Early Ditch-Digging Technology

Early Ditch-Digging Technology: How to dig a ditch

As longer, wider ditches were built on the Plains, buck scrapers and slip scoops were used to move earth. These horse-drawn contraptions--a great improvement over a shovel--allowed a man with a team to move larger quantities of earth a greater distance. But they were very hard to control, enormously heavy to dump, and of limited use in rocky soil.

The Slip scoop has been used since medieval times to move earth. The single handle was later replaced by two handles for better lateral control of scraping, sliding and dumping the load into a pile.

The Buck Board was a horse-drawn board used to scrape and push the soil from a high spot into the low spots, smoothing and leveling the ground.

The driver stood on the buckboard's tail board until ready to dump the soil. He pushed down on the handle as the equipment moved forward to load it. He held the handle down while the soil was being transported.

He unloaded the buckboard by lifting up on the handle. A shallow spread was made by lifting the handle slightly and a deeper spread by pushing the handle farther forward.

Above, from left to right:

The Slip Scoop. Courtesy of American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Slip scoop used to dredge Archer Canal on Alameda Avenue in Denver, ca. 1904. Photo courtesy of Colorado Historical Society, Lillybridge Collection, CHS L-1108

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