When life was a drag……

Just over fifty years ago on 29th May 1973 Rutland’s last ironstone quarry ceased production when the last train to Scunthorpe Steelworks departed. The ironstone quarry  was the largest in the county and since its erection on-site in 1957 quarry overburden removal was largely in the hands of the massive 1675 ton Ransomes and Rapier W1400 walking dragline named SUNDEW.

Photographs of Sundew at work in Exton Park Quarry are not common. However recently a museum visitor, an ex-apprentice of Ransomes and Rapier of Ipswich, and plant engineer has donated a book about the company’s history. Within that publication a loose photograph was found of SUNDEW at work at Exton. It is believed to a photo taken from the right-hand drivers cab of the machine and shows the empty drag bucket hanging above the overburden mound having released its load.
Our website has further information and an audio interview with the plant engineer.

After the departure of the last quarry train SUNDEW was employed on spoil moving as part of quarry restoration works given that the quarry land was required to be returned to an agricultural after-use. SUNDEW stood like a stranded whale at the quarry awaiting its fate. British Steel was continuing to excavate ironstone near Corby to serve the giant steelworks and there was a pressing need to improve overburden stripping at Shotley Quarry. SUNDEW might provide the answer. The main issue was how to move Sundew there,  at what cost and in what timeframe could it be achieved?

We will now leave the quarry managers at Corby to ponder the question further but will return to this matter next year…….to be continued….checkout our open days. Get the latest on our Facebook pages.