The Interesting History of Excavators!

Excavators are an essential machine used in most types of construction and site preparation that involves any kind of earthwork.

These machines, consisting of a long arm with a clawed bucket at the end and which maneuver typically on tracks, make digging holes and trenches fast and easy.

Used today by contracting companies to perform many different tasks thanks to the availability of different attachments, excavators are versatile, powerful equipment that has come a long way since the first of their kind.

From Cables to Hydraulics

The first excavators used for digging were invented in the late 1700s and called steam shovels, as they were run by steam engines.

Equipped with a series of chains, cables, and pulleys, the powerful arms and buckets were maneuvered by rolling in or letting out specific cables to extend the shovel, then dig with it and move it as needed.

It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later that hydraulic power was invented and this technology was then passed on to the heavy equipment of the time, including excavation machines.

Though it had its problems, steam-powered hydraulic heavy equipment used by construction services of the day was more versatile and easier to use.

Cabled excavators do still exist today, but hydraulic machines powered by fuel engines and electricity are more popular and more plentiful.

Many Different Types of Excavators

Today, excavators come in many shapes, sizes, and capacities, making them useful for a long list of jobs at any construction site.

Among them, the following types of excavation machines can be found being used by construction companies everywhere:

  • Crawler and Wheeled Excavators - The basic excavation machine that is used by every construction crew, consisting of a long, controllable arm with a digging bucket, usually on tracks but sometimes on large wheels and tires.
  • Mini Excavator - A miniature version of its larger brother, mini excavators are perfect for smaller jobs in tighter spaces.
  • Dragline Excavator - Large machines that use hoist rope and dragline mechanisms to dig roadbeds or clear underwater sites.
  • Suction Excavator - Excavators equipped with high-powered water jets and vacuums for underground uses, drain clearing, and debris cleanup.
  • Long Reach Excavator - Equipment with extra-long reaching arms up to 100 feet and used for heavy construction digging.

All This And Attachments Too!

Beyond these different excavators used by excavation services, there is a selection of bolt-on attachments available that make them even more versatile.

Rock buckets, augers, hammers, chippers, and many other attachments now available can turn any standard excavator into a multi-function tool useful for a variety of heavy tasks.

Machines For Excavation Contractors

In land development, both earth filling and earth excavation activities are very much part and parcel of the services offered by excavating contractors.

In order to be able to execute these very important land preparation activities, heavy equipment of various sorts are needed to effectively complete these tasks:


Excavators are big construction equipment that can be driven either by tracks or wheels; however, tracks are more of the standard.

A standard excavator has a lengthy bucket arm which is connected to a pivoting cab which has the capacity to rotate for a full 360 degrees.

The operator of this equipment sits in the cab and has an excellent view of the site from this position.

Excavators are very flexible and fitted with various attachments for jobs which require specialized functions.

To enumerate, these are the capabilities of an excavator:

  • Handling of materials
  • Digging of trenches, holes and foundations
  • Brush cutting using its hydraulic attachments
  • Demolition jobs
  • Rough grading jobs
  • Heavy lifting of materials and pipe installation
  • Mining
  • Dredging of rivers

Backhoe Loader

More known as a backhoe, its structure is similar to a farm tractor and includes an adjustable shovel at its front and a small bucket at its back used for digging.

It is medium-sized equipment for medium sized jobs and has the capability to work in smaller spaces to finish these tasks.

It moves dirt, backfills dirt into excavations, dig and create holes and trenches, and install pipes and other materials.

One of the best qualities of a backhoe is that it is wheel driven and is useful in urban projects and can be driven to the job site.

The back bracket can be changed to perform various digging functions requiring different widths.

Crawler Loader

This is equipment that is a mix between an excavator and a backhoe.

It has great stability because of its tracks and its useful bucket makes it excellent for moving both debris and soil and also for the loading of materials into trucks.

It is also useful for excavation for smaller projects.

Equipment Indispensable For Land Development

This equipment and many others help speed up not only excavation and earth work, but also materials handling, construction and demolition.

As you can see, this machinery is also multi takers, capable of several functions simultaneously which makes them indispensable in project sites.