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Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Wed 12 Nov 2014

Digger visits Threlkeld (Part Three)

In this the last blog post on my recent visit to the Vintage Excavator Trust in Cumbria, I will take a look at another selection of machines in the collection which now totals over 80 examples.

Without a doubt the oldest machine at Threlkeld is the Ruston Proctor steam shovel. I discovered a bit of history about these old machines. The first British full 360o excavator was built by Whittaker as far back as 1884 and for a time this machine was built under licence by Ruston. However in 1902 Ruston Proctor designed and built their own full slew design machine, the 12 ton steam navvy. This was a much improved excavator, with its crowd action for the bucket arm. Of course as time passed these machines became rapidly superseded by more modern machines and gradually disappeared, except for one. The excavator no 306 was built in 1909 and was discovered in a chalk pit lagoon in Arlesey in Bedfordshire in the late 1970s. This machine eventually found its way to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life where it was on static display until the Autumn of 2010. Ray Hooley of Ruston Bucyrus who was instrumental in saving this machine, had a wish that this excavator be restored to full working order and so it was decided to move the machine to its long term home at Threlkeld, where work is ongoing and it is hoped to be up and running in readiness for next season. Further away from the quarry there are a whole host of old gems to be found, like these Priestman Cub Mk IIIs which date to around 1942. Looking like garden sheds on tracks the green model was configured as a dragline with the blue version sporting a skimmer shovel. Without doubt the largest machine on display at Threlkeld is the Ruston Bucyrus 110B face shovel. The machine which features a 4.5 cubic yard bucket was moved to the quarry in 2007. Apparently there is still work to be done on the machine to get her working again, but it is hoped that one day it will be put to work during the working open days which are held at Threlkeld. The machine is certainly starting to look a bit green as mould is forming on her, but a good pressure wash would soon get shot of that no doubt. I have no idea who this machine used to be owned by but I did spot an old panel lying close by with the livery of Budge on it. And finally a couple of shots of old dumptrucks that call Threlkeld home. This British classic Aveling Barford SN dumptruck, is possibly a 30 or 40 tonner. Sadly there were no identification numbers on it that I could find, but if anyone knows the correct ID I would love to hear from you. And here we have another British classic in the form of this small Foden dumptruck. This wagon is still used in the working display weekends in the quarry and as you can see is still a restoration work in progress. Having seen these machines at rest in Threlkeld, I am now keen to visit again next year on one of the working weekends. If I do make it rest assured I will share the experience with you all on the Digger Man Blog.  

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