Shovels At Bingham

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This page last updated on May18, 2022.

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(These timelines focus on the companies and specific models of shovels used by Kennecott at Bingham.)

The First Shovels at Bingham

The first shovels were railroad steam shovels delivered to Boston Consolidated Mining Company, and Utah Copper Company when they each started open-cut mining at their separate mines in Bingham Canyon in 1906. In 1910 Utah Copper and Boston Consolidated merged to form a single company.

The 1908 Utah Copper annual report showed four 100-ton steam shovels, and two 70-ton steam locomotives. By July 1914, the number had increased to 22 standard-gauge steam locomotives. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1914)

March 11, 1910
Four new shovels had been put to work on removing the overburden, bringing the total to 19 steam shovels working for the newly combined Utah Copper and Boston Consolidated companies. (Salt Lake Herald Republican, March 11, 1910)

June-August 1910
According to the records of the Rogers Works of American Locomotive Company, Utah Copper took delivery of 10 steam shovels in June and August 1910. They carried Alco-Rogers construction numbers 47075, 48393 to 48401.

The early shovels were built by Marion, Bucyrus, and Atlantic, and were essentially steam boilers and shovel mechanisms mounted to heavy duty railroad flat cars, mounted on industry-standard railroad wheel assemblies. This configuration required that a parallel set of railroad tracks be constructed and maintained beside the tracks on which steam locomotives and dump cars were operated. In 1912, Bucyrus purchased the Atlantic company.

The added expense of maintaining parallel sets of tracks soon had the mining companies looking for ways to reduce their costs. In the 1920s, the steam shovels were converted to electric shovels, and the use of railroad wheel assemblies and tracks were completely replaced, also in the early 1920s, by the installation of crawler treads under the shovels.

Panama Canal To Utah?

In response to the story that some of the early shovels came from the Panama Canal after its completion, it makes a good story, but I suspect it is only a story.

Research has not yet found any documents, magazine article, or newspaper story saying that after the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, any of the shovels came to Utah. In fact, there were several stories in later years in newspapers about ships passing through the canal hitting submerged remains of abandoned steam shovels. By the time the canal was finished after almost 10 years of the shovels and men being overworked, I suspect the steam shovels being used were essentially only good for the scrap heap.

Also, there would have been the high cost of transporting thoroughly used shovels from Panama to Utah, and then the added cost of refurbishing them for use at Bingham.

First Electric Shovels

The first electric shovels were converted from standard steam shovels in 1922. The first electric shovels were purchased in 1923, and in 1925, the decision was made to do convert the remaining fleet of standard steam shovels to electric operation. Research suggests that the first full-rotation two-crawler electric shovels were delivered in 1939 or 1940.

The following was written by Andrew Hodges for "The Coppertonian," the newspaper of Bingham High School.

Electric Shovels In Camp -- Electric Type of Shovels Proving Extreme Adaptability -- Electric shovels are very efficient type of shovels.

There are two kinds: One is manufactured by the General Electric Company and which is a direct current type; the other of the alternating current type, is made by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co.

The officials of the Utah Copper Company wishing to improve and enlarge their operations, planned to substitute electrical shovels for those propelled by steam when a thorough test of the electrical type has been made. The efficiency of the electrical shovels compared to steam shovels is known in other fields, but has never been adapted to mining. The only mine that is using electrical shovels for the past nine years is the Chili Copper Company, in Chili, an open pit mine.

The Utah Copper Company, by adapting the electrical shovel hopes to save ten cents a ton in the mining of its ore. No coal, no water, no firing and no watch ing of shovels during idle shifts will be necessary. Repairs will be less. During a temporary shut down there will be no energy lost as there is with steam shovels because it will not be necessary to keep steam up. No time will be lost for repairing and washing of the boilers.

Main electrical transmission lines have been laid along the edge of the banks. Power is conducted to the shovel operating in 5000 volt flexible armored cables.

The new shovel is equipped with four and a half ton all-manganese-steel dippers. Dippers on steam shovels have a capacity of three tons. The twenty four foot boom is capable of making three cycles a minute. A carload of ore carrying forty eight tons can be loaded in four and a half minutes.

The electrical shovel with caterpillar tractor equipment travel as easy and efficient over the slope as when rails were laid; the danger of operating them is reduced in that there is no need of keeping four men in the pit ahead of the shovel laying rails. But three men make up the entire crew of the electrical shovel of the caterpillar type as compared with the crew of ten necessary to man one of the old style steam shovels.

Andrew Hodges -- Class of 1925

September 1912
As early as 1912, Utah Copper was working with shovel manufacturers for the conversion of steam shovels to the use of electricity. The conversion was reported as offering a "great benefit" in many ways, including no wintertime interference in the delivery of coal to the steam shovels. The expected saving was placed at $100,000 per year. (Salt Lake Telegram, September 13, 1912)

During 1921, Utah Copper was using 21 steam shovels, and 49 standard gauge steam locomotives and 11 narrow gauge steam locomotives. (Moody's Manual Of Railroads And Corporation Securities, Twenty-Third Annual Number, Industrial Section, Volume II, K to Z, 1922, page 1235)

The first electric shovels at Bingham were two Marion Model 92 shovels delivered in 1922. They were similar to the former railroad designs, but were mounted on four caterpillar treads. Both shovels were equipped with 4-1/2 yard dippers. One had direct-current motors and the other had alternating-current motors. After a full year of tests, in 1923 eight additional shovels with alternating-current were ordered and eight shovels were converted from steam power to electric power. In 1927 there were a total of 23 electric shovels in operation, and no steam-powered shovels. Nine of the electric shovels used alternating-current motors, and the remaining 14 shovels used direct-current motors. (The Mining Congress Journal, September 1927)

Mid 1920s
Shovel manufacturers increased the size and capacity of their smaller two-crawler models to allow the use of the much larger capacities formerly available solely on the railroad designs. Although research has not yet found documentation, Utah Copper was likely on the forefront of using these new two-crawler, full-rotation electric shovels. The expanded and extended mobility and reduced maintenance costs would surely have attracted the company's attention.

January 1923
Utah Copper announced that it would purchase two new electric shovels, and convert an additional 20 shovels by replacing their boilers with electric motors. The total cost was put at $500,000. (Salt Lake Telegram, January 10, 1923)

March 30, 1923
Utah Copper announced that the company had ordered two caterpillar-type Marion Model 92 electric shovels. One was to be direct-current and the other alternating current. The projected savings of electric shovels compared to steam shovels was reported as being 10 cents per ton, saving the costs and downtime of furnishing coal and water, along with downtime due to boiler washing and maintenance, as well as labor savings in not having the watch the boilers during shift change. After a test period, the company would decide whether to use direct-current or alternating -current as its power source. (Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1923)

November 12, 1923
"The first electric shovel, No. 22, was placed in service at Bingham on the north end of 'K' level. It was a Marion Model 92 with General Electric DC electrical equipment." (Utah Copper Chronology, Memo to NWA from R. J. Corfield, dated 11-6-53; courtesy Steve Richardson)

Another source, informally known as the "Kennecott Historical Index" and maintained at the Arthur engineering office, noted that shovel No. 22, a Marion Model 92, was one of eight purchased new. Fifteen steam shovels had been converted to electric at the Bingham shops. (Kennecott Historical Index)

December 12, 1923
"The second electric shovel, No. 23, went into service on the 'J' Level. This was also a Marion Model 92 with Westinghouse AC electrical equipment for comparison of AC versus DC. Power for these two shovels was over a 5500-volt AC line on wooden poles set in the ground." (Utah Copper Chronology, Memo to NWA from R. J. Corfield, dated 11-6-53; courtesy Steve Richardson)

The Marion model 4160 was introduced in 1927, the first full-rotation shovel at Bingham.

By 1929, shovel dippers had increased to 4-1/2 cubic yards, and there were 23 shovels at Bingham. To maintain the desired 110,000 tons per 24 hours production, a total of 30 shovel shifts were needed. Eight of the 23 shovels use alternating-current, and the other 15 shovels use direct-current. (Mechanical Engineering, Volume 51, Number 6, June 1929) (no mention is made of full-rotation electric shovels, such as the Marion model 4160)

The Marion model 4161 was introduced in 1935, as a replacement to their model 4160. Marion continued to improve its designs, and in 1945 introduced the model 151-M. The ever-increasing capacities brought the Marion model 191-M in 1951. Utah Copper, and later Kennecott owned the latter three models, the 4161, the 151-M, and the 191-M.

January 29, 1939
Utah Copper was reported as having 29 electric shovels in operation, six of which were full-rotation types. (Ogden Standard Examiner, January 29, 1939)

May 1940
Utah Copper was reported as having a total of 29 electric shovels working at the Bingham Canyon mine. "Most are of the standard railway type, and the remainder are the full-revolving model, both using caterpillar traction. All shovels are equipped with 4-1/2-yard dippers." (Mining Congress Journal, May 1940, Volume 26, Number 5, page 12)

Late 1940
During late 1940 Utah Copper was the largest producer of non-ferrous metals in the United States, with a daily ore production of 70,000 tons, with 90,000 tons of waste being removed. Electric shovels in the mine were loading 6,300 tons in each eight-hour shift. The new full-rotation shovels, using five-cubic yard dippers, were loading up to 10,000 tons per shift. (Mining and Metallurgy, Volume 21, December 1940, page 550)

The last "standard" shovel was retired. These were originally railroad steam shovels, converted to be electrical shovels, mounted on caterpillar tracks.

September 1988
At the time of the opening ceremony of Kennecott's modernized plant in September 1988, the mine was operating with electric shovels with 27 to 30 cubic yards capacity (about 50 to 60 tons), and truck with 170 to 200 tons capacity. (Deseret News, September 24, 1988)

May 2008
In a news story about improved communications at the Bingham mine, the story mentions that Kennecott Utah Copper was operating 85 300-ton haul trucks, and 12 shovels. (Rajant Corporation case study)


A photo by Shirl Scroggin in December 1970 shows a cable truck moving the 38 shovel, and in response, Tim Dumas shared the following on the Bingham Canyon History group on Facebook, May 2018.

Early seventies I was driving haul truck, a young mining engineer rode with me and asked if I had any suggestions to improve performance at truck haulage. I told him something that I had been thinking about, that was why don't they make a large generator to move the shovels around. After I told him this he got all excited and started figuring what it would take to generate that much power. Not long after that they made the Motovator that saved a lot of time and money. Before the Motovator they used a cable truck, with a long reel of cable, a large crew of people were involved from electricians to cable crew to hook and rehook the cable to power boxes where they could (next two pictures show them moving the shovel around with the cable truck). With the invention of the Motovator (generator on wheels) what they pulled around, (with a grader) they could go anywhere (next four pictures of the Motovator). I never got any recognition for this suggestion and that's ok, telling this story is now my recognition, then tomorrow it will move down the facebook page and gone forever.

Mining Shovel Industry

The following summary of the shovel industry after World War II comes from William Haycraft's Yellow Steel:

Fading opportunity in the construction market left shovel manufacturers no alternative but to concentrate more intensively on the mining market. The steady escalation in off-highway truck sizes that began during the 1950s and took off during the 1960s proved a bonanza. When a mine purchased larger trucks it would almost always upgrade its shovels. Marion introduced its 191-M, a ten-cubic-yard machine, in 1951, soon followed by the similarly sized Bucyrus-Erie 195-B. P&H was building its nine-cubic yard 1800 in 1961. P&H led the move into the next generation when in 1969 it introduced the 25-cubic-yard 2800. Bucyrus-Erie followed in 1972, with the 295-B, and Marion in 1974 with the 201-M.

As the mining industry demanded ever-larger loading tools, the shovel manufacturers clearly had no choice but to match competitors' offerings. With the mining industry seeking to load 240-ton trucks in three shovel passes, rope shovel manufacturers offered the Marion 301-M, the Bucyrus-Erie 495-B, and the P&H 4100. All weigh 1,200 to 1,300 short tons and have a capacity of 80- to 90-tons per pass (approximately 50 cubic yards, depending on the material). In preparation for the next generation of trucks of more than three hundred tons, P&H introduced its 5700 model in 1990-91. In its 5700XPA version the machine carries a nominal bucket rating of 70 cubic yards and has a capacity per pass of 120 tons.

After the war and through the 1970s the three shovel companies prospered by doing business with the mining industry. The oil shock of the early 1970s was a stimulus to the coal industry, and shovel manufacturers benefited. But they were hard-hit by the recessions of 1980-82. The bottom fell out of copper prices, causing two of the largest producers, Kennecott and Anaconda, to disappear as independent companies. Bucyrus-Erie's sales topped out in 1982 at $687 million with a modest $25.7 million profit. Sales for 1983 dropped 20 percent, however, and charges of $135 million for downsizing brought a loss of $133 million.

Losses in the early 1980s put Harnischfeger in severe financial straits. It had been in technical default on its debt by 1982 and barely escaped bankruptcy after a loss of $76.5 million in 1983. After three generations with a Harnischfeger as CEO, Henry Harnischfeger, grandson of the founder, stepped down in 1984, and an outsider, William W. Goessel, was brought in to run the company. Marion, however, as a wholly owned subsidiary in Dresser's Mining and Construction Equipment Division, was able to ride through the difficult times of the early 1980s. The division posted operating losses of only $10 million in 1981 and 1982 on sales of about $570 million.

Bucyrus-Erie and Harnischfeger were extensively restructured during the 1980s. To raise funds and refocus the company on its mining business, Bucyrus-Erie sold off its Construction Equipment Division (Dynahoe and parts) in 1985 to Northwest Engineering (later Terex), and a precision gear business was sold in 1988. A leveraged buy out by management was effected in 1988, but the large debt thus created brought crushing interest expenses. After losses every year from 1988 through 1993 on sales ranging from $139 million to $249 million, the company took bankruptcy in early 1994. It emerged after a financial restructuring as Bucyrus International, Inc., but continued to experience losses in 1994 and 1995.

Harnischfeger's new management chose to reorient the company and entered the paper-making machinery business in 1986 with the purchase of the Beloit Corporation, an activity that began to account for more than half of the company's volume. Mining Equipment Division sales of $255 million, consisting entirely of shovels and draglines, made up only 17 percent of the corporate total in 1989. But a series of acquisitions, including Page Engineering in 1987 and Gardner-Denver in 1991, changed the balance back in favor of mining equipment. In 1994, in a major move, Joy Technologies Inc. was also acquired, putting Harnischfeger into underground mining equipment; that was followed by the 1995 acquisition of Dobson Park, a British manufacturer of underground coal mining equipment. The acquisitions were expected to push the Mining Equipment Division's contribution to more than half the company's volume; corporate sales in 1995 were $2.15 billion. Meanwhile Marion, its two competitors in turmoil, quietly continued to build shovels, draglines, and drills.

Shovel equipment moved in tandem with truck size, and large hydraulic front shovels gained acceptance among miners. In addition to old-line rope shovel manufacturers (Bucyrus-Erie, Marion, and P&H), the large mining-shovel business was being contested by several brands of hydraulic front shovels of more than 300 metric tons, including Demag (with Komatsu), O&K, Liebherr, Hitachi, P&H, and Caterpillar. Even more so than on construction equipment, chip technology, on-board microprocessors, and other electronics were essential components of mining equipment. (William Haycraft, Yellow Steel, pages 360-365)

Shovel Roster Listings

(Number-by-number listings of the shovels at Bingham)

Shovel Builders

(Brief histories of Bucyrus, Marion, and P&H steam and electric shovels)