Coal is a local resource.

On Saturday Kate and I tagged along with the Indiana University Geology Club, and went on a guided tour of the Farmersburg Coal Mine. I spent much of last semester developing WattBot, a design argument that is decidedly opposed to the usage of coal for electricity, but it was impossible to walk away from this operation without being impressed.

The jewel of the tour was the Bucyrus-Erie 2570-W dragline, an enormous crane-shovel hybrid with a bucket the side of a bus, and a mechanical unit the size of an office building. They use this machine to remove overburden, a word that means “everything that stands between you and the coal seam.”

Approaching the Dragline

We got to step up into the dragline as it was in operation, and watch as Russ gracefully dug holes with a bucket that weighs 253,000 pounds when empty.

Dragline Bucket

I could go on, but I lack the words to describe the sheer scale of this machine. Rather, check out the videos below.

This is from the cockpit of the dragline:

This is a walking tour of the machine room. The dragline runs completely on electricity, and as we staggered through it we were constantly being buffeted by hot blasts of air. The two coils of cables are the boom drum and the drag drum, which control the bucket. Don’t miss the grill, which was cooking a hearty soup:

In this shot we’re outside, between the booms. That tiny yellow vehicle on the left, just beyond where the dragline is dumping its load? Yeah, that’s a full-sized bulldozer:

Finally, here’s an overview of the controls, should you ever find yourself in a cinematic situation where the fate of mankind depends on your secret dragline skills: