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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Earth-moving giants in Lake District show spectacular

Massive earth-moving machines from the largest collection of vintage excavators in the world will once again be working in the Lake District this weekend, and some of them are 80 years old.

Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum Railway will be the venue for this busy scene as operators of these giant “Navvies” from another age, clank and growl and thud their buckets into the quarry sides against a backcloth of steam from passenger trains on the quarry railway, billowing into the air within sight of the A66.

The occasion will be a working weekend for the various earth-moving appliances of old navvy plant at the narrow-gauge line, which once served local quarries with names like California, Klondike and Dawson City.

It is here the unique collection of 70 such relics from a bygone industrial age is based.

Excavators that were once the norm before the advent of hydraulics took over with more modern earth-moving machines like the JCB, they have been collected by Ian Hartland, who is the owner of the quarry, under the auspices of the Vintage Excavator Trust (VET).

Some are of a type used in constructing the Manchester Ship Canal, while others were used on open-cast coal fields like those in west Cumbria.

Even the smaller machines are sufficiently powerful to lift an eight-ton JCB.

The larger ones like the 110-RB Crowd Shovel – weighing 180 tons and the largest at Threlkeld, though only classed as a small navvy by the terms of big quarrying – would manage a small steam locomotive weighing 25 tons from a mainline railway.

Visitors are expected from all over the UK and US.

The first working weekend was held in 1998 and, since then, VET membership has gone from strength to strength.

Several machines are owned by VET including the massive 110-RB shovel, while others belong to Mr Hartland or private collectors, who will be operating their machines this weekend.

“I am fascinated by these magnificent machines from a bygone age,” said Mr Hart.

“We have a growing number of visitors at our occasional working weekends. They share this interest as do the excavator enthusiasts themselves.

“The sheer size of the quarry makes it ideal for machines with ample space for operation.”

 

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