You may remember back in the early days, I wrote an article titled 'The king of the jungle'. In this article, I referenced the large hydraulic excavators and face shovels used by miners to load ultra-class haul trucks. At the time, I indicated that these machines were the ‘top of the apex’ in relation to their size. I lied..
This error was not intentional and certainly was not to deceive, for when it comes to large hydraulic excavators they are indeed the largest machines that you can load with. There is however a larger 'apex predator', a machine that tops all others, a machine so big in size that it makes all others pale into insignificance and it is my friends, the dragline.
When massive amounts of overburden must be removed economically, there is simply no other type of machine that can dig deeper and more efficiently than the dragline. With large working radiuses and their immense ability in moving dirt, the dragline can dig one area and deposit overburden circa 500 to 600 feet away.
And so, it was in 1969, the world's largest dragline was officially commissioned for service. Manufactured by the then Bucyrus-Erie (now Caterpillar), she was a mammoth machine of gigantic proportion and christened 'Big Muskie'. The stats say it all. She was 22 stories tall, weighed 14,000 metric tons, was circa 500 ft long with boom down and had a bucket size (cop this) of 220 cubic yards (circa 168 cubic metres).
Now I know that there will be those among you, that will argue that this machine may not have been the largest and depending upon the metric you use, you may well be right. By weight, I admit, 'Big Muskie' was pipped by other machines however, by capacity (and let's face it, this is the only true metric that miners and corporates truly appreciate), 'Big Muskie' was the largest single bucket earthmoving machine ever created. If she were an Olympic wrestler, on 'Power to Weight', she would be crowned grand champion.
To put it into perspective, when eventually stripped in the '90's, the steel recycled would have been enough to make over 9,000 cars... Given such stats, it's of little surprise why these mining machines captured the minds of generations.
With names including 'Big Hog', 'Brutus', 'The Captain' and 'Big Muskie', these machines were human marvels. I encourage you to Google these names, I guarantee you'll be amazed their history.
This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the October - November 2017 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.Published 23 October, 2017