09 September 2023

Big Brutus Bash 2023


Each year in September members of the Four State QRP Group gather near the small town of West Mineral in southeast Kansas. The place of the gathering is the Big Brutus Electric Shovel and Rustic Museum. I can go on and tell you all about Big Brutus but I do not think that I could do a description any better than the Big Brutus website. So through the magic of copy and paste here you go:


Constructed in 1962 by the Bucyrus Erie Company for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company, Big Brutus served as a testament to human ingenuity and hard work. This colossal machine operated for over a decade, dramatically increasing the efficiency of coal mining in the region before retiring in 1974. However, its retirement marked a new beginning. In 1985, it was dedicated as a museum and memorial, signifying its enduring legacy. This dedication recognized Big Brutus as not just a symbol of the past, but as an eternal tribute to the mining heritage of southeast Kansas and to the minors across the nation who toiled to support their families. In September 1987, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Big Brutus a regional historic mechanical engineering landmark, the tenth such designation since 1971. Adding to its accolades, Big Brutus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, further cementing its significance in American Industrial History. 

This was the very first time that I was able to visit Big Brutus. I would not have been able to go this time if it wasn't for my friend Tim Harpor W5TAH taking me. The drive from McLoud to the Big Brutus site took us about four hours. I wasn't really sure what to expect until we got there and I saw Big Brutus rising 160 feet (48 Meters) above the beautiful southeast Kansas landscape. To say that this electric shovel is big is really just a big understatement.

For scale look to the right of the picture and between the shadow and the digger in the distance. That silhouette that you see is a 6 foot (1.8 meters) tall man. 

The 4 State QRP Group was located under a very nice pavilion not far from the museum or Big Brutus.  There were around 20 people there for the event. Radios that i saw there were the Elecraft KX3, Elecraft K2, uBITX. I saw a 4SQRP radio there but I can't recall which one it was and I forgot to take any pics. My setup was my Elecraft K2 with my homebrew end-fed random wire. 

For me the main attraction was the people. I got to meet people from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas. Basically all of  the 4 states that originally made up the 4 State QRP Group plus Nebraska. In the afternoon we were all spoiled by some wonderful bar-b-que. 

This warehouse size room in the picture above is actually inside Big Brutus. In the picture above of the exterior of Big Brutus this area is located in the right side of Big Brutus. Instead of being a factory or warehouse this is inside of a mobile machine that can move under its own power. 

This picture shows Tim W5TAH underneath Big Brutus. On the left side are the tracks. The entire machine has a total of 16 tracks. From looking at them it looks like just one link would be close to a ton. 

This is yours truly setting at the controls. Just the controls at my hands were enough to operate this Latvian. Behind this control room is a break room that is about 15X30. 

Well that is all for now. Please help me support this blog by subscribing to it and sharing. If you have any comments please leave them in the comments section below. You can reach me at Aaron@K5ATG.com


Aaron K5ATG


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