Kevin Hoggett reports on a chance encounter he had with a pre-World War II Bucyrus tracked steam shovel in Colorado, USA.
While driving from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to the 3ft gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad in Colorado on a recent US holiday, I and my wife, Rika, had planned to pass through the Rocky Mountains National Park. However, when we arrived at the park’s gate, access was denied since it was apparently ‘full’. This turned out to be a somewhat fortuitous situation since, the alternative route that we planned took us via the old silver mining town of Nederland, which was named by Dutch settlers who had interests in the local silver mines.
Driving into the town, I was surprised to see a large steam shovel parked next to the road. Naturally I turned the car around to go back for a better look, and then noticed a building marked ‘Mining Museum’. It was at this point that I recognised the shovel a Bucyrus model 50-B which, subsequently, turned out to be the last surviving example of its kind.
The shovel was one of 534 Bucyrus and Bucyrus-Erie machines constructed between 1923 and 1939, and one of 25 that were sent for duties associated with the construction of the Panama Canal. All of them – with the exception of this one – were scrapped on site, but this example was sent back to California and subsequently moved to Denver and then on to Rollinsville, Colorado, where it was operated until 1978, at Lump Gulch Placer, around six miles from Nederland.
Fortunately, the museum was open and entrance was free. Inside we found a collection of small exhibits including a small steam winding engine from a local mine plus some narrow-gauge railway equipment. There were also several small stationary IC engines, including one from Fairbanks Morse, a firm which was well-known for main line diesel locos, and one by the Cushman Motor Works of Lincoln, Nebraska – another Lincoln builder! The museum is run by Boulder County Parks & Open Space, which took over the collection from the local historical society that still owns the shovel. Open from Friday to Sunday, the Nederland Mining Museum is certainly worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the area.
This news item comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
Amazing Armstrong Whitworth stationary engine