Loading Coal

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This page was last updated on July 12, 2015.

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A comment to the D&RGW Yahoo discussion group on March 8, 2001:

"None of the magazines has ever covered what actually happens at a non-flood loading mine..."

Don Strack replied...

Railfan and modeling magazines, that is. If you have access at a university library or some other large library, try looking for issues of Coal Age magazine. Page through them and be inspired. There are numerous and regular articles that have exterior photos, interior photos, and diagrams of then-modern tipple designs and how they work. I did some research back in 1982, and discovered a whole new source, trade publications, i.e., magazines that cover one particular industry. Railway Age today is a mediocre example; it used to be so great. By going through old Coal Age magazines, you see how long-wall mining machines and flood loaders truly changed the industry.

These are just some of the examples from Coal Age. I concentrated on the 1912-1916 era since that was when the mines in Utah went through so much of their modernization. Many of the articles show Pennsylvania and West Virginia mines, but one thing Mark Hemphill and I found out when we were doing our research back in 1994 was that the Utah mines were surprisingly like the mines in these two states, with many of the key engineering and management personnel moving around within the bituminous coal industry. In Utah, the Kenilworth mine, the Castle Gate mine, the Hiawatha mine, the Sunnyside mine, and the Spring Canyon mine were all a lot alike in their design. I have yet to see interior photos or cross sections of any of the tipple in Utah, but I'm looking. Although I'm not familiar with them, I'm sure the Rio Grande-served Colorado mines were much the same.

Here is a brief listing of some of the better Coal Age articles:

A Modern Steel Tipple in Pennsylvania (Vol. 3, No. 4, January 25, 1913, p. 139)
.. Article about a new tipple at Clover, Pa., with exterior photos of the mine trackage and the loading chutes, and interior photos and cross-section of the tipple

A Combined Screening and Picking Table (Vol. 3, No. 18, May 3, 1913, p. 668)
.. Article about the new tipple at Coalwood, W.Va., with interior photos and tipple diagrams and cross-section

Gates for Run-of-Mine Coal (Vol. 3, No. 24, June 14, 1913, p. 921)
.. Article about loading gate design, with close-up photos

Modern Preparation of Bituminous Coal at the Mine (Vol. 6, No. 7, August 15, 1914, p. 255)
.. Article about tipple design, with the latest in methods, using cross-sections, suggested track layout, and several interior photos of the machinery for grading and loading coal

Simplicity in Tipple Design (Vol. 9, No. 5, January 29, 1916, p. 196)
.. Article with cross sections of how a tipple of the era worked to separate the different grades of coal, showing the various screens and picking tables needed to separate the different grades of coal for loading; one track for each grade

East Broad Top Coal Transfer and Preparation Plant (Vol. 9, No. 13, March 25, 1916, p. 525)
.. Article about the coal transfer plant on the EBT at Mount Union, Pa., to transfer the coal from narrow gauge cars to standard gauge cars

Some Modern Coal Tipples (Vol. 10, No. 1, July 1, 1916, p. 4)
.. Article with a couple photos and illustrations showing minimal tipple design features

Some Modern Tipples II (Vol. 10, No. 2, July 8, 1916, p. 60)
.. Article about tipple design, with photos showing a couple newer examples. There is a great cut-away illustration of a new tipple at Powhatan Coal's tipple at Powhatan, W.Va., that looks amazingly like the Walters model.


Are loadouts generally designed by a few companies then licensed to various contractors or vendors? Or does each contractor on each job generally design their own?

Research in the 1994 time period suggested that for the sites in Utah in the 1910s and 1920s, Link-Belt seems to be the major supplier, except possibly the huge treatment plant at Hiawatha. Fairbanks-Morse did coaling towers, but did they also do coal treatment plants and/or loadouts? A newspaper article showed that the Adams & Garcia supplied the building and machinery for the USS treatment plant at Wellington in 1958.

Bruce Collins wrote on May 8, 2001:

First of all we need to get the jargon right. There is not a single piece of machinery known as a coal "loader". The proper term is loadout, and it applies to everything from storage piles and/or silos to the actual loading facility. Second, they are ALL different. I've visited over a hundred of them in a dozen states and never seen two alike, even when they were SUPPOSED to be alike.

The biggest turnkey contractors are (were) The Daniels Company, Roberts & Schaefer, Sedgman, The Industrial Company (TIC) and McNally-Pittsburg. Link-Belt, Heyl & Patterson, Allen & Garcia (who built the Mid-Continent thermal dryers and new prep plant but not the unit train loadout, which was put together by Morrison-Knuden, the company, and I think Roberts & Schaefer, who built the original prep plant in 1962. Incidentally the original loadout conveyor at Mid-continent came from the SP Salt Lake causeway project used courtesy of M-K.

They are all different and essentially put together from components produced by many manufactures (conveyors, crushers, silos and bins, feeders, samplers, fabricated steel, control systems, etc. etc.). It is possible that every big engineering/construction company has been given the loadout business at one time or another.