The Story of Big Brutus: Mining Shovel for P&M Coal Company
By: The Working Man
Big Brutus was the name given to the second largest
mining shovel in the world by the supervisor of P & M
mining company which owned Big Brutus.
Big Brutus is an electrically driven shovel, not
a dragline that is a Model 1850 B shovel built by
Bucyrus Erie in 1962 on location at a cost of 6.5
It took 150 railroad cars to bring in all the parts
from the Bucyrus Erie fabricating plant to Hallowell
Kansas. There 52 men constructed over 11 months time
the gigantic shovel. On site a stand alone crane named
"Clyde" helped the workers construct Big Brutus.
Working for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company,
Big Brutus worked around the clock removing overburden
so the smaller draglines and shovels could remove
two separate seams of coal from the Kansas earth bed.
Big Brutus did not actually dig the coal itself, just
removed whatever was above it.
The coal seams were anywhere from 20 to 75 feet deep
and each were separated by a layer of material. Each seam
was fairly thin from 10 inches to 32 inches.
The coal was then shipped out via the Missouri, Kansas
and Texas Railroad which was affectionately known as the
The Bucket on Big Brutus as viewed from the Operator's station
The bucket or dipper on Big Brutus held 90 cubic yards
of material which amounted to up to 150 tons. It was so
large an older Caterpillar D9 dozer could be backed
into the bucket.
Big Brutus had four massive crawlers it rested on which
were used to propel the machine at a turtle pace of 0.22
miles an hour. Each of the crawlers were driven by a 300
horsepower electric motor. Each pad on the crawlers tracks
weighed in at 2,008 pounds. There were 2,200 gallons of
oil in each gear box.
Steering was accomplished via steering arms which were
hydraulically driven and controlled by the machine's
ground man. The crawlers could be raised or lowered up to
5 1/2 feet independent of each other so the machine
could be kept level, these hydraulic jacks were 42 inches
The main drive sprockets on Big Brutus were almost 6 feet tall!
On the roller circle which allowed the top part of the
machine to rotate, there were ninety 16 inch rollers
which ran around a circle that was 45 feet in diameter.
Over all, Big Brutus was 16 stories in height (160 feet),
weighed 5,500 tons, required 7,200 volts to operate.
The incoming cable carried the 7,200 volts of 3 phase
AC electricity and was wound up on a roller in front of
Each of the Crawler pads weighed a little over 1 ton each!
Big Brutus took it's first bite out of the Kansas soil in
May of 1963 and it's last in April of 1974 when operating
costs became too high. (the last months electric bill was
$27,000). The boom was 150 feet long, the dipper stick
was 88 feet long and could be extended to dump the
load 150 feet away and up 10 101 feet high.
Operator Controls for Big Brutus - foot pedals controlled
the swing of the machine.
The main hoist was operated by eight 500 hp DC motors,
having 800 feet of wire rope on each side of it's drum.
The cable was 3 inches in diameter and weighed 25 pounds
On the rear of the machine were ballast tanks which
contained 1.7 million pounds of ballast which countered
the boom and bucket weight.
Inside was housed 2 massive 3,500 hp electric motors
which ran 13 DC generators. Each generator ran one of
the 13 DC motors. Each of the 3 swing gears was operated
by a 750 hp DC electric motor.
Big Brutus was operated by 3 men. The operator himself
who dug the overburden and controlled the swing of the
machine, the ground man who moved the machine forward or
backward, and the oiler who was constantly oiling and
greasing every moving part of the machine.
The main winch which was located on the third floor
(the empty platforms before the winch was where the
huge 3,500 hp motors were bolted down)
Big Brutus was the only 1850 B ever produced. It was
donated to Big Brutus, Inc. On July 13, 1985, Big Brutus
was dedicated as a Museum and Memorial dedicated to
the Rich Coal Mining History in Southeast Kansas."
6509 NW 60th St, West Mineral, KS
Directions: Six miles west of the junction of K 7 and K 102,
then 1/2 mile south.
Hours: Daily 9 am - 8 pm
See Also: The Captain: Largest Mining shovel ever
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