Save or Scrap?

The Silver Spade awaits its fate.

Agiant of the off-highway industry has been retired. On April 9 of this year The Silver Spade, an electric stripping shovel built by Bucyrus-Erie in the '60s, lost 22 rollers and its owners decided it was time to shut down its 13,500 hp. AC motors.

Ohio's Harrison County and the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park Inc. (HCRHP), Cadiz, OH, have formed a partnership to pursue the acquisition of Consol Energy's giant excavator.

"The 'Save the Spade' pledge drive is in full swing," says HCRHP member Bryan Coulson, "and we're looking for individuals, businesses and organizations to help save this machine, from pledges of money to help creating roads and cleaning and painting the shovel itself."

When Hanna Coal Co., a division of Consolidation Coal Co., started in the early 1900s, the buckets were only a few cubic yards in size. As time progressed, so did the size of the machines. In 1956, Hanna introduced "The Mountaineer." Onlookers were amazed at the 60 cubic yard dipper and 150 foot boom. It was on its success that still larger shovels were ordered, the 105 cubic yard The Silver Spade and the 130 cubic yard GEM of Egypt, both built by Bucyrus-Erie.

With its three big shovels, Hanna moved tons of overburden and uncovered millions of tons of coal. The Ohio Valley area became the largest coal producers in the state thanks in part to these mechanical wonders.

Where have all the shovels gone?

The world's largest excavating shovel was the Marion 6360, known as The Captain. It had a 180 cubic yard bucket and a 215 ft. boom. It was scrapped in 1992. Second in size was the River King, a Bucyrus–Erie 3850B with a 140 cubic yard bucket, scrapped in 1993. The GEM of Egypt was third in size; this shovel was scrapped in 1991. Parts salvaged from the GEM have kept the Spade on the job to this point.

A Marion 5960, a 125 cubic yard bucket machine called Big Dipper, was scrapped in 1989, and The Big Hog, a Bucyrus 3850 with a 115 cubic yard bucket, was cut up in 1985.

The Mountaineer fell in 1989.

Only two giant shovels remain: The Silver Spade and Big Brutus, a Bucyrus–Erie 1850B, 90 cubic yard bucket machine. It has been a self-sustaining park in West Mineral, KS, since 1985.

The Silver Spade was assembled in 1964-'65 and worked off and on until April. Today she sits silently three miles west of New Athens, OH, waiting on the decision as to whether she will be cut up for scrap or become a unique mining attraction in eastern Ohio.

For more information on The Silver Spade Fund, visit or contact HCRHP President Claren Blackburn at (740) 937-2460; or Harrison Co. Commissioner Dennis Watson, at (740) 942-4623.