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Caterpillar celebrates 130 years of earthmoving in South Milwaukee

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Global Mining Review,

The year – 1893. Only 44 of today’s 50 states formed the US, and Grover Cleveland was elected the country’s 24th president. College basketball was in its infancy, holding its first official game. And the Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge Company opened a new manufacturing facility in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to improve and expand its production facilities.

Caterpillar celebrates 130 years of earthmoving in South Milwaukee

Since this point in history, the management decisions and equipment produced in South Milwaukee have not only changed the construction and mining industries but also the course of history. In the early 1900s, Bucyrus-produced equipment was a major contributor to the monumental excavation projects of the time.

“Dredges were used as part of the California gold rush, and shovels were a part of the vast Mesabi Iron Ranges,” recalls Shawn Paap, commercial manager for Cat electric rope shovels (ERS). “The New York State barge canal enlargement project, the largest US earthmoving project between 1902 – 1912, also used Bucyrus dredges.”

The company’s 40 – 50 t steam-powered shovels played a significant role in building the Panama Canal, one of the most exciting projects in human history. Over the course of the project, 77 shovels produced in South Milwaukee were used to construct the canal. When combined with the shovels produced by Marion Steam Shovel Company, a Bucyrus heritage company, 101 of the 102 shovels used in the project were from Bucyrus.

World War II saw unprecedented demand for excavators in Europe, and virtually 100% of the company’s entire output from 1942 – 1945 was devoted to the war effort. Post-war, the company embarked on a US$2 million project to increase plant capacity by 20%. By the middle of the 20th century, Bucyrus was a global company with an expanded product offering, and more than 74 000 Bucyrus machines had been produced and used in over 166 countries.

“We are proud of our long heritage in South Milwaukee, the impact the equipment produced at this location has had on the global market over the last 130 years, and the talented and dedicated team continuing the tradition of excellence in the production and support of Cat electric rope shovels and draglines,” concludes Jeremy Niedens, facility manager – South Milwaukee for Caterpillar.

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