This enormous piece of mining machinery, known locally as the ‘Oddball‘, is a walking dragline excavator, and thanks to both its size and its position on a top of a hill dominates the St Aidan’s nature reserve near Leeds. It was made in the USA in 1947, and was one of three brought to the UK. However unlike the others brought to the UK its electrical supply remained on US electrical frequency and consequently it became known at the ‘Oddball’.

It began its British working life in Wales in the 1950s, before heading to Staffordshire in 1964 and then finally to this site Yorkshire in 1974. It was excavating and walking here (a step of 6.6ft each time at a speed of 0.19 mph) until the late 1980s when flooding in the open cast mine brought production to a stop.

If you look carefully at my photograph above you can just about see a person walking in front of it. It really is enormous, equivalent to 60 double decker buses! However these days it would be considered small at less than 2000 tonnes. Most modern walking dragline excavators are around 8,000 tonnes and the largest is more than 22 stories tall at 13,500 tonnes! ‘Oddball’ though is rather special as it is a national landmark to opencast miners, and the largest remaining historic preserved dragline in western Europe. You could say it is one of a kind!

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