St. Aidan's BE1150 Dragline – West Yorkshire, England - Atlas Obscura

St. Aidan's BE1150 Dragline

The largest preserved walking dragline excavator in Western Europe. 


Dragline excavators are among the largest mobile machines in the world, the real-life equivalent of giant Gundam robots. Essentially a giant scoop, the operators drag (hence the drag-line) the bucket along the surface and then pick it up and dump it elsewhere.

These massive machines were also made to move. Because of their immense weight, treads could not be used as they couldn’t handle the pressure. Instead, giant “feet” are attached and the mechanical monsters “walk” from one location to another.

Oddball, so named because it ran on an unusual voltage and made strange noises, is a U.S.-made Bucyrus Erie 1150, and worked the open cast coal mine at St. Aidan’s, Swillington, near Leeds, until 1983. This 1,200-ton machine walked, backward, at up to a blazing maximum speed of 0.2 miles per hour.

While most dragline excavators are dismantled after being retired, this one was saved by the Friends of St. Aidan’s BE1150 Dragline and turned in to a local attraction. Unfortunately, the machine cannot currently be operated due to the lack of a suitable power source and the theft of some parts when it was first decommissioned.

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Admission free is on a limited number of open days per year. 

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