News last week that the state has sold the old Idaho Transportation Department headquarters property on State Street to developers brought up a question among some of us in the newsroom.
What’s going to happen to that old steam shovel that’s in front of the headquarters? What’s the story behind it?
The Idaho Transportation Department will move the steam shovel to the new ITD headquarters at the campus on Chinden Boulevard (formerly the HP campus) once ITD’s permanent space is renovated, according to Angie Heuring, senior public information officer for the department.
A timeline to move the massive, 64,700-pound, coal-fired shovel hasn’t been set yet, and the exact location for the shovel has not been finalized, according to Heuring.
ITD had its headquarters on the 44-acre parcel since 1961. The state of Idaho purchased the former massive sprawling HP campus at 11311 W. Chinden Blvd. in 2018, and ITD moved its operations to the Chinden campus in 2022 after flooding damaged the main headquarters building on State Street.
Some ITD employees still work on the State Street campus in unaffected facilities, such as the materials testing lab, annex building and various industrial buildings, according to Heuring. About 20% of ITD’s headquarters staff still work at the State Street campus and will relocate to the Chinden Campus once renovations have been completed (estimated December 2025).
This won’t be the first time the steam shovel has been moved. It was relocated to the State Street location in 2012 from the URS building at Broadway and Parkcenter Boulevard, where it had lived for 40 years, since at least 1972.
ITD “adopted” the historic steam shovel from URS, an international engineering company that succeeded Boise-based Morrison-Knudsen and Washington Group International, according to a history of the steam shovel put together by ITD.
The steam shovel is a Bucyrus-Erie B-3, a coal-fired, steam-driven excavator built by Bucyrus International, Inc., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company specialized in production of material removal and handling products used in the mining industry — both above and underground.
The steam shovel was delivered to Morrison-Knudsen in 1931 at a cost of $9,350. It was donated by URS to ITD through the efforts of retired transportation board chairman Darrell Manning and a former M-K project manager/engineer.
The coal-fired, single-shaft steam shovel runs on tracks similar to those on military tanks. It’s equipped with a seven-eighths cubic yard shovel dipper.
The manufacturer, Bucyrus, produced equipment that excavated the Panama Canal, and the company eventually became part of Caterpillar on July 8, 2011, according to ITD.
The shovel probably was used in railroad and irrigation canal construction and maintenance in Southwest Idaho, C.W. Smilie Anderson, a longtime M-K engineer, told ITD.
As someone who’s read “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” probably 200 times or more to his kids, I’m happy to see ITD hang on to it, if for no other reason than nostalgia.