UPDATE: on the video there is a picture that is a CAB VIEW and is NOT the captain, it is a dragline, I did put text on it to say this but its disappeared?
**What happened to the Shovel?**
The Captain mine ran a three-shift operation with the afternoon shift running from 4 p.m. to midnight. The Captain shovel had a four-man crew consisting of operator, oiler, welder, and a ground man who looked after the trailing cable and operated a wheel loader to clear stray rocks around the machine. Gene Miller was the operator of the Captain on the fateful afternoon shift of September 9, 1991. At about 7 p.m., he noticed a burning smell, stopped the machine, and went with oiler, Fred Kruger, to find where the smell was coming from. “That kind of smell could have come from a variety of sources,” Miller said. “It could have been a brake shoe sticking, overheated shaft bearing, or electrical fault, just to name a few. So we checked the house first and then noticed some smoke coming up from the lower works. On investigating, we found some hydraulic oil had caught fire in that area.”
Miller continued, “Oiler Fred Kruger, welder Gary Andrews and I immediately started to fight the fire with 20-lb dry chemical fire extinguishers. There were many dozens of 20-lb extinguishers positioned all over the machine. We started using these as fast as we could, but the fire seemed to increase rapidly and we were running out of extinguishers in that area. At that point, we realized we needed help, so I reported the fire to the mine office. Meanwhile, Gary went up the elevator to the roof to get some more extinguishers.”
The mine’s two small fire trucks were sent to the scene. They carried 200-lb dry chemical fire extinguishers, soon found to be of little use because the main fire was some 30 ft above ground. Access onto the machine was deemed unsafe because of the intense fire and smoke. Because of the rapidly increasing fire, the mine office also requested help from the Cutler Fire Protection District. Fire Chief Larry Bennett received the call at 9:44 p.m. He also called for assistance from other fire brigades, and before the night was over, brigades from local districts Pinckneyville, Percy, Campbell Hill, Steeleville, Coulterville, DuQuoin and Sparta had also joined the battle.
Welder Gary Andrews continued the story, “I made three trips up the elevator to the roof to bring down fire extinguishers. By the time I went up for the third time, acrid smoke was filling the house. It was thick and black and you couldn’t see anything. What’s more, smoke was starting to come up the elevator shaft, so thick I couldn’t descend. By this time the other crew members had descended to the ground by the ladders. I was doing everything I could to save the machine. I waited a short time on the roof to see if the rough terrain crane with man basket that arrived on the scene could reach me. But it did not, and the roof got so hot I had to climb to the top of the gantry.”
Miller continued to describe the scene, “By now it was completely dark, and the welder on the roof was trapped. The electrical system had kicked out, and fortunately for him that didn’t happen when he was in the electrically powered elevator. And he couldn’t gain access down the house ladders or enter the house because of the intensity of smoke and heat. He was in a dangerous situation because there was a lot of combustible oil products on board the machine.” The hydraulic system, which caught fire first, contained 8,000 gallons of hydraulic fluid. There was also a 1,000-gallon diesel fuel tank, 1,000 lb of grease in the automatic grease system, and 1,000 gallons of solvent in drums.
Miller recalled, “I stayed about three hours after my shift finished at midnight. The fire was almost out by 2 a.m., but the heat melted the seals in the swing gear cases, releasing the oil which fed the fire back to life. It burned for another three hours and was finally out by about 5 a.m.
The intense heat had weakened much of the structure, and worse, the main revolving frame revealed a huge crack in the 5-in. thick steel floor plate running from one side of the machine to the other. An estimate for repairs valued at $7 million which was deemed too much and she was scrapped where you see her on my photos.