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Photo by Sean Drews. For more than 20 years, the P&H 2100 BL helped to extract coal and iron ore from open-pit mines in Kentucky and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The mining shovel, once state-of-the-art, eventually became outmoded and was replaced by newer models that were even more massive. The old workhorse sat idle in the […]


Photo by Sean Drews.

For more than 20 years, the P&H 2100 BL helped to extract coal and iron ore from open-pit mines in Kentucky and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The mining shovel, once state-of-the-art, eventually became outmoded and was replaced by newer models that were even more massive. The old workhorse sat idle in the U.P. for about a decade, until its manufacturer, now known as Joy Global, repurchased it back in 2011, and transported its bulk to a busy intersection near Miller Park. There it looms today at Miller Parkway and National Avenue, 75 feet long and 1 million pounds heavy.

By today’s standards, its 30-ton capacity is actually considered miniscule. (Newer shovels can move 120 tons at a scoop.) The 2100 BL, however, was once a mainstay of mining around the world. Joy Global’s predecessor, Harnischfeger, produced about 380 of the shovels between 1963 and the early-’90s. At its peak, in 1971, the company’s sprawling complex in West Milwaukee rolled out 35 of the rigs, which cost about $1.5 million each.
“At the time, it was the most sought-after large mining shovel,” says Tom Barnes, product support director for Joy Global’s surface mining division. The company teamed up with an Oak Creek metal fabricator, Steelwind Industries, to refurbish its prodigal shovel, something that cost a “pretty penny,” he says. “We wanted to have a more visible symbol for the community, and for our customers, of what we produce here.” The model was the last to be manufactured entirely at the West Milwaukee facility, which later underwent an all-encompassing renovation.
“When customers came here, they saw big parts – but never an entire machine,” Barnes says. Now, it’s hard to miss. ■

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