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Bucyrus Steam Shovel

Maker:  TWH Collectibles
Model No:  021
Scale:  1:48
Review Date:  July 2008

TWH Index
Historic Equipment Index

Cranes Etc Model Rating
Packaging   (max 10)7
Detail   (max 30)28
Features   (max 20)19
Quality   (max 25)24
Price   (max 15)13
Overall   (max 100)91%


A classic - the Bucyrus Steam Shovel.
The 'aged' box.
Where to buy
All the parts out of the box.
Screw jack and blocks of 'wood'.  The control levers are visible in the cabin.
Opening coal door on the boiler.
Excellent shovel gear.
Authentic heavy looking structure for the digging machinery.
Superb boiler details.
Metal gear mechanisms.
The Bucyrus Company has a long history.  It was founded in Bucyrus, Ohio in 1880 and thirteen years later moved to South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Soon after it decided to specialise in excavating machinery. 

Around the turn of the century the 95-ton steam shovel was the largest the company built and they were used on many projects and Bucyrus shovels were the most prevalent in use during the construction of the Panama Canal.

This model was commissioned by Toy Trucker and Contractor Magazine and is in 1:48 scale.  As a rail mounted piece of equipment, the scale has been chosen as it is 'O' gauge, and so could find a place onto a suitable railroad layout although the model is not designed to be towed behind an engine.


The model comes in a box which has an aged appearance and so suitably represents the historic nature of the model it contains.  Inside, the model is securely packed between the usual expanded polystyrene trays.  The review model had no defects or missing parts.

A small booklet details the history of the Bucyrus company and has interesting photos and narrative about the real machine.  Two small cards are also provided.  One warns that the model is designed for static display, and the other has some small photos illustrating the basics of assembling the few pieces that need it.  Although it is good that these instructions are provided, they do not do justice to the model itself.  TWH have recognised this and they have produced an updated set of instructions which can be downloaded - see the Model Notes section at the end of this review.

Care is needed to unpack the model as the drive chains under the carriage are taped together and need to be carefully removed before doing anything else.


On looking at this model for the first time it is clear that it is something special.

A length of track is provided which has metal rails and plastic ties (sleepers) which look like wood.  In addition two plastic moulded blocks for packing under the outriggers are provided.  These look like timbers and it would have been nice if they had consisted of separate pieces rather than one piece. 

The underside of the model gives a taste of the detail and engineering quality that is this model.  Drive chains lead from sprockets to the bogies.  These have fine flanged wheels with excellently detailed bogie frames and suspension.  At the front end of the car frame are outriggers, one on each side.  These have fine structural elements, and at the top a nice spoked turning wheel.

The machine house sits on the car frame and has rivet details to all doors and windows.  The Bucyrus nameplate is embossed beautifully within the casting.  At the rear there is a ladder to the roof complete with turning handle, and the roof has rivet details with a chimney stack that has realistic stays to hold it in place.

At the front the digging equipment is very detailed with rivet details authentically representing the real structure of the shovel.  The boom turntable is a crafted piece of model engineering, and the main boom is stabilised at the bottom by replica turnbuckles.  Steel coloured string is used in the mechanism to rotate the boom from side to side.  The only compromise to high quality detail is at the top of the boom support where a black crosshead screw is visible.  A ladder extends up the boom, and there is a platform with handrails for the dipper flap operator.  Excellent guards cover the toothed gears which drive the dipper handle.  Black chains are used to raise the dipper and these run on excellent metal pulleys.  The dipper itself is very finely modelled with rivet details and good looking teeth.

To fully appreciate the detail in this model, you need to look inside the machine house and the best way to achieve this is to remove it.  With the house off, the quality of the model can be further appreciated.  At the rear of the car frame is a coupling mechanism for connection to other rail vehicles.  The boiler area is tremendous, with excellent pipe work including tiny valves, and riveted boiler construction.  The engineering complexity of the model is fully apparent with the working gear and piston arrangements, all in metal. At the front of the model is a bank of operator control levers.


The shovel can be moved along the track by inserting and winding one of the supplied keys under the car frame.  This works the sprockets and chains and moves the vehicle smoothly.  The bogies have fully working suspension which use tiny springs mounted between the axles. 

The coupling mechanism at the back is spring loaded and works. 

On each side the outrigger beams swing out and are locked into place, allowing the pads to be screwed down to stabilise the shovel during digging operations.

The machine house has opening sliding doors on both sides and opening windows which can be realistically propped open.  At the rear the coal loading deck opens and is supported on chains and props are used to hold up the rear flap to form a roof.

The boiler coal door opens.  Inside the cab, the control levers can be moved and set to different positions.

Using a key the main shovel functions can be operated.  The boom can be moved from side to side and the dipper raised and lowered.  Operating these functions causes the steam pistons inside the house to work which is a first class feature.  The crowd action on the dipper handle can be achieved by using a key on a pinion on the main boom which drives a rack on the dipper handle to extend and retract it.  The flap of the dipper can be opened using the release cable.

To have full sight of the internal detail, the house needs to be removed from the car frame.  TWH do not recommend this, but in practice it is straightforward to undo eight screws, detach the boom support strap and chimney, and ease the house off making sure the sliding doors do not fall out onto a hard surface and get damaged.


This model is among the very best Cranes Etc has seen at the time of the review.  The detail and engineering are top notch and there is hardly any plastic used.  The paintwork and quality of finish is excellent.


A model such as this cannot be expected to be inexpensive.  However it is very good value for a model of this quality.


This is one of those few models that is such a quality item that almost anyone would be happy to have it on a mantelpiece, even if they have no interest in collecting models, or the machine itself.  The detail and features are excellent, and the quality is first class.  Hopefully some day all quality models will be made this way.


The model first appeared in 2007.  The run of the model is 3000.  An updated instruction sheet has been produced for this model and is available for download here (964Kb).

Inside the box.
First class model engineering visible inside the machine house.
Excellent rivet details.
Chain drive to the bogie and delicate stays hold the chimney.
Opening flap on the dipper.
Taking the house off reveals first class detail and engineering.
Excellent engineering is the hallmark.
Underside view showing the chain drives.
As good as it gets.  Boiler and pipe work detailing.