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Big Brutus Museum reopens in SE Kansas

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Big Brutus, a non-profit Kansas corporation dedicated to the Mining Heritage of Southeast Kansas, is now open for the public near West Mineral, Kansas in the southeast part of the state. [Courtesy photo]

WEST MINERAL–After being closed since March 17, 2020 because of coronavirus shutdowns, the Big Brutus, Inc. museum at West Mineral, Kansas is open again for visitors. Face masks are required in the museum and social distancing recommended on the complex, but the monstrous mine tool attraction in Southeast Kansas is viewable, as of August 1, 2020, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Big Brutus is a mining excavator, Bucyrus Erie model 1850B, with the largest electric shovel in the world. It stands 16 stories tall (160 feet), weighs 11 million pounds and has boom 150 feet long. The dipper capacity 90 cu. yards (by heaping, 150 tons) is enough to fill three railroad cars, and it can move at a maximum speed of .22 MPH.

The machine standing out in the middle of the prairie, is visible from miles away, but an up-close personal visit reminds one and all of the fragility of human exhistence in comparison to machine capacity. Big Brutus cost $6.5 million in 1962.

According to information on the large machine’s website, there is more to Big Brutus than cold steel and long shadows falling across the Mined Land Wildlife Area. Big Brutus is not just a symbol of the past, but an eternal tribute to the mining heritage of Southeast Kansas and to miners all across the United States who toiled to support their families.

On July 13, 1985, Big Brutus was dedicated as "a Museum and Memorial Dedicated to the Rich Coal Mining History in Southeast Kansas."

In September 1987 The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Big Brutus a Regional Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the 10th since 1971 to be so designated.

In 2018 Big Brutus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Though the Big Brutus museum is open year round, hours vary with the season. Call (620) 827-6177 for more information.