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Dave Ware's Improved Erector Steam Shovel

Dave writes: "Here is my modernized version of the famous steam shovel. I am going to reveal some deep dark secrets that may get me kicked out of the Gilbert Heritage Society: the original shovel, while a great show piece and a marvelous mechanical design, actually never worked! It could not assume the positions as shown in Gilbert's pictures in the manual. The extended position was impossible to show without a hand holding it there and the digging position could not be returned to with out pushing the shovel back manually. Also, despite what you may have read, the early complicated version did not have any extra features over the 1928 revised version! The simple truth is that the EI 'Standard Gear Box Side Plate' and EJ 'Gear Box Base' introduced in 1928 probably allowed the simpler gearing arrangement. The new design shown here is closer to the way the real ones worked and can be moved from digging position to extended position by shifting gears.

(Check out THIS PAGE for pictures of all known real steam shovels still in existence. I recently caught a real steam shovel in operation in the background of a Hollywood movie showing a scene in a huge gravel pit in Siberia.)

The boom was made from two overlapping B and C square girders and was made movable instead of fixed. Angle girders were mounted on the front of the cab to hold a pulley for the boom cord. The roof was moved back slightly to allow for the passage of the boom cord into the cab. The shovel arm is movable as was the original, but it pivots from the boom.

A modified setup of the Electric Engine No. 10 with ratchets and pinions was used that allowed both the boom and digger arm to operate at low speed.

An arrangement of lever arms loop around the boiler and out the back of the cab. These arms push the gear shift lever back and forth.

A string tied to the shovel release mechanism loops under the roof and is tied to the back of the cab. It is just long enough so that when the shovel is fully extended, it pulls the bucket open. I believe that this is the way the original worked. Now some confessions: I loaded the bucket by hand.

The bucket has large thick teeth with a curved bottom and I was unable to find anything that could be scooped up by it, and that it wouldn't leak out of the bucket before it could be moved and dumped. (The bucket does not close very tightly.) Wet sand was not considered an option. Also, the bucket once opened, could only be closed by pulling on the string or crashing the bucket down by being sloppy in shifting gears. Finally, the shifting is rather difficult and often has to be done by reaching inside the cab and pushing the shift lever directly. I had to use a motor that didn't have notches in the guard plate for it to work at all as the levers tended to push the shifter into the notches.

I have designed a gear box that might work with a P58 motor that has fixed pinions to hold the positions of the boom and arm when they are out of gear, but I have not tried it out. I suspect the shifting into the fixed pinions may be difficult under load."