Page Walking Draglines

A pictorial recollection of coal stripping in Clearfield and Centre counties, Pennsylvania

by Michael Bezilla

This web site is intended to recall some of the coal-mining heritage of Clearfield and Centre counties, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s rich bituminous coal fields, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when strip mining in this region flourished. Page walking draglines were the workhorses of many mines in this region. Pages were classics of engineering design, in much the same manner as, say, a DC-3 airplane, a B-Model Mack truck, or an EMD F-series diesel locomotive. They were a treat to the ear as well as the eye: can anyone who has ever watched a diesel-powered Page hard at work ever forget its unique pocketa pocketa pocketa pocketa exhaust? This site offers a few of my personal photographic recollections of Page draglines.

Table of Pictorial Contents

Page dragline history
John W. Page invented the dragline in 1904. A walking mechanism was developed a few years later, allowing draglines mobility free of rails and rollers, and was adopted by the Chicago-based Page Engineering Co. in the 1920s. The company introduced its popular 600-series draglines in the mid-1930s, using an improved walking technology that was to be largely unchanged for the next fifty years, even after the 700-series machines debuted in 1954. Page also produced its own diesel engines specifically for dragline applications. John Page invented the arched dragline bucket, a design still commonly used today by draglines from many other manufacturers. In the 1960s, Page Engineering pioneered an archless bucket design. Walking draglines and dragline buckets were essentially the Page company's only products until its acquisition in 1988 by the Harnischfeger Co., makers of the renowned P&H line of shovels, draglines, and cranes.
Page draglines in central Pennsylvania
Pages were the most prolific of the walking draglines that stripped coal in Clearfield and Centre counties. They outnumbered their two competitors, Marion and Bucyrus-Erie, combined, at least in part because of their lower initial cost (although in coal fields nationwide, Page was the minority builder.) Compared with crawler-mounted draglines of similar bucket capacity, Pages were slower in their cycling times but easier to maintain, more rugged, could dig deeper and cast farther. Page Engineering built both diesel and electric machines, but I recall that only diesel-powered Pages worked in Clearfield and Centre counties. With one exception, to the best of my knowledge all Page draglines are now gone from these counties. Their demise resulted from a general decline in demand for the region's high-sulfur coal, and also a change in the preferred method of stripping. Wheel-loaders and crawler-mounted hydraulic excavators handle most of the earth-moving once performed by Pages and other walking draglines.
Note: Use of trade names is for historical purposes only. This site is not connected in any way to the Page Engineering Co. or its successors. Reproduction of my photographs for commercial purposes without my written permission is prohibited.