This industrial giant was built in the 1960s in East Germany. Poetically nicknamed the Blue Miracle, the huge bucket wheel excavator is believed to be the largest piece of abandoned machinery in the world.
It was constructed in Central Germany in the town of Lauchhammer, about 30 miles north of Dresden. After the Second World War, this region became part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and supplied most of the GDR’s coal.
3,500 tons of steel were used to build this enormous 370-foot long and 190-foot high excavator. Upon completion, it was painted a beautiful shade of blue, but over the years the color faded and in places completely disappeared as the structure rusted away.
The excavator has 20 buckets for scooping up coal and each bucket could scoop up over 50 cubic feet of coal – an equivalent of about 10 bathtubs.
For 50 years, this machine was excavating lignite, more commonly known as brown coal, at several different open-cast mines in eastern Germany. Lignite mining used to be an important source of employment in the region and largely defined the way of life in many towns.
In the 1970s, when oil prices went through the roof, the GDR decided to expand lignite mining to provide the country with cheap electricity. After the unification of Germany in 1990, the industry declined, largely because of the environmental concerns associated with burning coal in power plants.
Throughout its time in operation, the Blue Miracle excavated thousands of tons of coal. Eventually, technological advances rendered the industrial monster obsolete. It was decommissioned in 2003. The last mine the Blue Miracle worked at was the Welzow-Süd mine, which is still operational and extracts 20 million tons of lignite per year, although the coal deposits are set to run out in 10-15 years.
Now, the steel giant is nothing more than a mighty ruin rotting away in a field. The structure is still fairly sturdy but, exposed to the effects of weather, it is steadily rusting away – slowly decomposing under the sky.
A big thank you to Eric Heumann from VCVTY for the amazing photos! See more of his work here: VCVTY