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Bedrock USA: 1910

Bedrock USA: 1910

Circa 1910. "Steam shovel removing rock loosened by dynamite, Livingstone Channel, Michigan." Construction of the navigation channel along the Detroit River. (Is that Mike Mulligan at the controls?) 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

 

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Words of yesteryear

As with KimS, growing up oh so many years ago overseas, we also used the words steam shovel, steam roller, icebox, etc. We used them because that is what my grandmother called them. And we just just imitated her.

While I never saw a working steam shovel or a steam roller, she did have an icebox. Took her awhile to get into the modern age and use a refrigerator. My dad and aunt bought it for her.

Steam Shovel Curious?

You have reached your destination.

"From the town of Bedrock ...

... They're a page right out of history"

For the benefit of those not of a certain age, Dave's headline evokes the Flintstones, the "modern Stone Age Family" of the animated series that ran for six seasons starting in 1960, plus tv specials, a live-action movie, more than one video game, and an announced reboot by Seth MacFarlane that never saw the light of prehistoric day.

So that's a steam shovel!

When I was a child almost 70 years ago, my great-great uncle was said to have died in a steam shovel accident before I was born.

I don't doubt it. But we called everything with a boom and a bucket a "steam shovel," and I never saw one that ran on steam. We also called refrigerators "ice boxes" even though no one I knew used an actual ice box during my life. It's funny how obsolete terms persist even though they no longer make sense.

Steam From Boom

The steam at the end of the boom is the exhaust from the "crowd engine", the small steam engine mounted on the boom, which moves the dipper stick in (rehaul) or out (crowd) to control how deep the shovel digs, and how far out it dumps. The crowd engine drives a rack and pinion on the dipper stick via the large spoked gear. While engine exhaust is normally used to create draft in the boiler, it would be too much piping to get it to the back of the machine. Thus only the hoist and swing engines on the machinery deck exhaust thru the stack. You can barely see the collection of swivel joints in the pipe that supplies live steam to the crowd.

There are several good videos of digging the Panama Canal on YouTube that show how it all worked. The construction engineers back then really knew how to set up an efficient overall process.

There were at least 3 US steam shovel manufacturers that built larger machines like this, Bucyrus, Marion, and Osgood. This one looks like a Marion.

Coincidentally, we went to the Welland Canal to watch one of the Staten Island Ferries pass through on its way to NYC.

Great spot

For perch. But watch out for traffic. I did a triple-take a few years ago when I saw a Staten Island Ferry transiting Livingstone Channel, on the way from the shipyard in Wisconsin to NYC.

Keep your hands to yourself

I have a lot of empathy for the workmen attaching the chains to the rock box. From my own experience doing some rigging at the mill, keeping eye contact with the crane operator is vital to going home with all your digits. In this case the operator is probably some distance away and if he misreads a signal, or gets a little twitchy, suddenly your nickname is lefty.

It would have been interesting to see if Mike was going to place that chunk he has balanced on the teeth of the bucket in the empty box. A good operator can do some amazing things and not tear up his machine and just because you can make it go doesn’t mean your an operator.

I'm curious

Up at the top of the boom, steam is apparently being vented off. Does anybody know why that particular location was chosen? Since so much piping was involved to get it there, it can't be an arbitrary spot.

Steam and cables

There is a nice account of the construction here:
https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/44698555.pdf
(it is a download, be warned)

The job of the steam shovel - aided by hand labor - was to place the blasted rock in those 5-ton iron pans (called "skips") which were then carried away by the overhead cable conveyors. The cable conveyors were driven by compressed air. The steam shovel was apparently manufactured by the Marion company. The men up on the bank to the left of the steam shovel are using pneumatic drills to bore holes for explosives to blast loose the next swath of rock. Those small drills were air-powered off the same main compressor plant that powered the big cable conveyors. A pipe system carried that air all over the construction site.

Earlier on Shorpy:
https://www.shorpy.com/node/11478

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