The Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS dragline made in Milwaukee U.S.A, is currently the worlds biggest operational dragline. The one that works in the Black Thunder North American mine is named after the constellation " Ursa Major " and for good reason, she can shift a galactic amount of overburden in a very short time.

Just to note here, that on November 15th, 2010, the company of Bucyrus was bought out by Caterpillar for 8.6 Billion dollars and the Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS is now called the Caterpillar 8750 or the Cat-8750  for short.

Below is the new uniform makeover color scheme that tells the world that this dragline is now well and truly a Caterpillar and not a Bucyrus.

However, I shall still refer to the dragline as her original name for posterity. Below is seen the Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS in her coal mine company colors.  She is hard at work earning her keep a she shovels massive amounts of overburden in a single sweep.

Photo by D W Honan

The Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS dragline has an operational weight of seven thousand two hundred and seventy-one tons and  a boom length of just under six hundred and ninety feet.  Her massive bucket has a three hundred and sixty two ton capacity and can fill a Back-hoe dumper in one pass. In fact her shovel is as big as a back-hoes dumper and this makes for fast efficient operation in the busy world of open cast mining and aggregate processing.

The Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS also has an impressive scooping depth of over two hundred and fifteen feet.  She works hard and can clear a massive amount of over burden during an operation day.  She does not get around very fast though and walks on two huge metal plates at under one mile per hour!

Below is a decent image showing the size of the Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS when compared to ordinary  mining vehicles such as bulldozers and a pick-up trucks.

The Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS dragline has a massive price tag of around $35,000,000 that's a whopping thirty-five million dollars!  Indeed this does sound initially expensive but when we learn that she can earn that money back in a very short time then she's worth every dollar.  When we also learn that her operating life is over forty years then its even more understandable and any good mine would be astute to purchase her.

The Bucyrus Erie 2570-WS is perhaps the world best and cost effective method of shifting overburden and can shift around ninety-three thousand tons in just one day.  In a year, this equates to around thirty four million tons of overburden.

Big Muskie was once the world biggest dragline and  got her name when she was used in the Ohio Power Company's mine that was situated in Muskingum Eastern Ohio. Built in 1969 at a cost of $25 Million, she was a model 4250-W Bucyrus Erie dragline and was the only one ever built at that time.

She was the worlds biggest vehicle and had a maximum top speed of 1 tenth mph and it achieved this by walking along on hydraulic feet. She stood twenty-two stories high, a colossal size and a colossal feat of engineering.



I am posting all of these specifications here for posterity to the truly huge vehicle that Big Muskie was. Her size and capability was second to none and in many respects she remains as the king of the draglines.

  • Weight: 27 million lbs., or 13,500 tons. The equivalent of one hundred and fifty Boeing 727 Jumbo jets, this is twice as heavy and the current worlds biggest operational dragline.

  • Bucket Capacity: 220 cubic yards, 325 tons. Enough to hold twelve cars inside. 

  • Height: 222 feet.

  • Length of the boom: 310 feet. About 1½ football fields long.

  • Length of machine with boom down: 487 feet.

  • Empty bucket weight: 230 tons.

  • Width: 151 feet. On comparison to an eight lane freeway!

  • Cable diameter: Five inches.

  • Electrical Power: 13,800 generated volts, enough to power 27,500 homes.

  • Mobility: Hydraulically driven walking feet, top speed one tenth of a mile per hour.  Speed was not an essential part of Big Muskie but what she could do when she finally got there!


In her life time she worked hard and earned her keep. She removed over six hundred million cubic yards of material which has been estimated to be twice the amount that was excavated out of the Panama Canal.

Unfortunately Big Muskie has since been dismantled and cut up for scrap. This started on May 17th, 1999, when her main boom cables were severed by explosives and the boom came crashing down. The recycled steel from Big Muskie was enough to make 9,000 family cars and this is indeed where the steel went.


The two hundred and thirty ton bucket was saved from the cutters and will be preserved as a monument to all the people that worked at the mine. The only problem now, was transporting this huge and very heavy bucket...

...Two hundred and thirty problem, away we go!

The bucket is hauled away with the additional help of a powerful earthmover.

The final monumental resting place. An everlasting memory to Big Muskie.


A very close contender to Big Muskie was the Silver Spade stripping digger that was built in 1965 and worked in Cadiz Ohio USA.

She stood two hundred and twenty feet tall with a two hundred foot long boom and weighed in at seven thousand tons.  The hundred and five cubic yard bucket capacity of the Silver Spade had a hundred and sixty ton maximum load. The shovel was actually controlled by the "ground crew" who sat on a lower level from the drivers cab, between the tracks.

The Silver Spade, unlike Big Muskie, didn't walk but rode on four sets of crawler tracks with each set at thirty-four feet long and eight feet high.

The Silver Spade  travelled slow at 1/4 mile per hour powered by an AC 13,500hp engine and it could dig 315,000 pounds of earth in a single scoop and then drop the amount three hundred and ninety feet away.  The bucket is suspended on four 2.5/8 inch diameter steel cables that are about three thousand feet in length.

From 1965 until recently, the Silver Spade dug six hundred and  seven million cubic yards of earth at Ohio strip mines. By comparison, the Panama Canal required four hundred and five million cubic yards of excavation. That's a lot of earth!

Sadly though, the Silver Spade suffered a serious break down when nineteen  out of one hundred of its huge cab support bearing rollers completely wore out and separated from their housings.  These roller bearings weigh about eight hundred pounds each and to replace the damaged ones would cost 2½ million dollars and this amount was not deemed justifiable.

With new technology around it would not be a viable position to repair a forty-two year old machine that was now wearing out, and fast!

So Silver Spade was to be scrapped, she has a $700,000 scrap value and was consequently worth more dead than alive!

The Silver Spade was finally dismantled and the last image of her was as a unrecognizable pile of scrap, as seen in the sad image above.  Of course today, not even those remains are there now, being recycled long ago.

Click here to check out my new highly revealing and controversial 486 page book The Conspiracy Zone...out now at

Also available from   and



Page created November 2000.   Reformatted in 2005    Updated October 26th 2012.