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Key Number: HS 81394
Site Name: Marion 360 Shovel
Other Names: Diplomat Surface Coal Mine
Site Type: 0725 - Industrial/Manufacturing - Metal and Other Minerals: Mine


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
41 15 4

Address: N/A
Number: N/A
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape:
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure:
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: N/A
Interior: N/A
Environment: N/A
Alterations: N/A


Construction: Construction Date:
Usage: Usage Date:

Owner: Owner Date:
Luscar Limited
Diplomat Mine Museum Society

Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
  This site comprises 27 acres of reclaimed surface coal mining property some 5 miles north of modern surface mines still in operation.  Included on the site is a 1930s tipple that moved to the Diplomat mine from Oklahoma in 1950.  Other structures are an oil boiler room and a garage, both built in 1950.  Three revolving shovel excavators are proposed for the site.  One, a 1937 Bucyrus-Erie 950-B, is already on site, and Luscar proposes to move to the site a 1927 Marion 360 and 1948 Bucyrus-Erie 120-B, although the moves may well depend upon funding to permit interpretive development of the site.  This assessment includes attention to these two machines, recognizing their historical connection to the site, but also keeping in mind that their continued presence at the site evidently depends on interpretive development not yet underway or guaranteed.

The site of the Diplomat mine was originally the homestead of Austing Bish.  Bish, his four sons, and other members of his family arrived in the area from Oregon in 1905.  Other members of the Bish family obtained neighbouring parcels of land under the homestead program.
In addition to developing the respective homesteads for agricultural purposes, Austing Bish's four sons (Fred, Valentine, Cory and Philip) began to exploit the coal deposits in the area.  The first Bish Brothers coal were located in LSD 13 of Sec. 36, Twp 40, Rge 16, W4M (Mine 245) and LSD 4 or Sec. 1, Twp 41, Rge 16, W4M (Mine 248).  The former operated from 1910 to 1913.  Both of these underground mines were relatively small compared with other mines of this period in other parts of Alberta.  In 1941, when mine 245 was closed, a new shaft was opened to the east on LSD 15 Sec 36, Twp 40, Rge 16 W4M.  In operated as a small underground mine at that location until 1949 when permission was received to open a strip mine.
This was by no means an innovation in Alberta.   As early as 1912 the Tofield Coal Company and the Dobell Coal Company operated large strip mines in the Tofield area.   The Tofield Coal Company utilized a German built Lubrecher.   This machine had a number of buckets that loaded dirt on a conveyor belt and dumped it where the coal had already been extracted.   They also had a steam dragline called the Ledgewood which followed behind the Lubrecker.   The Dobell Coal Company employed a Marian steam shovel to remove the overburden.
On October 31, 1949 Forestburg Collieries took over the coal mining enterprise from the Bish Brothers.   In 1950 Luscar Coals Limited bought out Forestburg Collieries and arranged for the Sinclair Coal Company of St. Louis, Missouri to manage the operations at Forestburg.   This new company constructed the buildings that remain at the site today and introduced the new machinery.   By the early 1950s the Sinclair Coal Company had expanded the area covered by the strip mine to include the former homestead of Austin from the 1920s, the Diplomat Mine represents a relatively modern enterprise in an area previously developed for agriculture and small-scale underground mining.
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RESOURCE                              Marion 360 Shovel (Serial Number 8011)  
ADDRESS                                Forestburg
BUILT                                     1927
DESIGNATION STATUS             Registered Historic Resource
The Diplomat Mine Museum Society is dedicated to the interpretation of strip mining in Alberta Central to its effort is the Marion 360 excavator claimed to be one of the largest and oldest excavators in workable condition in the world.   The Marion 360 excavator was at the forefront of mining technology when it was built in 1927.   The immense riveted steel structure featured a hydraulic leveling up system with four large pistons in the corners of the lower frame.   Although the Marion revolving shovel excavator was only introduced to the Diplomat Coal Mine at Forestburg in the 1950s/60s, it represented the cutting edge of technology being developed from the 1920s through the 1940s.   The operation of the Diplomat Mine with equipment developed from a previously developed for agriculture and small-scale underground mining.   The equipment is a significant part of the province’s industrial heritage which warrants continued preservation.
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The Marion 360 is one of the largest and oldest excavators in workable condition anywhere in the world. It’s riveted design reflects an era before welding was introduced but nevertheless, the shovel was at the forefront of technology when built in 1927. The most notable feature is the hydraulic leveling system operating four large hydraulic pistons at each corner of the lower frame. When built, the Marion 360 was the largest excavator of any type in the world.
Provincially and locally, the Diplomat Surface Mine represents the history of a strong coal mining province. The underground mining of coal began in 1907 when the first homesteaders in the area opened mines all along this portion of the Battle River valley. Surface mining began in 1949, with the CN railway spur and tipple arriving in1950. (Historical Significance)


The Diplomat Mine Site comprises two massive strip mining machines and one large strip mining shovel bucket situated on 2.5 hectares of reclaimed strip mine located roughly 15 kilometres southwest of the Village of Forestburg. The Marion 360 shovel excavator machine was originally assembled in 1927 and moved to the area in 1950. Weighing several hundred tons, it is a massive instrument featuring a rectangular structure for housing the operators and machinery, riveted construction, a 27-metre boom, 17-metre dipper handle, and a shovel capacity of roughly seven cubic metres. The Bucyrus-Erie 120-B Shovel machine was built in 1944 and worked at the site for two decades from 1964. It is a smaller excavator machine with an 11-metre boom, an 8-metre dipper handle, and a shovel capacity of roughly 5 cubic metres. The Bucyrus-Erie 950-B shovel bucket is the sole remaining piece of this machine extant on site. Originally built in 1937 and imported to the site in 1962, the Bucyrus-Erie 950-B had a bucket capacity of roughly 25 cubic metres. Visible to the immediate southwest of the site, but not included in the designation, are spoil piles that reflect mining operations and later reclamation efforts.


The heritage value of the Diplomat Mine Site lies in its association with the evolution of strip mining operations and technology in Alberta.

The area which the Diplomat Mine Site occupies was originally part of the collection of homesteads claimed by Austin Bish and his family, who arrived in Alberta from Oregon in 1905. In 1907, Bish's four sons established their first underground coal mine in the area to exploit the region's mineral deposits. The Bish brothers continued to operate underground mines in the vicinity until 1949, when the operation was sold to a group of business interests incorporated under the name Forestburg Collieries Limited. One year later, Luscar Coals Limited bought out the other partners in the enterprise and took control of the Diplomat Mine site. Prior to the 1940s, surface mining on a major scale had been unusual in North America; in the post-World War Two period, it became the dominant form of extraction in the industry. From 1950 until the mine's closure in 1986, massive extraction machines manufactured by the Marion and Bucyrus companies were responsible for removing overburden and stripping tons of coal from the site. The history of the Diplomat Mine Site thus encapsulates the transition in the province's mining industry from the predominance of underground mines in the early twentieth century to the growth of mass strip mining operations in the latter half of the century. After the mine was closed, portions of the site were reclaimed for agriculture.

Originally built in 1927, the Marion 360 shovel excavator was moved to the Diplomat Mine site from a mining operation in Pequot, Illinois, in 1950. At the time of its introduction in the 1920s, the Marion 360 was the largest mobile land machine in the world; when it arrived in Canada in 1950, it was the largest shovel in the country. Built in the period pre-dating the widespread use of welding technology, the Marion 360 features riveted construction and a host of innovative elements, including a levelling system of four hydraulic pistons at each corner of the lower frame. The Marion 360 was the sole strip mining machine at the site until 1962, when a Bucyrus 950-B Shovel was imported. The new machine had been erected in 1937 and represented at the time of its construction the largest excavator in the world. With a working weight of over 1,400 tons and a boom of 33 metres, the Bucyrus 950-B, nicknamed "Mr. Diplomat", was a wonder to behold. The excavator's massive scoop - known as the "Big Dipper" - had a capacity of roughly 25 cubic metres and is the only structure extant on site from the Bucyrus 950-B. Two years after the introduction of the Bucyrus 950-B Shovel, a smaller power shovel - the Bucyrus-Erie 120-B, built in 1944 - was also brought in to work at the mine. The Diplomat Mine Site is thus a strong representation of the evolution of strip mining technology between the 1920s and the 1940s. It also reflects the changes in the mining industry in Alberta between the early and the later twentieth century, recalling the emergence of large strip mining operations through the massive excavator equipment still on site.

Source: Alberta Community Development, Heritage Resource Management Branch (File: Des. 1615)


The character-defining elements of the Diplomat Mine Site include such features as:

- sightlines to spoil piles.

Marion 360 revolving shovel excavator:
- mass, form, and scale;
- riveted steel construction;
- hydraulic levelling system;
- Luscar Coals Limited colour scheme of white exterior with black, yellow and green striping and black undercarriage;
- original machinery, fittings, and fixtures;
- operator's chair;
- interior floor plan.

Bucyrus 950-B shovel dipper:
- mass, form, and scale.

Bucyrus-Erie 120-B shovel:
- mass, form, and scale;
- Luscar Coals Limited colour scheme of white exterior with black, yellow and green striping and black undercarriage;
- original machines, fixtures, and fittings;
- operator's chair;
- interior floor plan.


Status: Status Date:

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Registered Historic Resource
Provincial Historic Resource
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2003/04/14


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0642
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