Originally published in the Voice of the Valley, May 12, 1982
By Diane Olson
OK, all you folks that really don’t know a darn thing about mining and are too embarrassed to admit it—this is for you.
Oh! There may be a few of you out there who “don’t know and don’t care”—but this is for you, too.
There will be a lot of talk this summer about mining—what with all this centennial celebration coming. You will have a choice. You can smile blankly while someone talks about “bumps,” “cagers,” “black-damp,” or “nut coal,” or you can appreciate the magnificence of a story some old coal miner might share with you.
Now—for you old timers. This four week pre-primer course in coal mining is for you too—because you can sit and chuckle a bit. But remember—for some of us, this is like learning to walk all over again.
I spent several hours recently with Evan Morris, of Palmer Coking Coal, who patiently explained Bonehead Mining to me while I wrote frantically, smiled blankly and occasionally nodded knowingly.
Now for the first installment of the course.
Miners are always talking about bumps. So, what is a bump? A bump is a SUDDEN SQUEEZE together of the mine floor and ceiling, caused by pressure built up from removing the coal.
Normally, if aimed properly, the mine tunnels came together slowly over a long period of time. However, with a bump, the same thing happens swiftly and suddenly, making it dangerous for anyone present.
Next—what is a hoist? A hoist is a large machine used for winding up a thick steel cable.
It sat at the top of the mine entrance lifting the cars that the miners had filled with coal out of the mine. The hoist sat on an enormous concrete foundation. There is still a hoist foundation in Black Diamond from Mine 14.
In the old days, the hoist was steam powered. It was operated by the hoist engineer. He had to watch the cable line very carefully to determine how far down in the mines the cars had gone. A hoist was kind of like a gigantic fishing reel pulling in coal cars rather than fish.
Last lesson of the day. What is a bunker? A bunker is a huge elevated bin. After the coal had been brought to the surface and sorted it was stored in the bunker, where it could be dumped out through a chute into trucks or railroad cars. They were made of wood, which rotted badly. Now they’re made of iron.
Ready for the little pop quiz?
- What is a bump?
- Something in the road you hope your car misses.
- What happens when a book falls on your head.
- A sudden squeezing together of the mine floor and ceiling caused by unrelieved pressure from removing coal.
- What is a hoist?
- The plural of heist.
- A steam powered machine that wound up a great steel cable, pulling cars loaded with coal out of the mine.
- Another name for an elevator.
- What is a bunker?
- The kid who has to sleep on the top bunk.
- A huge elevated bin where prepared coal is stored ready to be dumped down into trucks or railroad cars.
- The name of the family featured in the popular TV series, All in the Family.
Lesson 2—Black Damp and Tunnels