no longer being kept steamed up on house steam. Crane 7020 was used occasionally until at least the early 1980’s. It made its way back to Dunsmuir during this period and is possibly pictured in John Signor’s book SP’s Shasta Division, working on a bridge near Hornbrook, CA in 1980. Its last known lift was in 1982. In 1985, it was photographed in Dunsmuir by Bruce Petty, for his book, Southern Pacific Lines Maintenance Of Way Equipment. Bruce appreciated the significance of the crane, and would periodically grease the piston rods to prevent corrosion.
By 1994, Crane 7020 was again sitting in the Eugene yard, and again the SP office was calling for it to be scrapped. However, the Eugene yardmaster, recognizing the value and good condition of the crane, contacted Rick Franklin, a railroad contractor in Lebanon, OR, to see if they could provide a better alternative. Rick purchased the crane and parked it in his yard in Lebanon. Wishing to have it preserved and appreciated, he donated it to the Western Steam Fiends in 2000. With the help of grants from the NRHS, and the Meyer Memorial Trust Foundation, along with countless volunteer hours, 7020 was moved to its present home in November of that year.
Restoration activities were initiated in spring of 2001, and we first fired up our “baby” in June of that year. Crane 7020 has been operated for our annual Steam-up and other events since that time. Our dedicated group of volunteers appreciates the maintenance and care the crane has received from many individuals over its career, as well as the ongoing financial and volunteer support that make display and operation possible.