Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Night Steam

Want to see the innards of a steam shovel?

Video by:


1922 Erie Model "B" Steam Shovel at HCEA Canada's 2014 "Last Blast" event at the Simcoe County Museum near Barrie, Ontario. The Canopy was off, so you cold see a lot more then usual when you see a steam shovel operating. I tried to get both sides and zoom in on the controls and mechanics to give a better idea of how it works. HCEA Canada has regular events if you'd like to see this and other machines in action: Two at The Simcoe County Museum are on their site, and, while they have a presence at many steam shows, I believe they have a larger presence at the Blyth Steam Show. HCEA Canada: Simcoe County Museum:



100-ton steam shovel mounted on railroad tracks, cc. 1919
A derelict steam shovel in Alaska; major components visible include the steam boiler, water tank, winch, main engine, boom, dipper stick, crowd engine, wheels, and excavator bucket.
A steam shovel consists of:
  • a bucket, usually with a toothed edge, to dig into the earth
  • a "dipper" or "dipper stick" connecting the bucket to the boom
  • a "boom" mounted on the rotating platform, supporting the dipper and its control wires
  • a boiler
  • a water tank and coal bunker
  • steam engines and winches
  • operator's controls
  • a rotating platform on a truck, on which everything is mounted
  • wheels (or sometimes caterpillar tracks or railroad wheels)
  • a house (on the platform) to contain and protect 'the works'
The shovel has several individual operations: it can raise or luff the boom, rotate the house, or extend the dipper stick with the boom or crowd engine, and raise or lower the dipper stick.
When digging at a rock face, the operator simultaneously raises and extends the dipper stick to fill the bucket with material. When the bucket is full, the shovel is rotated to load a railway car or motor truck. The locking pin on the bucket flap is released and the load drops away. The operator lowers the dipper stick, the bucket mouth self-closes, the pin relocks automatically and the process repeats.
Steam shovels usually had a three-man crew: engineer, fireman and ground man. There was much jockeying to do to move shovels: rails and timber blocks to move; cables and block purchases to attach; chains and slings to rig; and so on. On soft ground, shovels used timber mats to help steady and level the ground. The early models were not self-propelled, rather they would use the boom to manoeuvre themselves.



  1. I still tend to call excavators and large track hoes "steam shovels." Just a habit picked up from my ancestors, I guess.

    1. Me three!

      How's Betty doing CM?

    2. She up chucked this morning, but seems to be feeling a wee bit better. She took a little walk with the gang this afternoon.Just have to see if she eats more tomorrow. At least her nose isn't running anymore. I don't want to put her down just yet. Thanks for asking! :o)