Mega-machines are quite simply the largest man-made mechanical objects ever built, designed to carry out tasks that even a century ago would have seemed like fantasy. From ferrying hundreds or thousands of passengers and cargo by air and sea, clearing thousands of tons of earth with apparent ease, or transporting vast payloads bound for space, mega-machines have redefined the course of modern industry. But when they become surplus to requirements, removing their immense bulk swiftly from the landscape becomes a task almost as challenging as their inception. Many thus remain abandoned for years, as illustrated by these six varied examples from around the world.
Abandoned 747 Jumbo Jet “Juan T. Trippe” Restaurant, Seoul, South Korea
(Images: Michael John Grist, reproduced with permission)
We’ve seen mighty 747s converted into backpacker hostels and even houses, but this dejected Jumbo Jet in Namyangju-Si near Seoul, South Korea, was probably the only one to become a restaurant. The second 747 ever built and the first to fly commercially, it was named after legendary airline entrepreneur and Pan American World Airways founder Juan T. Trippe. Pan Am operated the Jumbo until the airline’s collapse in 1991, after which it went to the boneyards of California to await its fate.
(Image: Michael John Grist, reproduced with permission)
After a spell baking under the scorching desert sun, the mothballed jet was bought in 2001 by the owners of a noodle restaurant (located where the right wing should be!), dismantled and shipped to Korea in 62 massive containers. It was finally converted to a restaurant but the sheer cost of the project meant it was tough to turn a profit and, with much reluctance, the giant jet was abandoned. After almost a decade dominating the surrounding landscape, the 747 was finally scrapped in 2010. Perhaps in time, the latest generation of giant airliners will also foster a new breed of abandoned aerial mega-machines.
Wreck of SS America/SS American Star, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
To many, the SS America was the most beautiful liner to fly the American flag. Designed by naval architect William Francis Gibbs and built in 1940 for the United States Line, the ship accomodated 543 passengers in cabin class, 418 in tourist class, 241 in third class, and 643 crew. Renamed USS West Point for troop transport duties during World War Two, the liner carried several names during her 54 year life including the Greek-flagged SS Australis. SS America was sold for scrap in the late 1980s but her fortunes changed when the scrappers defaulted on payment and she was then slated to become a five-star hotel ship off Phuket, Thailand, renamed American Star. But stormy weather while she was under tow to Southeast Asia in 1994 broke the tow lines and the ship ran aground off Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
Battered by the waves, the wreck had almost entirely collapsed into the sea by 2010. An interesting event befell SS America in 1941, when the liner carried two Nazi spies from the Duquesne Spy Ring – the largest espionage case in U.S. history – among her crew. Both men were charged by the FBI and imprisoned. (Explore more incredible ship graveyards here.)
Russian Space Shuttle Transporter, Kazakhstan
This colossal platform once transported the Russian space shuttle orbiter Buran, complete with solid rocket boosters, from the hangar assembly facility to the launch pad. But with Buran completing only one unmanned flight in 1988, it seems fair to say that the transporter has not seen much use. The Russian shuttle was destroyed when its hangar in Kazakhstan collapsed in 2002 due to poor maintenance. But although only one vehicle achieved space flight, eight full-scale test articles were built and five “space Burans” were reportedly under construction (find out more here). For now, though, this massive mega-machine that relied on several diesel trains to drag it, is going nowhere fast.
Giant Bucket-Wheel Excavator, Russia
(Images: via English Russia)
Giant bucket-wheel excavators are immense machines designed to remove thousand of tons of earth in surface mining and civil engineering projects. These industrial behemoths differ from other forms of large-scale mining equipment due to their use of a large wheel (which almost looks like a saw from a distance) containing a continuous system of buckets designed to scoop material as the wheel turns. The primary function of bucket-wheel excavators is to serve as continuous digging machines in large-scale open pit mining operations. Such objects define the term “mega-machines” and the biggest one ever built, Bagger 293, holds the record for the largest land vehicle in human history. Left to rust in a cold corner of Russia, this giant bucket-wheel excavator looks almost alien on the landscape.
Mothballed Oil (Accomodation) Rig, Belfast, Northern Ireland
You might think of them more as structures than machines per se, but oil rigs definitely fall into the mega category when it comes to size. The rig above is configured as an accomodation platform rather than an oil drilling rig, re-built in Belfast in the late 1990s. Mothballed as opposed to completely abandoned, the rig stands alongside the derelict area of the old Harland and Wolff shipyard. This patch of wasteground is probably one of the most famous in maritime history, being the construction site of the RMS Olympic and her sister ship Titanic. Today modern redevelopment is breathing new life into the area, as the Titanic Quarter rises from the birthplace of its famous namesake. As for abandoned oil rigs, how about turning them into luxury sustainable hotels like these examples on The Design Blog.
Stranded River Princess, Goa
Hardly what the local authorities want blighting a tourist hotspot, the massive River Princess lies abandoned on Candolim Beach in Goa after it was washed-up in a fierce storm. It was said that the local government couldn’t afford the enormous cost of removing the vessel, instead leaving it to rust immediately offshore. While we urge against it, the water is apparently so shallow that it’s almost possible to wade out to the stranded ship. A massive hole cut into one side of the vessel has allowed sand and water flowing into its cavernous hull to prevent it from drifting into the busy shipping lanes. A report in the Times of India indicates that the River Princess may finally be removed.
Keep reading – check out these impressive abandonments infiltrated by urban explorers, and don’t miss this collection of 12 abandoned buildings and places. Also, be sure to click through the thumbnails below.