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.
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.
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 email@example.com A photo of the Simca Pick Up will soon be arriving in our Gallery!
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.
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.
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!
Our 2018 AGM will take place in the Substation on site at St Aidans at 11am on Saturday, 7th April.
The Agenda is as follows.
- Apologies for Absence.
- Minutes of 2017 AGM.
- Chairman’s Report.
- Secretary’s Report.
- Treasurer’s Report.
- Election of Officers.
- Review of Arrangements for 2018 Open Days.
- Discussion of Application for Heritage Lottery Funding.
- Any Other Business.
The AGM will be followed by our first Open Day of the year, starting at 1pm and running till 4pm.
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 2018 are:
- Saturday 7th April. The Open Day will be preceeded by the AGM, which will take place in the Substation within our Compound, starting at 11am.
- Saturday 16th June.
- Saturday 15th September.
- Sunday 16th 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.
Our final Open Days of the year took place on Saturday & Sunday, 9th & 10th June, 2017. These were part of the National Heritage Open Days, which enable people to visit many places that are not often open to the public. After a rainy start on the Saturday morning, whilst Members of the Friends of the Dragline were opening up and tidying the site, we enjoyed fine weather for the rest of the weekend. We received around two hundred visitors on both days, most of whom came from the local area. A visitor from Wrexham, who had attended for the first time in June, made a return visit. Tours of the Dragline went on all day and the working models on display helped people to understand how our Machine would have worked when operational. Films running throughout the day showed Draglines in a working situation, walking by moving their giant feet, rotating by lifting their feet and moving thousands of tons of soil and rock. Many people purchased DVDs of this, to re-live the experience at home. Mugs featuring “Oddball” were also popular.
We are always happy to welcome new Members and would also appreciate offers of help with organising and running our Open Days. If you would like to join the Friends of the Dragline, or would like to offer your time to assist with events, please email our Secretary on firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday, 10th June, 2017, we held our second Open Day of the year. There was rain in the morning whilst some Members were strimming weeds and generally tidying the Dragline’s compound but by the time the first people arrived it had become fine, although rather overcast. We welcomed around one hundred visitors, not only from the local area, including a professional photographer, our local PCSO, who often visits our site whilst out on patrol, and Leeds City Councillor James Lewis, but also from as far away as Wrexham. In addition to looking all around the Dragline, visitors enjoyed seeing working models demonstrating exactly how Draglines worked and were able to view archive films of this taking place at various locations. Souvenir mugs featuring “Oddball” were in demand, as were DVDs of the historic Dragline footage.