5815 Upper Valley Pike, Dayton, Ohio 45424
Steam and gas engine enthusiasts may have their preferences when it comes to hobbies and collecting, but they do share a common interest in unusual and super great man made equipment. This is evidenced at the Antique Engine shows when the mighty Reeves 140 starts to chug or the tremendous Twin city 60-90 tractor begins to move. Everyone's attention is focused on these masterpieces of man's engineering genius built years ago.
Industry and the engineers continue to build awesome machines for the betterment of mankind. In Ohio we have one such machine that people come from all over the world to see. In addition, a special viewing platform, complete with walls covered with specifications, was constructed to aid in seeing the operation.
One beautiful day, Jim Welty, a steam engine and road roller collector, and I decided to go see the 'Big Muskie'. We arrived at the viewing platform and in the distance the twin booms could be seen over the hilltop. Since there seemed to be no movement we decided to run over for a close look. This proved our distance perception was off since it was over two miles away. The road helped our hiking over the hills, in what seemed to be land of very little use to mankind. Finally reaching the crest of a hill a quarter of a mile away, there it was. It was the greatest thing that moved, that man had built. Truly it was the world's largest dragline, a 13,500 ton mammoth that cost 24 million dollars to build. Developed by Bucyrus-Erie this walking giant is twice as large in horsepower and weight than any dragline ever built.
What created a need for such a machine? Since 1953 the coal requirements for the Ohio Power Company have jumped to over 5 million tons annually. This is the requirement for more than 500,000 customers in 53 Ohio Counties. Ohio Power Company's mine property extends over 110,000 acres of hilly terrain, most of which was never productive as it was covered with scrub trees and brush. Under the 12 inch layer of clay soil are layers of shale, limestone and occasionally sandstone. The overburden, covering over the coal, ranges up to 160 and 200 feet in thickness. Much of the 200 million tons of coal on the property could not be economically removed until the 'Big Muskie' came into use.
The coal through this area varies in thickness from 28 to 52 inches. The 'Big Muskie's 220 cubic yard bucket digs away the overburden exposing a strip 150 ft. wide for the small machines to load. The 310 foot boom carries its 325 ton payload and drops it up to 600 ft. away. The total weight on 5 inch hoist cables at this time is 550 tons. These 5 inch cables, the largest ever made with a breaking strength of 1,080 tons weigh 46.2 lbs. per foot. The bucket, weighing 250 tons, can hold 12 automobiles.
This monster is moved from location to location over surfaces prepared by a D9 dozer and a 12 yard dragline. It can moved up to 14 feet at a time, rolling forward on two shoes after picking up the base.
Some more interesting features about the construction of the 'Big Muskie' follow. The booms are made up of 24 inch tubing filled with inert gas for crack detection purposes. The electrical machinery has vacuum breakers which eliminates changing of oil and contamination. It has a Lincoln centralized lubrication system that delivers measured quantities of grease to moving parts and a ventilation system that delivers 1 million CFM of filtered and pressurized air to the machinery housing. The electrical cables are 4 inch in diameter, the largest ever made. The 'Big Muskie' is 1-1/3 times as long as a football field; wider than an 8 lane divided highway; revolves on 128 massive rollers each the size of an oil drum, hoists loads higher than a 30 story building; can pick up a load and dump it two blocks away; the bucket is as large as a 2 story house; requires 45,000 horsepower, sufficient for 150 Grayhound buses.
A vast lode of potential energy lies buried beneath our country - coal reserves of 830 billion tons. At our present rate of consumption it will supply us for 1500 years. There is one problem: this coal is deeply buried, difficult to mine economically and remote from areas where power is needed. Through the use of big machines our coal output has tripled since 1945. Over half of our nation's electricity is generated from coal. Looking ahead our electrical capacity had to double by 1976. All this means there must be steadily advancing technology to mine coal safely and economically; unhampered by a few who under the guise of ecology would destroy the comforts we have worked for and reduce us to a third rate nation.