Of Steam Shovels and Operators


| March/April 1986



Eric ''B'' shovel'

1920 Eric ''B'' shovel with yard bucket which is currently being restored by Earl Hamilton.

38120 S.R. 518, Lisbon, Ohio 44432

This is the beginning of a story of my interest in steam how I grew up with it and things that happened connected with it, but mostly with steam shovels.

When I was born my father had a steam engine, a sawmill and a threshing machine. As I grew older my interest grew in the operation of steam engines. I can barely remember seeing the Huber steam engine my father had. Then he sold it and bought a 12 HP Case engine, which I had a little experience firing at a very early age. After the Case engine he bought a Russell engine and it was the first engine I fired on both a sawmill and a threshing machine. Later on the Russell engine was replaced with a 50 HP Case. It was one of the first steam engines that I really operated. Later this Case engine was traded to the Case Co. for a Case Crossmount tractor, which was used on the sawmill and the threshing run. We then lived about four miles north of East Liverpool, Ohio, in a farming community.

During this time I had my first encounter with a steam shovel working near my home on a road grading job taking a steep hump off a hill. It was a The steam shovel a small shovel used primarily for road grading. I was very interested in this machine and used to spend many evenings after school and many Saturdays watching the shovel load dirt into dump wagons that were pulled with a team of horses and that sparked my interest very much in steam shovels. Also the person who operated this shovel lived near our place and I used to talk to him about his machine. This particular shovel did not have caterpillar tread but was a wheel shovel. It had four wide wheels on it for traveling and it could not travel very well in soft ground. It would have to run on planks or mats when on soft ground. It probably did not weigh more than 15 or 20 tons.

Then in the middle 1920's we moved near Negley, Ohio, about 12 miles north of our previous home to a farm formerly owned by my great grandfather and took with us the farm machinery mentioned above. We threshed, sawed barn frames, and did some commercial sawing. In the meantime we needed another power to operate the sawmill and threshing machine as we had to operate both at the same time on a commercial basis. We found a used 45 HP Case steam tractor that we could buy reasonably and we used it on the sawmill and threshed with the Case Crossmount 22-40.

When we moved to Negley there was a large steam operation in a coal strip mine which had two large shovels and two smaller ones with which they loaded coal. This was about 4 miles from my father's farm and was near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, in South Beaver Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. I spent some of my spare time watching these shovels at work.