Farm Collector


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

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

  • Published on Mar 1, 1967
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