Bucyrus-Erie Model 1850-B electric mining shovel. It was the second largest in the world when built in 1962.
West Mineral Big Brutus
Photo taken by Mike LeMasters
Big Brutus is a Bucyrus-Erie Model 1850-B electric mining shovel, the second largest shovel in the world when it was built in 1962. The largest shovel has been scrapped, leaving Big Brutus to be the largest extant shovel in the world. The 90-cubic yard bucket moved 150 tons of coal in one bite, enough to fill three railroad cars. It moved at the break-neck speed of 0.22 miles per hour and was used primarily to remove the dirt and rock from on top of the coal vein.
Big Brutus was designed to last 25 years but the big shovel was used for 11 years. By 1974, the coal in the area was pretty much depleted, and it cost too much to operate Big Brutus in comparison to coal prices. (A sign at the site says the electric bill for operating Big Brutus for its last month in service was $27,000.00.) When Big Brutus was installed, it took 150 rail cars to deliver it from South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and took a year to assemble. By 1973, the shovel was too big to move and too expensive to scrap. The owners of the mine stripped the shovel of anything usable and left it at the mine to rust into obscurity. In 1984, the owners donated Big Brutus to a group of fans, along with several acres of land and $100,000.00 to open a museum, dedicated to the history of mining in Kansas. At 160 feet in height, Big Brutus stands out on the Kansas horizon.