A huge metal bucket large enough to hold two Greyhound buses side by side has sat unused in an Ohio park for more than 20 years—a reminder of the once-booming American coal market.
The bucket once belonged to Big Muskie, the largest single-bucket digging machine ever created.
A true engineering marvel, it’s hard to conceive of its sheer scale. The massive machine stood nearly 22 stories tall, and its bucket weighed over a million pounds when loaded. Running it required enough electricity to power more than 27,000 homes.
Big Muskie was purchased by the Central Ohio Coal Company in 1966 to help meet increased demand for coal. The size of the machine required that it be built on site. It took more than 300 railcars and 250 trucks to get all of the pieces together at the Muskingham Mine, and two years to build the machine.
The behemoth digger worked by dragging its bucket along the ground to strip away layers of soil and rock that covered high-sulfur coal. For 22 years Big Muskie did this, moving twice as much earth in that time as was removed during the original construction of the Panama Canal.
In the early 1990s, demand for coal had declined significantly, and the immense cost of powering Big Muskie could no longer be justified. It was shut down, and for years sat in limbo, until 1999 when it was disassembled so the land it was on could be environmentally remediated. There were efforts to have it preserved and relocated intact, but the money could not be raised. All that remained was the bucket.
Big Muskie’s 230-ton empty bucket currently resides in Miners’ Memorial Park, which is dedicated to educating visitors about the Central Ohio Coal Company. Chain links still connected to the bucket are each the size of a small child, and visitors can climb inside the bucket and imagine what it took to make such an enormous thing move.