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ARCHIVE: Big F*** Off dragline excavator, Leeds, 12-09-2009
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Arrow ARCHIVE: Big F*** Off dragline excavator, Leeds, 12-09-2009 - 13-09-2009, 16:32

After 2 consecutive years of rubbish, finally, I uncover a Heritage Open Fail worth visiting – 1200 tons and 215ft of win.

The Bucyrus-Erie BE150 walking dragline was built by Bucyrus-Erie at their South Milwaukee factory in the USA in 1948. It initially worked for the interestingly named ‘Dick Construction’ in South Virginia for 4 years, before being brought to Britain with two other machines.

In 1954 it started work at the Tirpentwys opencast mine near Pontypool, before being dismantled and moved to the Poplars Site near Cannock in the 1960’s. In the early 1970’s, it was again transferred, this time to it’s final site at St. Aidans in Swillington, to the east of Leeds, where it worked until the site flooded in 1988.

It was nicknamed ‘Oddball’ due to it having General Electric machinery rather than the usual Westinghouse gubbins to power it.

Interestingly, walking draglines like this can only walk backwards – the idea being that it would start at one end of the site, and dig away in front of it, walk back, dig away, walk back, etc. To actually change direction, they lift the legs and rotate into a different direction, then walk, at a nippy 0.2mph.

The machine is preserved as a tribute to the ‘sunshine miners’ of the British coal industry, (i.e. the miners who worked overground) by the Friends of St Aidan’s Dragline, a worthy and enthusiastic bunch of chaps who are more than happy to talk to you and walk round explaining how it all works, or just let you wander round on your own. Well worth a visit!

At the front

"And here from the balcony, we have some quite magnificent views....."

Boom - 215 ft long. Normally, the large A-frame nearest to us would be vertical. The boom would only be lowered like this for maintenance.

Machinery room - so big it's got it's own overhead crane. None of this will work again as the pikey's have been in and nicked all the copper from the motors and stuff.

At the controls. Large amounts of the environment are scooped up using the control levers on the left and right, and then it's swung round using the pedals on the floor.

View from halfway along the boom

Self portrait, sort of.

The bucket has been detatched and now sits alongside.

The opencast as it is now.

Working scale model. The guy who built it (in the hi-viz) built it all from scratch in his own workshop. The workshop is in his loft - it contains a lathe and a milling machine amongst other things. How the hell he got them up there I've no idea, but he showed me a photo of it all to prove it. Nuts.