New 14-inch electric chain-ladder cutter section dredge for Winter Bros. Material Company.
Dredging & Marine Construction

CDW Launches New Chain-Ladder Suction Dredge 

Custom Dredge Works (CDW), based in Topeka, Kan., has announced the launch of a new 14-inch electric chain-ladder cutter suction dredge to mine sand and gravel for Winter Bros. Material Company, a third-generation, family-owned business celebrating its 75th birthday this year. 

Winter Brothers, one of the top producers of Meramec River sand and gravel in the region, recently opened a new sand mining operation on the west bank of the Meramec just outside of Arnold, Mo.  The new operation is now well underway with the christening and launch of the new dredge designed and built by CDW specifically for the unique mining requirements of the mine’s Meramec aggregate deposit.  

“Since we were looking to have a long-term relationship with our dredge manufacturer that might last 25 years or more, we wanted to make sure it was going to be good,” mine supervisor Jerry Gunter said.

Advantages Of Chain-Ladder

A chain-ladder agitates the material to be mined, versus a more traditional cutterhead dredge, and electric power offers many advantages over diesel for an operation like this, according to Ryan Winter, president of Winter Bros. 

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“With our deposit we really don’t need a cutterhead to break the material up,” Gunter said.  “It is free-flowing material and really sloughs off and flows pretty easily to the suction mouth of the dredge. However, we do have a small percentage of basketball-sized rock in our deposit. The chain does a good job of removing the rock from the cutting area and keeping the suction mouth clear and uncluttered. Conversely, a cutterhead has the tendency to allow the rock to continually get ‘rehandled,’ and oftentimes that rock will collect or pile up around the suction mouth, which in turn impedes the production of the free-flowing material we enjoy.”  

Winter added, “Our other two older dredges also utilize a chain-ladder, so we are experienced with this technology and feel that is the best solution for our type of deposit. Another thing about the chain-ladder that is superior to a more traditional cutterhead dredge is that the suction ‘fish-mouth’ is positioned much closer to the material, which exponentially increases the amount of suction force and production output.” 

Working Smart With Electric Power

Gunter noted, “All of our other dredges and wheel loaders are diesel powered, so we have at least five large diesel engines that we have to do maintenance on, which includes refueling, oil changes, replacing air filters and the occasional engine rebuild. We also have to deal with the risk and cost of possible oil and fuel spills.  On top of all that, we have the huge expense of downtime costs associated with every one of these maintenance items.  Just shutting down to refuel is a large downtime expense.

“I prefer to work smart versus hard.  With electric I don’t have to deal with any of these maintenance headaches and the costs associated with diesel power.  Even if the initial cost to get into an electric dredge is a bit more, it is well worth it and pays for itself quickly.”   

Winter is enthusiastic about the advantages of electric.“We looked at five dredges when we were doing our initial due diligence on what dredge we should purchase,” he said. “Every one of those dredges was electric, and the folks who were kind enough to allow us to view their dredge in operation all just loved their electric dredge. They told us that the electric dredge required very little maintenance, they were quiet and they were friendly to the environment, which is important to Winter Bros., too.

“We took several field trips to different mining operations to look at the dredges out there, which were built by all of the major dredge manufacturers.  It was just very clear to us that Custom Dredge Works was incredibly accommodating and was genuinely interested in understanding our needs and building a dredge that suited us.  … We liked the prior dredges that CDW had built that we were able to view. Very impressive, and their clients were very happy with their dredge and the ongoing support they receive,” Winter said.

John Jones, president of Custom Dredge Works, said, “The guys at Winter Bros. are great guys. We are very happy and proud that we were given the opportunity to provide them with this new electric dredge. We have worked very hard on our end to design and build for them a world-class flagship dredge that they can be proud of and that will continue to ensure their place as a dominant force in the St. Louis aggregate market.”