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Unusual Attractions - June 28, 2019

Big Brutus, the second largest electric coal shovel in the world, on display in West Mineral, Kansas.  While it's not the biggest one ever built, it's the biggest one still in existence. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Q: Many Kansans already know about Big Brutus. That's the enormous, electric, coal-mining shovel on display in southeast Kansas. The big shovel has been back in the news this month because something else has been added to the display at the Big Brutus Visitor's Center in West Mineral, Kansas. What's been added?   

A: Another big coal shovel / The Markley or Markley 1

WEST MINERAL, Kan. (AP / KPR) - A historic coal mining shovel that was hidden under bramble for more than 70 years has gone on display in southeast Kansas alongside its more well-known successor, an 11-million pound orange giant known as Big Brutus. The Joplin Globe reports that a ceremony to dedicate the Markley shovel was recently held at the Big Brutus Visitors Center, a nonprofit museum in the small southeast Kansas town of West Mineral. Coal mine operator Perry Markley designed and built the shovel in the early 1900s using junkyard parts. The machine was one of the first mining shovels to be equipped with a round dipper stick that allowed the bucket to swivel. It later was used as a prototype to construct other machines like the 160-foot tall Big Brutus. Like Brutus, the Markley is also a very large coal mining shovel but the Markley is much older and much, much smaller than its big brother, Brutus (which is more than 15 stories high). Big Brutus is actually the nickname of the Bucyrus-Erie model 1850-B electric shovel. It's the second largest electric coal mining shovel in the world and the largest one still in existence. According to KPR staffers who've seen it in person, Big Brutus is really cool and worth checking out.

Fun Factoid: Big Brutus cost $6.5 million to build. When it was still in operation, an entire power plant was constructed to run it.  

Learn more about Big Brutus from the Kansas Historical Society.

Check out more Kansas Trivia in KPR's online archive

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