An 8 Wonder of Kansas Commerce
Big Brutus, West Mineral
Address: 6509 NW 60th, West Mineral, KS 66782
Big Brutus is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce because
it is the largest electric coal shovel in the world and now represents the coal mining industry of southeast Kansas as a museum.
Looming on the horizon, one sees what appears to be a gigantic, prehistoric
creature rising above the Kansas plains. Upon closer inspection, the
creature turns into a black and orange, 160-foot tall coal shovel named Big
Brutus. Designed and built by Bucyrus-Erie for the Pittsburg & Midway (P&M)
Coal Mining Company, the 1850-B is the only one of its kind ever built and
is recognized as an engineering accomplishment. Big Brutus, built near
Hallowell in Cherokee County, cost $6 million. It took 150 railroad cars to
bring all the parts.
A three man crew ran Big Brutus with the support of electricians and roller
operators. The coal shovel ran 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, from 1963
until 1974 at a speed of .22 miles per hour (less than 1/4 mile per hour) and
moved approximately one square mile per year. Big Brutus did not dig coal.
The huge bucket removed the overburden (dirt and rocks covering the coal
seams) and with one scoop could fill three railroad cars. Huge coal
strippers moved in on the coal seams after Big Brutus exposed them.
In April 1974, Big Brutus dug himself out of his last pit, approximately 65
feet deep, and ceased operation. In 1984, P&M deeded Big Brutus to be used
as a museum dedicated to the coal mining industry. Now visitors can sit in
the operator's seat of Big Brutus and see the levers and dials that
manipulated this giant. A nearby museum building helps tell the story of
the mining heritage of Southeast Kansas. There was one larger electric coal
shovel in Ohio until early 2007 but it, like all the others, was
Location: 7 miles north of Columbus on K-7, 6 miles west on K-102, then 1/2
Near Big Brutus is a
visitor center museum. Hours and admission charge: January-March daily
10 a.m.-4 p.m.; April-Memorial Day Weekend daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Memorial Day to
Labor Day daily 9
Labor Day until January daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission for adults
(13-65) $8; senior
citizens (65+) $7.50; children (6-12), $5.00.
Children under five are free.