Of Steam Shovels and Operators

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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

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.

The ease of control makes it simple to use the Bucyrus-Erie 50-B
Dragline for dumping into cars. The machine shown has a boom
extension which may be readily added or removed in the field.

Note the simplicity of the 50-B, and the clear passageway and
firing floor. All parts arc easily accessible. There is only one
drum shaft, carrying one drum for shovel operation and two for
operation as dragline or clamshell. Thus with simple construction
and extreme ruggedness is combined a convertibility remarkable for
a shovel of this capacity.

On another occasion when I was working for the White Clay
Company, one of the operators left and a new man was hired to take
his place. They did not like to break in new men and always hired
someone with experience. The man they hired said he was experienced
but he was not. When he started his shift working nights on a
Bucyrus shovel it wasn’t long before he was having a great deal
of trouble due to inexperience. In swinging back from the spoil
pile when he was dumping dirt, he got confused and did not stop the
shovel swinging. The bucket was part way down in the pit and it hit
the high wall. It broke the shipper-shaft on the shovel and bent
the dipper sticks and pulled the hog rod loose on the side of the
boom. It also caused some other damage to the shovel. This ended
his shovel operator career! Before he left he admitted that he had
only run a steam concrete mixer and fired on some other smaller
shovels. This turned out to be quite a costly repair bill for the

Loading railroad ballast at Atmore, Alabama, the 50-B can easily
average 1,250 cubic yards per shift and has a record of 1,750 cubic
yards in ten hours according to the owners, the Memphis Stone and
Gravel Company.

I also want to mention that Dean Redd of Charleroi, Pennsylvania
is restoring an Erie B shovel and barring unforseen circumstances,
he expects to have it at the National

Pike Steam Show, Rt. 40, east of Washington, PA on August 8, 9,
10, 1986. I hope to be at this show moving some dirt with this
shovel in August.

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