Content Tools

207 Arborcrest Drive, Route 2, Loveland, Ohio 45140

I have often been inclined to write a letter to be published (I hope) in the good old Album but never felt that anyone would be interested. Right now I need some help so here goes.

I am presently in the process of purchasing an old 1920 Bucyrus steam shovel that has been resting out in the weeds for years. It is in surprisingly good condition considering its age and the hard work it has evidently performed in the past. As I love steam power enough to be determined she won't end her days in the inevitable blast furnace, I intend to at least make every effort to get her all steamed up again. I have collected and rebuilt quite a few small stationary engines so it was only natural that I couldn't pass up this 'Big Bertha'! Needless to say, buying a full size steam shovel poses some problems, all the way from a skeptical wife and family to completely astounded friends (all of whom are convinced we're lunatics!) - plus a limited budget and the size of the work involved. But it is always a labor of love and I am alternately awed and dismayed, then fascinated by its size and pure brute machinery.

This shovel is, I believe, about one yard - with crawler treads, chain and sprocket driven. There are three engines on board - the main hoist engine, the sewing engine (which revolves the whole works around the big bull gear), and the crowd engine out on the boom (which works the dipper arm up and down through a rack and pinion gear). All these engines are twin cylinder, slide valved and reversible. There is none of the usual link reversing valve motion and evidently the engines are reversed by a sliding, false valve seat which must cross the ports to the cylinders. The boiler is a vertical with a 48' diameter shell and approximately 125 1' tubes and carried 125 pounds of steam. An unusual feature of the boiler is a patented inner scale chamber which evidently is for the purpose of precipitating the hardness in the feed-water before contacting the heating surface.

I have the engines freed up now and checked out most of the machinery. Hopes are high to attempt a move out of the weeds before Spring.

One detail has me licked and that is the method used to steer the old girl when moving or out on the road! There are two massive internal toothed, jaw type clutches on the final chain drive to the treads (one on each side) and even a kid would know these are used to steer the rig. But I cannot determine how the engineer works these clutches from the platform as there are no levers,, linkage, and even missing brackets connected with these clutches. There are two chain hooks under the cab body and maybe it is possible to use short chains to operate the clutches. The chains would be cinched around the clutch casting (which are grooved) and by swinging the cab slightly back and forth in the proper manner, steering could be accomplished as you clank along!

As these old timers seem to be rather scarce, I am hoping that someone familiar with these fascinating shovels will read this and contact me. I would be glad to correspond with any old time shovel engineers - especially those that have operated a Bucyrus, or have one in their possession.

Sure do enjoy the Album as I have worked with steam for 30 years or more. Keep up the fine work, Elmer. Best regards to all the staff.