Big Muskie Bucket

(Photo by Matthew Ginn © 2014)
Perrie and Daphne pose inside the 220-cubic-yard bucket once hefted by Big Muskie, the largest dragline ever built. Over its 22-year operation, Big Muskie removed more than 608 million cubic yards of overburden from Ohio’s coal fields. (Photo by Matthew Ginn © 2014)

On our way down to Parkersburg, we noticed a sign directing travelers to the Big Muskie Bucket. We figured it was some kind of roadside attraction related to fishing, à la Husky the Muskie. Curious, Perrie Googled it as we drove past the exit.

The Big Muskie Bucket is indeed a roadside attraction, but otherwise we could not have been more wrong. Big Muskie, it turns out, was a dragline of colossal proportions built to strip overburden from southern Ohio’s coal deposits. Actually, colossal is a bit of an understatement. The 4250-W Bucyrus-Erie dragline was the only one of its kind and, by a significant margin, the largest dragline ever built. The behemoth weighed 13,500 tons, had a boom length of 310 feet, and a bucket capacity of 220 cu. yds. (325 tons). It was 151 feet wide, 222 feet tall, and used enough electricity to power 27,500 homes. When finished in one area, it could move itself to the next at the screaming rate of 0.1 mph.

Big Muskie’s record-setting proportions were both its main asset and its downfall. Though it could move itself, it required a specially prepared roadway to ensure it didn’t sink into the ground or topple over. New environmental regulations reduced the demand for the high-sulphur coal found in southern Ohio, and higher power costs eventually made it unprofitable to operate the machine. Finally, the high cost to relocate the machine coupled with advances in other earth-moving technologies made Big Muskie unsellable.

From its commissioning in 1969 until its last bucket load in 1991, Big Muskie removed more than 608 million cubic yards of overburden. Eight years later, the machine was dismantled. The only part that remains is the bucket, which was relocated to Miners’ Memorial Park on OH-78 near McConnelsville.

Perrie, Daphne and I decided we had to stop at the Big Muskie Bucket on our way home. Daphne wasn’t very impressed, so we didn’t stay long, but it was worth the detour through some scenic country.