Heritage - News

10 Ruston Bucyrus Excavator donated to the Sandstone Heritage Trust


7th October (updated 26th October / 2nd November - see below)

A family in the Northern Cape have donated this interesting and valuable 10RB to the Sandstone Heritage Trust. We already have one but this 10RB is older than the one in stock. In addition the other 10RB is a face shovel whereas this is a back hoe. If we could locate a dragline, a skimmer and a crane boom we would end up with all the attachments. The back hoe is particularly effective for trenching and digs well even in heavy material.

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Update: 26th October 2007

Ruston Bucyrus 10RB, Serial Number RB1 1339, Manufactured by Ruston Bucyrus Limited, Lincoln, England. Supplied through the South African agents Hubert Davies & Company Ltd, Johannesburg. 

My name is John Swinford. I live in Kimberley. Sandstone has been in touch with my mother Mrs. Cherry Swinford from whom a Ruston Bucyrus trench digger was collected. Here is some background on the machine.

The machine in question was fetched from the farm Picton near Douglas in the Northern Cape..

In September of 1968 my dad the late Stephen Swinford and family moved to the farm Picton where my dad took over a very run down flood irrigated farm. The farm could not be fully utilized as there were large areas where there salt content of the soil had reached toxic levels. In fact so bad in places that nothing grew there. In many areas to compound the problem there was also a permanent water table at about 300-400mm under the soil surface. For the first few years we were at Picton dad cleaned up and fixed what could be done but soon he realized that in order to get the farm properly productive again he would have to do something about the water table and the high salt content of the soil. From early on in my life I remember dad expressing his wish to leave whatever God had entrusted him with in a better state than when he had received it. This was for him particularly important about Picton.

With the advice of the local government extension officer the late Dries Steenkamp as well as a man from Czechoslovakia a Mr. Kalubick (I am not sure if my spelling of the name is correct) dad set out to drain the farm. The first thing he did was to open up a marsh area which had formed as a result of an earth wall that had been built at the bottom end of the farm. This took care of a lot of surface water and then when it had dried up he started digging a trench in which to lay the drainage pipes. This initial digging was done by hand, which at the time, (1971) was not strange at all. This digging and drain laying carried on for months and as you can imagine progress was very slow. Due to this slow progress dad started looking round for a trench digger. At the time money was very tight so there was no question about buying a new machine. 

His search for a trench digger that he could afford led him to the Company, De Beers. A friend told him of the Ruston Bucyrus that had basically been parked off and would probably never have been used again as new hydraulic machines had been bought to replace the then roughly 20 year old Ruston Bucyrus. I am not absolutely sure of what he eventually paid for the machine but R500 comes to mind. The machine was basically in working order and after a few small repairs dad arranged for the operator from De Beers to come and give us training. At the time I was about 14 years old and fascinated by the machine and dad agreed that I could along with one of the farm staff were given training in operating the machine. I might add though that getting to work that lady smoothly was not easy by any means. Essential to proper operation is very good hand-foot-eye co-ordination that took Klein Johannes and myself many frustrating hours to master. Another thing that stands out in my memory is how slow it was to move the old lady. She moved along at nothing more than snails pace. It took literally hours to move from one part of the farm to another and Picton is only 107 ha in size.

From then on draining the farm moved on at a much more acceptable pace. Once the drainage project was completed there was not much more for the old lady to do and apart from a few small jobs she never did much after the drainage was completed. The one thing that I am glad to say is that she played a very important role in helping to fulfill my dad's dream of leaving the farm in a better state, for the next generation, than what he had received it. In fact when he passed away two years ago there was only a very small piece of ground still not completely rehabilitated. As of writing this, that last piece of ground is virtually back to full production. 

John

Update: 2nd November 2007

The 10RB, No. RB11339, has arrived safely at its new home at Sandstone Estates. 

We need to cram it into the restoration queue and get it digging as soon as possible.

 

Article in Classic Plant & Machinery December 2007
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