Dirt and Steam

by W. R. Carter,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1983, Vol. 53, Issue 11, Pg. 51-54

Document Type: Feature article


Mechanization came late to the construction industry, and it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that power earth moving machinery began to be used. Steam powered floating dredges were utilized in excavating the Suez Canal in the 1860s; the first major employment of machinery for construction work. On land, steam shovels were the first, and for many years the principal, earth moving machines. Invented in the late 1830s, steam shovels gradually became popular, and by the 1880s were an important construction tool. Shovels reached maturity by the turn of the century when they were used by the hundreds in the rebuilding of America's railroads. The use of steam powered excavating equipment reached its zenith when steam shovels dug the Panama Canal.

Subject Headings: Construction equipment | Steam power | Earthmoving | Excavation | Civil engineering landmarks | Construction industry | Dredging | Employment | Panama | Central America

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