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Group Tries to Rescue Iron Giant

Thu May 11, 2006 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson



Coal mining is a big deal in and around “The Proudest Small Town in America” in Ohio’s hill country. The title was bestowed on tiny Cadiz, OH, in 1938. Judges of the contest were Jack Benny, Fred MacMurray and Irvin S. Cobb.

Cadiz, former home to famous sons Gen. George A. Custer and later, Clark Cable, has a proud heritage.

In the early 1800s it was a transportation hub, then becoming a banking and marketing center for agricultural industry. Later it was the center of a rich coal mining industry that kept the community prosperous into the 1970s.

Declining markets for high-sulfur coal in the 1980s have renewed interest in developing Cadiz into a cultural center where mining history won’t be forgotten.

Efforts by the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park Inc. (HCRHP), began in 1992 to save the Silver Spade and to develop a historical park and museum where the massive equipment used to strip coal from the hills and fields in and around Cadiz can be renovated, restored, and preserved.

The goal of HCRHP is to obtain the Silver Spade and other mining equipment and to build a park where they can hold expositions to ensure the history and importance of these massive machines are never forgotten.

One of only three of the largest stripping “super” shovels ever put into production, the Silver Spade began work for Harrison Coal in November 1965 and was retired this spring by current owner CONSOL Energy Inc.

The Silver Spade was the first BE1060, a Bucyrus-Erie 1950-B stripping shovel, and one of only two machines to ever have the Marion Shovel Co. manufactured “Knee Action Crowd” and a Marion design boom.

According to information provided by HCRHP, “prior to the Spade, all Bucyrus machines used a straight dipper, which ran through a saddle mounted midway up the boom.

“However, the spec’s laid out by the coal company insisted that the machine be equipped with a knee action dipper. Since this was a patented Marion feature, the two companies worked out a trade. In return for the use of Bucyrus’ ’Cable crowd’ [as opposed to their own rack and pinion crowd], Marion allowed Bucyrus to use the knee-action dipper, which allowed more cutting force to be applied to the bucket without putting a lot of stress on the boom.”

By cooperating, Hanna (Harrison Coal) got the machine it wanted, Bucyrus completed the sale, and “Marion gained the use of the cable crowd, which was used for years afterward on many different Marion shovels.”

The result of these competitor’s cooperation resulted in the Silver Spade, which until very recently, remained in operation.

There were only three “Super Shovels” introduced by Hanna/Consolidation Coal Co.

The first was the “Mountaineer”, followed by “The Silver Spade” and the “GEM of Egypt.” The Mountaineer and the GEM have been scrapped. The Silver Spade is the last of this class and size left in the world.

Today, The Silver Spade sits in a pit in a coalfield just south of Cadiz near New Athens, OH. It has experienced major mechanical failure.

Brian Coulson, who is on the board of directors of HCRHP, and Marilyn Monzula, who manages the visitor’s center as well as the business office for HCRHP, have been dedicated volunteers for the preservation of the Spade since the inception of HCRHP in 1992.

Coulson explained that the purpose and goals of the volunteer group are two-fold: to convince Consolidation Coal Co. (CONSOL Energy Inc.), to help HCRHP and the county of Harrison acquire this gigantic machine as a tourist attraction; and to establish a park where it could collect and display reclamation and mining equipment used in the surface mining areas of Ohio. Both goals are designed to preserve the area’s rich mining history.

If acquisition of the Spade can be completed, finding a home for “one of the most unique parks and one of the largest tourist destinations and heritage centers in eastern Ohio” will commence.

The hope is that it can acquire the land where the Spade now sits. According to Monzula, “moving the Spade would be cost-prohibitive.”

According to Claren Blackburn, president of HCRHP, the Spade “is as wide as an eight-lane highway and taller than a 12-story building. It weighs 7,000 tons, has a 200-foot boom and a 105-cubic-yard bucket. The entire shovel operates with two hand levers and two foot pedals. It digs 315,000 pounds of dirt in a single bite, and can swing 180 degrees and deposit the load 390 feet away.”

Dennis Watson, Harrison County Commissioner, has been working with CONSOL Energy to work out a deal. Watson could not be reached for comment.

CONSOL Energy is expected to make a decision regarding the future of the Silver Spade this summer. Joseph A. Cerenzia, director of public relations of CONSOL Energy Inc. could not be reached for comment.

If HCRHP is allowed to acquire the land and the Spade, activities to obtain private and corporate funding, and grants, will commence immediately, according to Coulson and Monzula.

According to Blackburn, “A Silver Spade Park would impact not only Harrison County, Ohio, but the surrounding counties of Belmont, Guernsy, Jefferson, Carroll, Tuscarawas, Muskingum and Noble.”

A facility of this nature also could impact Pittsburgh, PA, 64 mi. away, and Wheeling, WV, only 25 mi. away.

Other mining equipment donated to and being restored by HCRHP sits on private land just outside of Cadiz. That land parcel is not large enough to accomplish its goals. It is estimated the land need will be approximately 200 acres, according to Monzula.

Many trade and professional associations connected to mining, engineering, and heavy equipment construction, have committed to support this project.

According to Blackburn, “Over 2.2 billion tons of coal has been surface mined in Ohio. We’d like to preserve this last of the machines that helped make this possible. Our mining heritage would have a home in which to tell its story.”

A “Save the Silver Spade” dinner and auction to help support the day-to-day operations of HCRHP will be held May 13 at the Hopedale Social Hall in Cadiz.

For reservations, call 740/937-2460. CEG