Friday, February 02, 2018

the Marion Power Shovel Co. produced some of the largest earth moving shovels in the United States. "The Mountaineer" was built in 1955-56 at 16 stories tall and 2.75 million tons, this machine basically started the super shovel era.

The Mountaineer had a 65-cubic-yard dipper, stood 16 stories tall, with a 150 foot tall boom. Its shovel could hold a 100-ton payload. The Mountaineer was the first shovel to have a built-in elevator for the crew to reach the operating controls, in this case, located in dual cabs at the front of the machine, one on each side.

Shortly after it's completion on site near the Hanna Coal offices and shops, the shovel was poised next to NKP Berkshire 819 and it's coal train. The opportunity was used to show the massive proportions of the shovel next to the now tiny in comparison steam engine.

There were three of the giant machines: The Tiger, The Mountaineer, and The GEM of Egypt.
(“GEM,” an acronym for “Giant Earth Mover” or “Giant Excavating Machine”)

All three were in the service of the Hanna Coal Company, which by 1970, had been strip mining in Ohio for decades

At its deep mine locations, especially in earlier years, Hanna built company housing for its miners, such as those built for workers at the Dunglen mine at Newtown, Ohio. It also operated company stores – those invoked generally by the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons.” Two of Hanna’s stores were those named Dillonvale and Lafferty, and another one was located at Willow Grove, Ohio. First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had visited Hanna’s Willow Grove deep mine in April 1935.

The Marion Power Shovel Company also assisted NASA by making the transporters used to carry the Apollo rockets to the launch pad. The various Space Shuttles also used the haulers to travel to the launch pad.

Hanna also used the 1967 mine-opening event to public relations advantage, offering hand-out literature for the public that touted the virtues of reclamation and post-mining uses, some of which bordered on the far-fetched, such as suggesting spoil piles could be used for ski slopes. The reality was that this mine, and others that had preceded it, were ripping through farmland, and despite laws on the books, leaving in their wake, highwalls, spoil piles, acid mine drainage, damaged homes, silted streams and polluted water supplies.

During 1970, environmental concerns continued to rise across the nation. On December 20th that year, President Richard Nixon established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the strip mine fight, just after Christmas 1970, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, Democrat John D. “Jay” Rockefeller announced that he would seek a ban on the surface mining of coal in West Virginia, with bills to that end introduced in the legislature in late January 1971. At the federal level too, by July 1971, West Virginia’s Congressman, Democrat Ken Heckler, had introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to ban surface coal mining.

In February 1972 the Buffalo Creek disaster in West Virginia occurred. In the upper reaches of the Buffalo Creek watershed in Logan County, West Virginia, a series of large coal slurry waste gop impoundments burst after heavy rains, releasing a tidal wave of coal waste water on more than a dozen downstream communities. More than 125 people were killed, with at least 1,000 more injured and 4,000 left homeless. Upstream strip mining and mine wastes were implicated as contributing factors.

In 2012, a Columbus Dispatch story on coal and polluted streams in the state, noted: “Coal’s legacy on Ohio’s waters, particularly in the southeastern part of the state, is visible in creek after yellow creek. In some instances, coal companies intentionally pumped water out of coal mines into nearby streams. In others, abandoned coal mines that fill with rainwater continuously leach water into nearby watersheds.” Some 1,300 miles of streams or creeks in Ohio have been polluted by water from coal mines.


  1. The GEM of Egypt was a Bucyrus-Erie model 1950-B There were two 1950-Bs made, The GEM and the Silver Spade. They were made under licence by Marion, so that Marion could use some of B-E technology in their shovels.

    The Silver Spade lived until 2007.

    Peabody Coal has one ore two of these larges machines buried in overburden, which was pushed back into the cut the machines had cleared. The time and effort to move, and even scrap the machines, was more than the machines scrap value.

    You should look up the dragline Big Muskie...

    1. I read all that on the Silver spade, I just editted my article to focus mostly on the Mountaineer, and the pollution. After a while, it's easy to be distracted and want to post way too much, like, video of the crossing of I 70
      I think I posted the Big Muskie already, but, I don't have a tag for mining equip. I recall making a post about the biggest ore scoop in the USA though, now it's nothing but a tourist stop

  2. If you're ever in West Mineral, KS there's Big Brutus... A Bucyrus-Erie 1850B electric shovel on display. It's open for a self guided walk through tour.

    Stopped by there while on a motorcycle trip. It was pretty cool, if you're into that kind of thing.

  3. I was going to mention Big Brutus, it's about 20 minutes from where I live. When the mine closed, it was too expensive to move so it's still here.

  4. Thanks for the article. that brought back some memories. My father started working for Marion Power Shovel when It was Marion Steam Shovel when he was in High School. After 42 years there, he was still too young to retire and too broken down to keep working. It was bought by Dresser Industries and closed down.

    1. welcome, it's incredible machinery, put to amazing feats of engineering, but by greedy corporate fat cats that let the damage remain, and ruin the environment they lived no where near.