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Thread: "OddBall" drag line, Swillington, West Yorks, October 2019

  1. #1
    Join Date
    January 2013
    People's Republic of South Yorkshire.

    Default "OddBall" drag line, Swillington, West Yorks, October 2019

    1. The History
    On the site of the former St Aidan’s opencast coal mine at Swillington, near Leeds is a giant and unique dragline known as ‘Oddball’. Brought to the UK from the US in 1946, it was originally christened “Clinchfield”, but then informally renamed to reflect the fact it was built in the US to run on a 60 Hz electrical supply rather than the UK standard 50 Hz. It was previously owned by the National Coal Board (NCB) and then its successors R J B Mining and UK Coal, before being handed over to a local preservation trust.

    The area where the former open cast mine is today had been extensively deep mined since the 1800’s before an opencast mine was established there in the 1940’s. The opencast mine was extended in 1981 and expected to yield six million tonnes of coal over 10 years. However, the mine achieved the wrong sort of publicity in March 1988 with the collapse of a 70m-deep excavation wall that allowed the River Aire to flow into the site from both its upstream and downstream sections. Given the amount of coal still to be mined, the water was drained out and both the river and nearby canal re-diverted around the site. This involved building a new section of canal which was the first significant section of a canal to be built in the UK nearly 100 years. The work was completed in 1995 and the remaining coal worked from the mine.

    Two Bucyrus Erie 1150B walking draglines were used to work on site. They had a top speed of just 0.2 miles per hour. Oddball was built in 1948 by the Bucyrus Erie in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA. It was used in the US for 4 years before it was dismantled and shipped over shipped to England. It's been dismantled 4 times in the UK in total and has worked in Pontyprid, Cannock and Staffordshire before coming to its current resting place at St Aidan’s in 1972. Here it has seen eleven years of use before being retired in 1983. It is one of only four remaining drag line excavators in the world still in existence. Weighing a massive 1,220 tons, it is the size of 60 double decker busses and has a bucket capacity of 20 cubic yards.

    2. The Explore
    A bit borderline as to whether this is true exploring as we didn’t manage to get over the fence plus the place occasionally opens to let people look round this massive beast. Hence putting this in “Other”. That aside, this is one hell of a piece of equipment and it was a beautifully sunny October day so got some decent pictures.

    3. The Pictures

    Like some giant mechanised dinosaur:

    Dragline 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3408 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3407 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Big end!

    Dragline 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    From this angle it looks like a horse’s head:

    Dragline 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3402 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3395 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3390 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3397 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img3398 by HughieDW, on Flickr

  2. Thanks given by: Deepcover, Hugh Jorgan, KJurbex, krela, Locksley, Mearing, MrGruffy, Sabtr, stu8fish
  4. #2
    Join Date
    April 2008


    High on my list of things to visit but didn't manage to get to an open day this year..
    It's a rare beast as you say - we had many up in Northumberland and which are now sadly all gone. Bits of them remain though such as the giant buckets. There were two buckets left up here with one being public and the other was hidden out of sight. The out of sight one was very recently chopped up for scrap. It was the last remaining component of the Big Geordie dragline. (If I'd known I would have paid far more than scrap value for one of the teeth from it - you'd think some people want to wipe away our past or something..)

    I'm pleased this one is still around though I suspect it'll vanish soon.
    You were worried about the report being so random but if we can put a combine harvester graveyard report up then this should be fine!

  5. Thanks given by: Andymacg
  6. #3
    Join Date
    September 2005
    Bristol, UK.


    Love drag lines, thanks for posting Hughie

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