Silver Spade Retires


   The Silver Spade retired as a shovel in April of this year just outside of New Athens, Ohio. After 40 years of removing the overburden to expose the coal in the strip mines of southeastern Ohio, she completed her last job. In fact, she broke down as she did her signature slow "walk" out of the mine, never reaching her peak mile per hour. She will not be repaired; it is simply too costly. Her fate is uncertain. 
    But are the Silver Spade's days of heavy lifting for The Ohio Valley truly over?
    Owned by Consol Energy, her final disposition is a choice between being sold for scrap, and being turned over to local interests who want to preserve her as a tourist attraction. The latter is being negotiated by Harrison County Commissioners with a group dedicated to the preservation of mining and reclamation machinery, the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park (HCRHP).
    The Silver Spade is a behemoth weighing in at a staggering 14,000,000 pounds. She is as tall as a twelve story building and as wide as an eight lane highway. She could scoop up 315,000 pounds of dirt and dump it more than a football field away, the operator using only two foot pedals and two hand levers. In her long career, she removed millions of tons of soil and rock.
    Although the Silver Spade can no longer work as a shovel, it is the hope of the Harrison County Commissioners and the HCRHP that she can continue to do some heavy lifting for the entire Ohio Valley as a major tourist attraction. An example of the kind of display envisioned is situated in Kansas, where a local group secured a giant shovel called "Big Brutus." This mining equipment park draws anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people a year and has operated successfully for 20 years. It is not located near any major metropolitan area, unlike the Silver Spade whose site is well within a day's drive of several large cities and is near two interstate highways. 
    Consol Energy will make its decision soon about the Silver Spade. Anyone interested in helping in the effort to Save The Silver Spade are encouraged to contact Claren Blackburn at 740-937-2460, or Dennis Watson, Chairman of the Harrison County Commissioners at 740-942-4623 (e-mail at
Contributions may be sent to the: Save the Spade Fund
c/o Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park, Inc., P.O. Box 403, Cadiz, OH cl


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