In the early 1960s, increased production was needed to meet rising demand for coal by Muskingum River Power Plant. The increased mining capability was achieved with Big Muskie, a Bucyrus-Erie 4250-W dragline. Huge by any standards, the 4250-W was the largest walking dragline ever built. It also was the biggest machine ever to move on land. Only seagoing vessels the scale of Navy aircraft carriers are larger and still mobile. Big Muskie took approximately two years to fabricate and another two years to construct on site. The Muskie began coal production in May 1969.
The 4250-W simply was enormous. The machine's boom was 310 feet long. The house revolved on a 105-foot diameter tub. The bucket - a gigantic 220 cubic yards, twice the capacity of the other large draglines that later would operate at Central Ohio Coal Company's Muskingum Mine - could grab 325 tons of earth in a single bite.
During its operating life, the Muskie moved more than 483 million cubic yards of material to uncover nearly 18 million tons of coal. Big Muskie worked in areas where smaller machines could not reach the full 180-foot depth needed to uncover the Meigs Creek No. 9 coal seam.
When Big Muskie finished uncovering coal in one area, it moved to another. With an overall width of 151 feet, the Muskie required a road wider than an eight-lane highway. This road had to be kept to less than a 5 percent grade.
While the sheer size of the machine was its greatest strength, it also later proved to be a significant weakness. The Muskie's huge tub required a flat, level and stable surface to support the machine's 14,000-ton working weight. While most draglines drag the front edge of the tub when walking, the 4250-W's unique walking mechanism lifted the entire tub off the ground. This proved to be a significant disadvantage because it prevented the machine from working on cast-blasted material.
Big Muskie was idled in January 1991, sidelined by more efficient mining technologies and decreased demand for the mine's high-sulfur coal because of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Together, these things eliminated the need for this behemoth.
For the next eight years, Big Muskie sat like a sentinel watching over the reclaimed land it once walked across and mined. In January 1999, AEP announced all avenues to preserve the huge machine as an exhibit had been exhausted. Big Muskie was dismantled beginning in February 1999, and its site reclaimed. The machine's huge bucket - the centerpiece of this exhibit - is all that remains.