All posts by Mary McNulty

April Open Day

The weather was fine for the first Open Day of 2019, which was held on the 13th April.

Around 350 visitors arrived to tour the Dragline. Working models were on display to demonstrate how the Dragline operated and DVDs which also showed this were running during the day. Copies of these were available to purchase.

Many people, especially groups, posed for photos in the Giant Bucket.

One of our Members, who is also involved with the Simca Club of Great Britain, brought his Simca Racing Car to display near the Dragline. Anyone wishing to learn more about the Simca Club, please contact to receive details of their activities.

AGM 2019

Our 2019 AGM took place in the Substation on Sunday 31st. March.

The AGM was attended by ten Members who approved the Minutes of the 2018 AGM. Apologies for absence had been received from five Members.

The Chairman gave his Report, in which he thanked Members for their support, including at the Open Days and also with site tidying in preparation for these.

The Secretary and Treasurer made their Reports, commenting on an increase in Membership, Open Day visitor numbers remaining high and Donations to the Dragline still being very generous. It is good to see that our Dragline is so well appreciated by the visiting public, from near and far.

Next came Election of Officers. Both the Chairman and the Treasurer wished to retire after many years of dedicated service. Members thanked them for all their hard work, and then elected new holders for these posts.

Members then discussed arrangements for the 2019 Open Days.

The retiring Treasurer had brought with him a collection of photographs left to the Friends by the late Dr Ivor Brown, who had worked tirelessly to bring about the preservation of the Dragline. It was decided that these items would be placed in the care of our Chairman, to be made available for Mining Research.

The Chairman thanked everyone for attending and then closed the AGM.

Dragline Open Days 2019

Come and see Oddball, the largest preserved walking dragline excavator in Western Europe.

Look all round outside and see the giant 25 cubic yard bucket.

Go inside the machine and see all the motors and winding gear.

Sit in the driver’s seat!

Take in the view from the jib!

See working models and video displays in the substation.

Our dates for 2019 are:

  • Saturday 13th April.
    • Saturday 15th June.
    • Saturday 14th September.
    • Sunday 15th September.
    • We are open from 1pm to 4pm on each of these days. Admission is free and there is free parking on site.  If you are arriving by bicycle, there is parking available,  so please remember to bring your locks. Dogs on leads are welcome within our Compound, but cannot go on the Dragline. Please help to keep our area tidy by cleaning up after your pet, if necessary. Doggy bags are available free at the Substation. For directions to our site,  and a map of the area, please see our “Find Us” page.

Friends of the Dragline AGM 2019

Our next AGM will take place in the Substation at St Aidans at 2pm on Sunday, 31st March, 2019.

The Agenda is.

1. Apologies for Absence

2. Approval of Minutes of 2018 AGM

3. Chairman’s Report

4. Secretary’s Report

5. Treasurer’s Report

6. Election of Officers

7. Review of Arrangements for 2019 Open Days

8.  Additional Signatories for Nat West Bank Accounts

9. Any Other Business

Ivor Brown Memorial Day

The Ivor Brown Memorial Day was held at Coalbrookedale Museum on the 27th of October, 2018. This was to celebrate the life and work of the late Dr Ivor John Brown. The event was attended by around eighty people, including some Members of The Friends of the Dragline. Ivor had been instrumental in the saving of our Dragline for Preservation, in order that future generations would learn about the history of Opencast Mining, and be able to visit what had become the last large Walking Dragline  Excavator remaining in Britain. Ten speakers gave a variety of talks covering different aspects of Ivor’s work. Their topics ranged from “God and the Miners” to “Celestine Mining in South Gloucestershire”.

Our Member, Sam Wood, gave a talk entitled “St Aidan’s Opencast and Preservation of the Dragline” in which Ivor’s efforts to save the Dragline were described in great detail. During the lunch break, A video of our Dragline’s last walk, was played on a loop for for the visitors to watch. This had been provided by IA Recordings.

September Open Days, 2018

Our final Open Days of the year took place on Saturday & Sunday, the 15th & 16th of September, and concluded a good year of events for the Friends of the Dragline. In addition to our Open Days, we were featured on the Springwatch televison programme and also an illustrated article about the Dragline, written by our Secretary was included in the Journal of AEMT of York.

We welcomed  483 visitors over the two Open Days. A good many of these were comparatively local, including a return visit by Drivers from the Knottingley depot of the Prestons of Potto haulage business. A party of enthusiasts arrived from Leicestershire and some visitors from China included us in their tour of Britain.

Our dedicated Stewards were on hand to guide our visitors and answer their questions. In addition to tours of the Dragline, there were videos of Draglines at work, from a time when there were many of these Machines active throughout the country. One of our Members displayed working models of Draglines to give our visitors a greater understanding of how the Draglines worked.

Another attraction was a Tombola, with prizes donated by Traders at the Hillhead Quarry Exhibition held in June on the outskirts of Buxton, Derbyshire. Our thanks go to them for their generosity in supporting us.

The weather was excellent on both of the days, which allowed our visitors to get maximum enjoyment of their time with us.

Many people also made a visit to the nearby RSPB St Aidans Bird Reserve and enjoyed refreshments at their Visitor Centre.




June Open Day

Our second Open Day of the year took place on Saturday 16th June, 2018. We were fortunate to have good weather for this event, as shortly after we closed up the Dragline and the Compound, there was a severe thunderstorm with very heavy rain.

Around 300 visitors enjoyed exploring the Dragline and its surroundings, including the nearby Substation where working models of Draglines were busy demonstrating the way in which Walking Draglines operated. Videos of full size Machines at work were running during the day, with copies of these on DVD available for purchase, along with souvenir mugs of our Dragline. Members of the Friends of the Dragline were Stewarding and always on hand to guide visitors and to answer their questions. Our new Steward, Lucy, was welcomed by Mary, our Secretary. If any of our visitors would like to become more involved with the Dragline, please speak to any Steward at an Open Day.

Amongst our visitors, we were pleased to see professional photographer, Roy Hampson, making a return visit, keen to get new angles on the Dragline to illustrate a forthcoming magazine article. Some local drivers from the well known haulage company, Prestons of Potto, came along, to see a machine many times the size of the ones that they drive! On the subject of transport, one of our Members, who is also involved with running the Simca Club of Great Britain, brought his Simca PIck-Up. If you wish to learn more about the Simca Club, they can be contacted on  A photo of the Simca Pick Up will soon be arriving in our Gallery!





April Open Day

Our first Open Day of 2018 took place on Saturday, 7th April.

We had fine weather for our first Open Day of the year.

Almost 200 visitors attended and enjoyed exploring the Dragline inside and outside. The Giant Bucket was a favourite spot for group photos. In the Substation, visitors could watch working models in action, which helped them to understand exactly how Draglines walked and worked. To take the memory home, many people purchased DVDs of historic footage of Draglines at work. Souvenir Mugs featuring “Oddball” were also very popular.

Most of our visitors came from the local area, although one had come from Vietnam! Making a group visit were some enthusiasts from Huddersfield. Local Artist, Joe Bean, from Colton, was busy with pen and paper, making drawings of various scenes, including a Member of the Friends of the Dragline who was busy working to keep the site in good order for our visitors.

We had a visit from a film crew who enjoyed mingling with visitors and talking to Members of the Friends prior to making a film the next day. This footage is due to be aired on “Discovery” and “Yesterday” channels.

Another attraction was a Vintage Tractor on which a former Driver of the Dragline had driven to St Aidans. This was also very popular for photo opportunities. A photo of this Tractor will shortly appear in the “Gallery” section of our Website.

AGM 2018

Our AGM took place in the Substation at St Aidans on 7th April, 2018.

The AGM was attended by sixteen Members who approved the Minutes of the 2017 AGM.

The Chairman asked Members to stand for a minute’s silence to remember the late Dr Ivor Brown, who had passed away just a few days after he had attended the last AGM.

The Chairman then gave his Report on the past year, thanking Members for the help that they had given in many ways, such as Stewarding at Open Days and helping with maintenance.

The Secretary and the Treasurer then gave their Reports. Comments included the increased Visitor numbers at our Open Days and the generosity of our Visitors’ donations.

Election of Officers followed with very little change.

The next item for discussion was the preparation of the Dragline and the site in general for our 2018 Open Days.

The final topic was our ongoing planning for our Heritage Lottery Fund Application.

The Chairman then closed the Meeting.

After the close of the AGM, we proceeded to welcome our Visitors to our first Open Day of the year.



A Very Special Birthday – Oddball was 70 in 2018!

The year 2018 marked 70 years since Oddball, as we know her, left the factory. She was at that time given the name Clinchfield, the name Oddball came later, after she came to work in Britain and the electrical supply here did not quite suit her electrical system. This caused her to make unusual sounds, which did not happen to other Draglines imported at the same time as they had a different system. She was then referred to as the Oddball one and the name stuck.

After working hard in America, she came to Britain and worked in Wales and the West Midlands before ending her working life at St Aidans. All the other large Walking Dragline Excavators that had worked in Britain were either scrapped or sent to other countries. It was only through the generosity of the late Richard John Budge that Oddball was spared a similar fate and has been preserved for the public to visit and learn about.

The Friends of the Dragline feel very privileged that they are able to care for this amazing machine and show the visitors round on Open Days. A Walking Dragline can really only be fully appreciated by making a visit and standing alongside. We had hoped that in the Dragline’s special anniversary year, as many people as possible would make the journey to St Aidans and celebrate with us on one of our Open Days. We were not disappointed, visitor numbers showed an increase on the previous year!