Rusted Steam Shovel Bones

Steam Shovel Bones 139
Last week while exploring a beach on the northern California coast I was startled to come upon the mammoth ruins of some ancient iron machinery protruding from the rocky shoreline. This rusted beast, a tangle of gears, wheels and girders was half-embedded and seemingly welded to its rocky graveyard. I guessed I was looking at either a train wreck or the engine room of a beached ocean-going steam freighter. As I walked around the other side, I found a large manufacturer’s plate that provided the information I needed to solve the mystery of these relics.

<a href=”” title=”Steam Shovel Bones 76″><img src=”” width=”400″ height=”275″ alt=”Marty Knapp: Rusted Steam Shovel &emdash; Steam Shovel Bones 76″ /></a>

An online search of the text on the plate revealed it was an abandoned power steam shovel, manufactured in the 1920s. This equipment was used to mine the shoreline rocks, perhaps building the rock wall it was now buried in. Did a Pacific storm topple and trash it? Or, was it abandoned during the perilous economic times of the late 20s into the 30s? I wasn’t able to find out why it was buried where it was. Nearly a hundred years of storm and salt had done its work, creating a gorgeous patina of rust on the ruined hulk. I set up my camera and went to work. These rusted iron bones captivated me. I returned a week later to photograph it again in late afternoon light. On my second visit, I brought my macro lens to pull out details of the incredible textures and shapes within the rusted carcass.  View the online collection from both days here: Rusted Steam Shovel

<a href=”” title=”Steam Shovel Bones 90″><img src=”” width=”400″ height=”275″ alt=”Marty Knapp: Rusted Steam Shovel &emdash; Steam Shovel Bones 90″ /></a>

<a href=”” title=”Steam Shovel Bones 97″><img src=”” width=”372″ height=”400″ alt=”Marty Knapp: Rusted Steam Shovel &emdash; Steam Shovel Bones 97″ /></a>

10 comments on “Rusted Steam Shovel Bones

  1. The top one is my favorite. I like the way that the machinery shape is begining to blend with the rock shape. The 3rd one lead me to imagine the cogs moving back in the day.

    • Micki-Thanks for looking at the photos of these old rusted bones and letting me know your thoughts. I’m thinking of submitting an essay about these photographs for possible publication.

  2. Marty–Very nice find. You are known for your black and white photography, but these images are in color. Was there not enough contrast for black and white?

    • Hadley, looks like you got past the Captcha function anyway! The black & white conversions lost something in translation. Something about the color of the rust made it more evocative for me… also seemed to have more depth.

  3. Marty – Great find! I suspect you will be going back to this site more than once. George Barr, too, does some wonderful work with rusting iron and steel. While it is impossible to know just when this steam shovel was abandoned, you would have to guess somewhere between 50 and 90 years ago. The fact that there is this much remaining is testimony to “they don’t build them like that anymore.” Thanks for sharing your images.

    • Frank,
      Thanks for checking these out and commenting. I’ll look around to find George Barr’s photos to see what he’s been up to. I was able to get approximate mfr. date from the plate. They made that model in the late 20s into the 1930s. Found some notation about the work going on at the beach, but no explanation so far as to why the equipment was left there. The rust and various gears fascinate me to no end!

  4. It’s like a piece of the steam shovel graveyard in “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel”! That picture made my son cry when he was little.

    • I’ve never seen that book or movie? It’s interesting though that the demise or disintegration of machinery can have such poignancy. Thanks for commenting, Virginia.

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