West Mineral, Kansas
We are alone with Big Brutus in the gathering darkness on the windswept plain. Tornados and three more inches of rain are expected tonight. We’re microwaving TV dinners tonight. If a tornado approaches, we need to run 100 yards and stand between the treads of Big Brutus.
The treads of the Bucyrus-Eire earth mover are seven feet high and five feet wide. You could surround this thing with German 88’s, fire at will, and be perfectly safe between the treads. Each tread is powered by a 250 HP DC motor. Brutus has a top speed of .22 MPH and each of the four treads had 2,200 gallons of gear oil. If you look closely, you can see me standing by a tread.
I stood inside the scoop. It measures 12’x 15’x15’. One scoop holds 90 cubic yards or 150 tons of coal. The one below is from a baby earth mover.
The power plant provides a peak of 15,000 horsepower to drive the various electric motors. Brutus is 160 feet tall and weighs 11 million pounds. I climb into the machine and explore. The walkway to the tip of the boom is no longer accessible because of insurance.It took 52 men a year to assemble Brutus in 1963. The parts came in on 150 railroad cars and cost $6.5 million dollars.
But these are just dry statistics. Tonight at midnight, Mrs. Phred and I will climb to the top of the boom and kiss the sky while the tornados stalk the land. We dress in black and check our equipment.