Of Steam Shovels and Operators

| July/August 1986

38120 Ste. Rte 518 Lisbon, Ohio 44432

(This is the third in a series of reminiscences about steam shovels and their operators by Mr. Hamilton. The names used in this story are ficticious. Photos are courtesy of the Bucyrus-Erie Company. Ed.)

This installment starts with operators and some of their stories.

One operator I worked with at a coal stripping operation told me about a dirt moving operation in New York state. He was one of four operators on four identical shovels50B Bucyrus-Erie steam shovels. In the course of working, there was friction between the one operator, George, who was the head boss and the teller of the story, Sam. This argument went on continuously and concerned who was moving the most dirt. After many heated arguments over this, Sam decided he would get even with George.

One Saturday which was used as boiler wash-out and repair day they worked during the morning and tried to be done by noon so they could have the afternoon off. As everybody was getting ready to leave at noon they asked Sam if he was leaving then too. He said he couldn't because he had a little work to do on the boom engine of his shovel. But what was really done was this. He made a wooden plug to fit the inside of the throttle steam line on the hoisting engine. After everyone else had gone he took this plug, with about one-third of it cut away on one side, over to George's shovel and disconnected a union on the steam line that went from the throttle to one of the cylinders on the hoisting engine. He put this plug in the steam line, reconnected the union and left.

On Monday when they started up, George's shovel was slowed down since it wasn't getting enough steam on the cylinder, and he could not move dirt quite as fast as Sam from then on. This story was told to me by Sam. I worked with Sam quite a while and this story was told many times. I believe the story is true because Sam could not stand for anyone to move more dirt than he did.