The Great Excavators.

When we say the word excavator we generally think of a tank-tracked behemoth supporting a shovel like the cupped hand of a giant, able to rip whole mountains apart. But how big do they get? In this article we will look at the greatest excavators of all time.


First a little history lesson.

William Otis invented the very first steam powered shovel in 1839, the self same year that the 26 year old died. There was some speculation about the veracity of the design as much of the engineering specifications were lost in a fire. Despite this the patent was awarded to him on February 24th of 1839. Unfortunately William died of Typhus fever in November of the same year.

Before this momentous invention all excavation was done by hand. By lots of hands, digging, clearing and hauling thousands and thousands of tonnes of earth for thousands of years, all until a little over 170 years ago when the first steam shovel made its first appearance.


Oh Captain My Captain!


The Captains Maw!

Certainly the largest power shovel that ever existed is the Marion 6360, or “The Captain.” This gigantic machine is arguably the second largest land based vehicle in the world.  Despite varying reports the best figure I can get for the weight of this titan is 28,000,000 pounds or 12,720 metric tonnes.  It is 64 metres tall or 21 storeys high and the enormous bucket would dig out 140 cubic metres of earth with each bite.  Completed in 1965, The Captain worked tirelessly until 1991 when the hydraulic system malfunctioned and it caught fire consigning this great machine to the scrap heap.


The Big Bagger


marion6360_View01_jpg62e4fcf5-9d83-4a11-9158-8807739e0c96LargeAs I have previously stated there is some contention around the subject of the largest terrestrial vehicle yet through all the research I have done one name keeps being mentioned as the most likely candidate and that is the MAN TAKRAF RB293 or ‘Bagger 293’. The most conservative estimate of its weight is 14,200 tonnes. The other proportions are truly staggering. It is 96 meters tall or 31 odd storeys high. Each of its twenty buckets hold 15 tonnes of dirt and it can shift a staggering 240,000 cubic metres of earth in a single work day. The Bagger 293 was built in 1995 and is currently still in operation in Hambach Germany.


Nobel Explosions


Perhaps the greatest earthmover in modern history is the sawdust stuffed stick of Dynamite and its descendants of the nitro-glycerine family.

Alfred Nobel first invented dynamite in 1867. Does that name sound familiar? It should. Alfred Nobel was a prodigious inventor and armaments expert. He worked on torpedoes, invented plywood, made safer Dynamite in the form of

Gelignite and has the element Nobelium named after him. However these are not the only reasons he is famous. When Alfred Nobel died he bequeathed his vast fortune to the creation of the Nobel prizes for excellence in a variety of fields including chemistry, physics, literature and even peace. So when the next Nobel Laureate accepts their award for Peace remember it was dynamite that backed the prize.


Thanks for joining us on this exploration of excavation.

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Written by Jamie Grant for

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