The Ottumwa Courier

November 25, 2013

Pennsylvania man to move coal equipment

Steve Woodhouse

Attica — With the assistance of people all across the country - and Sweden - a 1915 Monaghan walking drag line, resting in the same location where it scooped its last load of dirt, will be transported from the Attica area to Pennsylvania. 

The piece of machinery belongs to the Moon family. It was used in the Moon and Son Mine from the early 1930s through the 1960s, according to Erschel Moon. 

Through a friend, a Pennsylvania man, Bob Kelley, heard about the existence of this relic. Kelley, whose background is in coal mining and construction, has been cleaning and rebuilding heavy machinery for nearly 30 years. It took close to 10 years, but Kelley was finally able to convince Moon to sell the walking drag line to him. 

"I didn't want to part with it," Moon said. "It was just part of my life." The machine holds many family memories for Moon, as they worked on the mines together. Part of the reason he gave in and sold it is because of vandalism. Parts of the machine have been stolen over the years. 

"It's definitely a piece of history," Kelley said of the machine. He and Moon agree that this is the only one left of its kind in the world. 

Kelley hopes to be able to tear the machine down, rebuild it and make it operational again. Moon is not convinced the machine will be able to ever run again. Kelley is confident, as he has restored several pieces of machinery. Twice a year in Pennsylvania, he participates in a fair that showcases his restored equipment. 

"I've purchased these things all over the country," Kelley said. "It's always been my hobby." 

Part of the appeal for him is the opportunity to show young people this equipment and how it functioned. Most are unaware of what the equipment is, though Kelley points out that equipment like the drag line is, "what our country was built with." 

Transporting the walking drag line from Attica to Pennsylvania will be an endeavor, Kelley said. This Friday, he expects friends from Nebraska, Boston, Pennsylvania and Sweden to join him in tearing the machine apart. 

"They all want to be a part of this," Kelley said. 

The pieces will be loaded onto semi trucks for transport. Kelley plans to arrive on Friday and hopes to be on the road home by Sunday. The drive to Pennsylvania will take approximately 12 hours. 

Kelley has a grandson who lives in Sully. Prior to that, he was unaware of the role coal mining played in the history of Marion County, and all of southern Iowa. 

Moon said his family used to have two machines in the drag line's location. They had a speeder next to it, with a throttle, used to make the equipment move faster. Moon remembers his grandmother's job was to control the throttle to provide the necessary speed. 

Kelley is excited about making the trip to Marion County, picking up his machine and learning more about local coal mining history.