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About Big Brutus

Big Brutus, a Bucyrus Erie model 1850B, stands as a symbol of the mining heritage of Southeast Kansas. Once the largest electric shovel in the world, this towering giant is now a museum that pays tribute to the hardworking miners and the rich coal mining history in the region.

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The Rich History of Big Brutus

Constructed in 1962 by the Bucyrus Erie company for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company, Big Brutus served as a testament to human ingenuity and hard work. This colossal machine operated for over a decade, dramatically increasing the efficiency of coal mining in the region before retiring in 1974. However, its retirement marked a new beginning. In 1985, it was dedicated as a museum and memorial, signifying its enduring legacy. This dedication recognized Big Brutus as not just a symbol of the past, but as an eternal tribute to the mining heritage of Southeast Kansas and to the miners across the nation who toiled to support their families. In September 1987, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Big Brutus a Regional Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the tenth such designation since 1971. Adding to its accolades, Big Brutus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, further cementing its significance in American industrial history.

The Machine – Big Brutus and Dragline Operation

Big Brutus, standing 16 stories tall and weighing 11 million pounds, was a marvel of its time. It represented the peak of mining technology during its era. The statistics alone are impressive, but they only tell part of the story. With a 150-foot boom and a dipper capacity of 90 cubic yards (enough to fill three railroad cars), Big Brutus revolutionized the efficiency and scale of coal mining. Its maximum speed of .22 MPH and cost of $6.5 million in 1962 reflected the enormous investment in industrial machinery that defined the mid-20th century. However, there’s more to Big Brutus than cold steel and long shadows falling across the Mined Land Wildlife Area. The true value of this machine lies in its representation of an era of hard work, determination, and progress.

Little Giant – The Companion to Big Brutus

Meet “Little Giant,” the world’s smallest working replica of an early-day electric mining shovel. This model, built by a hobbyist in Kansas over an 11-year period in the 1930s and 1940s, was purchased in 1946 by The Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Co. (P&M), a Chevron company. Constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, “Little Giant” is complete in every detail. It has approximately 30,000 rivets and 2,000 bolts, and weighs 700 pounds. Despite its size, “Little Giant” serves a big purpose. It has been displayed at state fairs, conventions, and civic gatherings to demonstrate how full-sized coal mining equipment functions. By understanding the functioning of this model, one can gain a deeper appreciation of its mammoth successor machines, called “draglines,” that have scooped up millions and millions of tons of earth to expose rich coal seams below. “Little Giant” not only represents the history of coal mining but also symbolizes the commitment to the environment by the coal miners, who always ensured the reclamation of mined land.