Iron Workhorse

Bucyrus 50-B
Bucyrus 50-B

Dan Martin demonstrates the Bucyrus 50-B steam shovel Sunday afternoon at Nederland’s Mining Museum. Built in 1923 to excavate the Panama Canal, it was one of the largest tracked shovels in the world at the time at 130,000 pounds. It arrived in the Colorado mountains in the early 1950s and was used near Nederland until 1978. In 2005 the Nederland Mining Museum rescued the Bucyrus from oblivion and moved it to their location in downtown Nederland, a process documented in an episode of The History Channel’s Mega Movers program.

The Nederland Area Historical Society is now working to raise money to restore the entire machine, a process expected to cost nearly $100,000. Supported by museum fees, souvenir sales and donations they have already collected nearly $10,000 to begin the three-phase process. The Colorado Historical Society is assisting with the fundraising through grants and matching funds.

The Bucyrus 50-B operates in Nederland every weekend during the summer to give onlookers and museum-goers a taste of what this rumbling iron workhorse was like in its day. Until the high-pressure steam boiler can be refitted, the steam shovel currently operates off of a modern industrial air compressor on a nearby trailer.

Martin, Director of Acquisitions for the Museum, envisions a day when the Bucyrus shovel is fully restored and in a setting where museum guests could take a seat at the controls. With boiler fires burning, steam hissing and the whistle screeching, visitors could dig, move and dump earth assisted by a museum guide.

Nederland Mining Museum
P.O. Box 1252
Nederland CO 80466
Located at the traffic circle in Nederland, 30 minutes west of Boulder on Highway 119