Custom Finishing makes HO Burrow model 40 crane

The Custom Finishing crane ($34.95) is a kit for making a metal model of a popular railroad crane built by Burro Crane Inc since the mid-1950s. The kit can be assembled in about eight hours. Lifting accessories are sold separately.
Anything to do with railroad track is big and heavy, which is why maintenance-of-way crews use small cranes to lift everything from barrels of spikes to water towers. One of the more popular railroad cranes is the rail-riding Burro crane manufactured by Burro Crane Inc.

Burro cranes have been around since the early part of the century, originally being powered by gasoline and later by diesel engines. One selling feature that separates Burro from its competitors is that a Burro crane is self-propelled. A mechanical transmission allows the Burro to move itself and several cars to and from the work site, an important asset that can free a locomotive for other work.

Custom Finishing has chosen the Burro Model 40 crane as a starting point for its line of maintenance-of-way machinery kits. The Model 40 has been used by railroads of all sizes since the mid-1950s. Weighing approximately 37 tons, it can haul as many as four cars at nearly 30 mph.

Custom Finishing’s kit is mostly white metal with an etched-brass boom. Brass rod is included for pivots and axles. Plastic inserts are provided to insulate the wheels so the crane can sit on a powered track without causing a short circuit.

Prototype Burro cranes come with many options, depending upon their intended service. Custom Finishing sells the crane’s lifting implements separately to give the modeler similar options. It’s a good idea to buy the implements that you want at the same time as the crane, as some require variations in the boom’s rigging. I used the clamshell bucket.

The kit’s instructions are clear and fairly easy to understand, but I’d recommend keeping a prototype photo handy for reference. This is very important if you’re reproducing a specific prototype.

For the white-metal assemblies, I used slow-setting CA (cyanoacrylate adhesive). All the parts fit well, without filing, and the castings came virtually free of flash.

The crane’s base platform features white-metal flanged wheels that are supposed to roll. I wasn’t able to get mine very true, but they’re close enough to gauge to allow movement at slow speeds.

Each end of the base has an indentation for couplers. I mounted Kadee no. 5 couplers in their draft-gear boxes using 2-56 flathead screws to maintain clearance beneath the cab. I cut the side ears off the Kadee draft-gear boxes and covered the holes with bits of .010″ sytrene.

The no. 5 couplers ride a little low, but they’re close enough for my static model. Number 27 couplers will come closer to the right height.

Custom Finishing’s instruction sheet recommends drilling all the holes before beginning assembly, and they mean it! I overlooked the hole in the cab floor for the operator’s seat. My walls were already cemented together when I discovered this omission. I wound up making a wild guess and drilled the hole from the underside.

Constructing the boom is one area that can be tricky on a model crane. The boom on our Model 40 comes in two pieces, and it’s a work of art! To assemble it, I folded the pieces on the etched marks until I had two box assemblies. Then I ran a bead of Tix low-temperature solder down the joints to finish each box. One section has tabs that slip into the other one where they meet. I used Tix solder to join the two assemblies, filing the joint smooth once the solder had cooled.

A coil of thin, black plastic “cable” comes with the kit to simulate the prototype rigging. This plastic cable is similar to fishing line, and mine kept trying to spring up. I decided to use .012″ brass wire instead. It’s straight and looks more like cable under tension. The smaller cable, between the clamshell and the spool on the boom, is .006″ brass wire.

One item that appears to be missing from the kit is window glazing. I started to add some, using clear .010″ styrene, but I noticed that a lot of prototype cranes don’t have glass. Many now have removable metal panels that cover the window openings to keep out vandals.

I painted everything on my crane with Accu-Flex no. 16-50 Insignia Yellow, except for the cables, which are no. 16-74 Illinois Central Brown. The kit includes “Burro” decals for the boom and cab sides, but you’ll also want to add an owner’s herald or initials. N scale decal sets are a good source for these smaller heralds.

It took me approximately 8 hours to build and paint the model. Although it looks like a tough kit, the minimal cleanup and good fits make assembly enjoyable. This Burro crane will look great cleaning up the right-of-way or just sitting on a flatcar.

HO scale Burro Model 40 crane

Price: $34.95


Custom Finishing

379 Tully Rd.

Orange, MA 01364


No. 7000 brass and white-metal

craftsman kit


No. 7282 brass clamshell, $14.95

No. 7283 brass electromagnet, hoist,

and rail tongs, $4.98


Non-operating static model

Insulated wheels

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