Mega machines on the move: Dragline relocation project kicks off at Big Brown Mine


Big Brown Mine’s D-13 dragline walks across County Road 235 near Fairfield.

Luminant’s Big Brown Mine’s D-13 dragline walks across County Road 235 near Fairfield.

UPDATE 04.28.14 – Big Brown Mine’s dragline recently completed the three-mile trek to Turlington Mine. The 6.5-million-pound dragline was safely moved using 24 interconnected trailers – including nearly 500 tires – all of which were controlled by one operator using a remote control. Crews will now start preparing for additional dragline moves at Kosse and Martin Lake mines.

Why did Big Brown Mine’s dragline cross the road?

Why, of course, to get to Turlington Mine!

The answer may sound simple enough, but creating a detailed plan to consecutively move four draglines – the enormous excavators that move the rock and soil above a coal bed – was one of the most complicated parts of the transportation riddle for Luminant’s maintenance support team. The project – one year in the making – includes moving draglines at Big Brown Mine, Kosse Mine and Martin Lake Mines to new mining areas this spring.

“With several new mining sites set to begin operation soon, we designed a plan to move draglines to those sites as safely, quickly and cost effectively as possible,” said Brad Gadt, Luminant’s maintenance project and outage manager. “It’s challenging and exciting to move four draglines one after the other. They’re critical components in helping us provide cost-effective, reliable electricity to meet Texas’ growing energy needs.”

The first of four dragline moves recently kicked off at Big Brown Mine where crews successfully “walked” D-13 dragline across County Road 235 near Fairfield. Sounds easy, right? But imagine moving a 6.5 million-pound machine, with a boom just short of 300 feet or the length of a football field without the end zones, at a speed of one step every 46 seconds?

The dragline has two platform feet, which lower to the ground and move the machine forward nine feet per step. Each step takes roughly 46 seconds to complete.

The dragline has two platform feet, which lower to the ground and move the machine forward nine feet per step. Each step takes roughly 46 seconds to complete.

With careful attention to detail and safety, the walk was completed in roughly two hours and is the first step in the dragline’s three-mile journey to Turlington Mine. Over the next few weeks, it will be loaded onto self-propelled modular transporters or trailers to complete the big move.

“We’re planning to load the dragline onto 120 interconnected trailers, which will be controlled by one operator using a remote control,” said Jerry Poland, director of heavy and light equipment. “It usually takes months to disassemble draglines and rebuild them at a new site. With the trailers, we’re able to move them all in one piece. To date, only one other dragline in North America has been transported using this method.”

Luminant and a vendor specializing in transporting heavy equipment and machinery began working together to plan the walk and trailer transport more than a year ago.

Quick facts:

  • The D-13 dragline began operating at Big Brown Mine in 1978 and recently functioned as the primary earth-moving equipment to complete significant reclamation projects.
  • In its 43-year history, Big Brown Mine has moved more than 2.3 billion cubic yards of earth material, mined an estimated 175 million tons of lignite and reclaimed more than 15,000 acres.
  • The D-13 dragline bucket can hold 62 cubic yards of overburden, or the rock and soil that lies above coal; visually, the inside of the bucket is about the size of a living room.
  • In one year, D-13 is capable of moving as much as 20 million cubic yards of earth.

Go behind the scenes: Watch the dragline walk in action…

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