Now now old boy there is no need for that, what’s the problem, can’t find your pipe tobacco again? Aaaah the machine! Quite! He really is a big bugger isn’t he… what’s that? Yes one knows he’s a bagger but…. aaah It is called a ‘Bagger’… … hell’s teeth this isn’t a good start at all is it?
Meet the rather aptly titled Bagger, the biggest bagger off vehicle ever made, weighing in at 13,500 tonnes, about same as twenty thousand lorries… it is fair to say it is really rather large.
The Bagger was built in Germany, where it took five years to assemble, takes five people to operate and if you were thinking of buying one, and let’s face it who isn’t, it would set you back about £50 million. Its job is to rip the ground up to get at coal beneath. Not surprisingly it is rather good at the job, it can tear out two hundred and forty thousand tonnes of coal in a day, which is more than one would need even for the heartiest of fires.
While this Bagger may be the biggest vehicle on the planet it is also possibly the slowest, and even though it wasn’t a product of the eastern block automobile industry. It hits the break neck speed of about seven kilometres a week. What’s more it needs a team of seventy workers to drive it over fields sown with special grass seed… naturally they would also have to wait for the grass to grow before moving it… and to try not to overtake it on tea breaks. The epic journey from building site to its eventual workplace, that could easily be rambled by an arthritic octogenarian in a day, took three weeks… the whole trip a mere snip at £7 million. What Bagger lacks in speed it quite frankly doesn’t even try to make up for in manoeuvrability with a turning circle of about one hundred metres.
The Baggers are undoubtedly enormous but what is rather delightful about them is that they tread rather lightly. It may be that they are very heavy and cumbersome, however they have a remarkably low ground pressure… allowing the leviathan to drive over grass and gravel and what not. This ground pressure is obviously an essential consideration when making a vehicle. The lowest ground pressure of any vehicle is not surprisingly a hovercraft, which cheats by not touching the floor at all, whereas something like a racing bicycle has a rather large ground pressure. It is simply about the amount of contact that is on the floor compared to the weight of the vehicle. A thin tyre will have a tiny amount of area on the floor at any one time, a big tank track on the other hand will have a huge amount, add weight into the equation and you have the ground pressure. Of course while bagger is bally enormous it also has honking great tracks on the bottom spreading the weight across a large area, and so the biggest vehicle in the world treads rather lightly. Of course the highest ground pressure was the time the bagger tried to enter the ‘Tour de France’ though he’d rather not talk about that.
Bagger… a really big bagger… you don’t want to bagger with…
When Karl von Drais first put together a couple of wheels held together by a couple of sticks, the local townsfolk thought him quite the sausage. How on Earth would it stay upright? A two-wheeled vehicle should just topple over! It didn’t and remarkably he ended up inventing the bicycle, though perhaps more remarkable was why he invented it…
Do stick with me dear reader, for though it sounds like one is talking utter pish and tosh one isn’t, if it sounds like one has been at the Gin, one naturally has… it is nearly midday already you know. Though one promises not to tell any fibs, indeed one doesn’t need to as this is perhaps the most remarkable tale The Proceedings has ever heard…
On the 10th of April 1815, Mount Tambora erupted… actually to call it an eruption would be a bit like calling the sinking of the Titanic a boating mishap. It was the biggest eruption in recorded history and probably the deadliest, trillions of tonnes of ash hoiked far into the atmosphere. A grand seven on the volcanic explosivity index, an index that inexplicably doesn’t go much higher than a seven, a so-called ‘super-colossal’ eruption.
Over the proceeding year the Earth’s atmosphere became clogged with ash, blocking the Sun’s rays. The next year was to be known as ‘the year without Summer’. Everyone agreed it really was an abominable year, and sales of Pimm’s plummeted.
Lord Byron was having a soiree with guests in Switzerland, of course the weather was atrocious and so rather than frolic by the lakes, they sat around by the fire writing scary stories, his guest Polidori wrote the first vampire novel The Vampyre… young Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.
Back in blighty the dust in the atmosphere gave rise to magnificent sunsets, a chap by the name of Mr Turner Esq rather enjoyed painting them.
In the German town of Baden the oat harvest had failed, the foodstuff of Scots is of course animal feed everywhere else and as prices rocketed only the very rich could afford to feed their horses.
Thankfully a curious local chap had an idea, a couple of sticks and a couple of wheels and the bicycle was born.
What’s more it didn’t fall over…