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Giant Mining Shovel Brings Visitors To Kansas
A long-time FARM SHOW subscriber who's also had a few inventions of his own featured in the magazine over the years, recently stopped in to tell us about one of the most unusual tourist attractions in America.
Hollis On of Cannon Falls, Minn., says he became fascinated by the "Big Brutus" electric coal shovel after hearing about it last year. He sent for more information and recently dropped off photos and literature.
The Big Brutus is one of the world's two largest shovels ever built. At 160 ft., it's stands taller than a 15-story building. It took 150 rail cars to ship all the components of the shovel to a P & M coal mine near Hallowell, Kan., in 1962. A crew of 52 men were employed to erect it. Once in place, it operated 24 hrs. a day for 11 years until it was finally shut down in 1974 when the mine closed.
The gigantic machine mounts on huge hydraulic jacks riding on four crawler tracks, each powered by a 250 hp. electric motor. The jacks automatically kept the shovel in a level position on the uneven pit floor. Hydraulic oil was supplied to the four jacks by a 3,200-gal. reservoir. Each jack cylinder is 42 in. dia. with a stroke of 66 in.
The shovel could dig as much as 150 tons - or more than 90 cu. yds. - in one scoop, which was enough to fill three railroad cars.
The 11,000,000-lb. machine had an electric power plant that produced 7,500 hp. under normal operating conditions and 15,000 hp. under peak loads, using as much electric power as a community of 15,000 people. It took four cables, 3 1/2 in. thick and powered by eight 500-hp. electric motors, to lift the bucket. Maximum reach of the boom was 150 ft., maximum dumping height 101 ft., and maximum digging depth 69 ft. Top speed was .22 mph. Big Brutus cost the mining company $6.5 million. It was built by the Bycyrus-Erie company.
Big Brutus did not dig coal. The huge bucket removed rocks and dirt over coal seams. Then it would roll back as coal strippers moved in.
The electric bill during its last month of operation in 1974 was $27,000. It was "re-tired" to a strip of ground next to the pit, which was later filled with water to create a recreation area. In 1984, the P & M mining company donated the big shovel, along with $100,000 for restoration work, to a group that included many of the workers who originally worked on the behemoth. Big Brutus now sits inside a 10,000 acre Kansas state park and tours regularly take visitors to the top of the big shovel's boom
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bid Brutus, Inc., P.O. Box 25, West Mineral Kan. 66782 (ph 316 827-6177).

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1995 - Volume #19, Issue #3