The Silver Spade was a mechanical giant with a single purpose; move earth…lots of it. With a 105 cubic yard bucket the Silver Spade could move nearly 157 tons (US) of material in a single pass and deposit it 390 feet away, 140 feet high. Nothing about the Spade was small, so of course it’s power source was massive. With a large electric cable spooling out from the rear, fourteen AC motors provided 13,500 HP to level, or create mountains. The electric power source also allowed the machine to operate rather quietly. The only sounds typically heard were the hum of cooling fans and the crash of steel gouging the earth.
Constructed in 1965 the shovel ran continuously for nearly 65 years. In the spring of 2006, the ring circle at the base of the shovel developed a crack and was deemed beyond repair. The fate of the Silver Spade was uknown. For a short while it appeared the current owner would agree for the shovel to be saved and left complete for a future as a museum piece. Sadly, this was not to be the case. In 2007 the Silver Spade was demolished and sold for scrap. The cab and the bucket were donated to the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Park were they are currently on display.
Bucyrus-Erie manufactured two of these giant shovels, The Silver Spade and The Gem Of Egypt. Designated as model 1950-B both worked the coal fields of the Midwest for decades. Designed to last the shovels eventually succumbed to rising operating costs and a changing world. Smaller drag lines and power shovels could do the same work at the same speed for a fraction of the cost. Few of the large power shovels are left. Big Brutus lives as local attraction in West Mineral, Kansas. Not as large as the two Bucyrus twins Big Brutus is still able to produce the same level of awe when seeing for the first time. With the changes in the coal industry over the years it’s unlikely machines of these size will every be produced again. Like the dinousaurs they resemble the Spade and the Gem left their marks on the earth they once controlled, but are left to be remembered only through history books.
The Silver Spade Working in 2005
The Demolition of The Silver Spade