Lately I’ve become fascinated by the extreme tech that we built in the 1960s. We did a lot of interesting things. Took computers out of the lab and built them for companies, went to the moon, built things like the SR-71, and generally built some incredible things. As several people have pointed out, some of the best minds today are building the surveillance economy, and worried about getting more downloads on the latest game for your phone. It just doesn’t seem the same somehow.
Not the biggest mining shovel ever, but one of the more famous shovels. It began operations in 1965 in the Georgetown area of Ohio, and broke down in 2006. Silver Spade Retires.
Given that mining shovels work in coal mines, and most coal in the last half of the 20th Century was used to generate electricity, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it ran on electric power.
The Silver Spade, or Bucyrus-Erie 1950-B to use its model designation, was not the largest shovel built but was probably the most famous as the last of its type operating. With an estimated weight of 7,200 tons, she operated with a 105-cubic-yard dipper on a 200-foot-long boom, measured 59 feet wide at ground level, and reached a height of 191 feet to boom tip.
The behemoth shovel was served by a 7,200-volt trailing cable weighing 20 pounds per foot. On board, AC main driving motors totaling 9,000 horsepower drove DC generators for the shovel’s main motions — hoist (8 motors), swing (4 motors) and crowd (2 motors). The massive weight of the machine was supported on eight crawler track assemblies, each with its own DC motor.
It’s final day of production was April 3, 2006, and it suffered a breakdown on April 10th of that year. Preservation efforts failed and the shovel was scrapped. The bucket and cab are all that is left, serving as the focal point of a park in Ohio.
The Harrison County Museum has a great set of photos from when the Spade was new, through demolition.
The Silver Spade was one of two Bucyrus-Erie 1950-B shovels built. The other was The GEM of Egypt which worked the Egypt Valley coalfield in Ohio.
And yes, I know that strip-mining coal is considered a bad thing today. Still doesn’t diminish the awesome nature of this machine.