Could you imagine buying a 40-ton 1927 Bucyrus 41B Dragline from a farmer in Canada, clearing land to get it from the farm, through woods and to the main road, hauling it all the way to Edgerton and then spending the next 21 years restoring every inch of it to make it operational once more?
That’s just what Mike Furgason has done. Purchased from a Toronto farmer in 1999, Furgason has worked diligently and tirelessly on the machine, which will make its public debut this Labor Day weekend at the Rock River Thresheree in Edgerton.
Furgason’s road to completion of his project has taken him to several U.S. states.
“I found parts here and there,” he said. “I went out to Long Island and got some parts off of a machine there before they scrapped it.”
Other parts came from Florida and New Jersey. Still other parts were copied at a foundry, he said. Through his travels, Furgason slowly learned more about his machine and others similar to his, or as he said, “what’s left of them.”
He found one at a museum in Indiana which was also made by Bucyrus. It was a few years older but the signing on different parts of the machine were the same as his. Using photographs and measurements, he learned that the Indiana machine was a little bigger and electric, rather than steam powered but otherwise quite similar.
Over the years, Furgason has only found one other steam dragline of the same model and it was located in New Jersey. After all of the searching he’s done, he said he believes there are no more than two or three others, if that, still in existence.
“They only built 110 of my model from 1926 to 1929 or 1930,” he said, adding that they were manufactured in Indiana although the company, Bucyrus, was located near Milwaukee.
Furgason said his restoration is close to being complete. the machine, which looks similar to a crane, will be operational by Labor Day when it will be displayed at the Thresheree.
As draglines go, Furgason’s is considered a smaller one. The more massive draglines would be used for strip-mining coal for example. Draglines the size of Furgason’s were used for dredging or ditching farm fields, much like a backhoe would be used today.
Still, at 40 tons and standing about 17 feet high to the top of the stack, Fergason's dragline is impressive. "You don’t want to fall off of it, put it that way,” he said.
The machine had several owners before making its way to the farm in Toronto, where Furgason purchased it. The owner there had transformed it from a dragline to a pile driver, which necessitated Furgason’s finding and replacing parts that had been taken off.
The machine’s seller had another machine for sale which was older than the Bucyrus B41 so he was surprised by Furgason’s choice. “I never knew of another B41 so I knew it was rarer,” he explained, “so I picked that one.”
For a closer look at the restoration project as it progressed, Furgason sugggests taking a look at the machine’s Facebook page. You’ll find it by searching “1927 Bucyrus B41 Steam Dragline Restoration.”