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Second Northern Field Tour

11/7/2004

This was the second tour with the Underground Miners. Even more folks showed up this time. We had around 30 people in our little entourage. The locations we visited include: The Coal Brook Powerhouse, Baumann's Scrap Yard, the Gravity buildings, the Eddy Tunnel opening, Slope 179, the Moffat Breaker remains and Mickey D's to refuel our bellies.


The following is a report of the tour by one of our guests, Mike Piersa.

On Sunday, November 7, I went on the Underground Miners' tour of the Northern Field. The day started just after nine O'clock in the morning and continued into a colorful sunset. The first stop on the tour was Bauman 's Scrap Yard in Mayfield. A lot of material has been scrapped in the past couple of years, but many interesting treasures still remain on the site. The items that we spent the most time with were three electric mine lokies, one of which will someday be displayed in a museum that Chris is helping establish. This particular locomotive was very interesting because of its outside springs above the wheels and the battery box. Lying upside down parallel to the locomotive, it was easy to see the pin that allowed the box to spin for the purpose of changing batteries. The other two locomotives looked slightly smaller, but were visibly more massively built, weighing about 20-25 tons. Chris showed us the cable reel mechanism (this allowed the engine to run beyond the trolley wires in the mines) atop one of the engines and also explained how its controller was salvaged and is now an operating part of a lokie at the #9 mine tour in Lansford, PA. We also looked at a similar lokie at the scrap yard which was upside down. It was fascinating to be able to see the gearboxes and wheels. One ineresting thing to note was that one wheel set was severely worn (you could see the profile of the rail head) while the other set showed little or no visible wear. Moving on, Chris showed us a small homebuilt, electrically powered, shovel that utilized some parts off of a Model T. The device rides on four three foot gauge mine car wheels and was likely used in strippings. Moving past a wooden boxcar whose roof had collapsed toward the center of the car, we came to a pair of concrete booths, probably used by the railroad to guard crossings. Today they watch over the rusting string of mail cars once used by the New York, Ontario, & Western Railroad. With the foliage off the trees, we were able to get a good look at the cars and visit their interiors. The closest car was filled with a lot of string like material I could not identify. More perplexing were the punch cards that filled the floor in other parts of the car. Venturing into the car resting next to this was even more interesting, as the enough of the doors, windows, and railings that mark it as a mail car still survive and contribute to a sense that you are almost stepping back in time. With our own time at the scrap yard nearing an end, we had to make our way to our cars and drive to the next stop. The next location on our tour was the powerhouse of the Coal Brook Colliery. We started our exploration by seeing the turbine and the remnants of the generator. Like the rest of the building, a lot of the machinery had been removed, but a surprising amount of major components still survived. Although the ground level was essentially gutted, the turbine itself remained, perched atop a concrete platform that is accessible by a stairway. The governor and piping to the turbine still exist, as does most of the generator (the rotor was missing). A walkway extended in a U-shape around the building, with the turbine and generator on the leg closest to the boilers. There were remnants of electrical equipment on the opposite leg. After walking down to ground level, we regrouped and walked toward the boiler room. After passing the never explained assemblage of several mattresses covered in plywood, resting on a bed of tires, we were soon on the other side of the building. Above us loomed the twisted smokestacks while a string of boxcars sat to our right. Blindly ducking under a partially opened large roll up door, we found ourselves underneath the coal hopper that once fed the boilers. However, where I expected to find boilers, there was debris and a tree reaching toward the framework that once supported a roof. After hearing somebody I walked through a partially opened door into a small and dark room. To my surprise, I immediately noticed a steam engine. It was a vertical steam engine that was resting horizontally on the ground. It would have stood a little less than five feet tall. From the engine to the wall, the room was otherwise filled with pumps. I would imagine that the steam engine would have run one with a belt, as all appeared to be belt driven. The pumps were all mounted on skids and made by Gould Pumps Inc, Seneca Falls, NY. A gas powered pump of a different design rounded out the collection. Back in the main boiler room, the lost in time feel was apparent again as we saw some old trucks that looked like they had been sitting in place for decades. With a green body, whitewall tires, and red hubs, it was nice to see some color to contrast the shades of rust otherwise prevalent on most things metal. To my surprise, the boilers in the rest of the power plant still existed, albeit in varying states of deconstruction. Despite their ruinous nature, it was interesting and insightful to look upon the remnants as the normally brick enclosed boiler tubes were now visible. At the end of the building was the stairway up to the top of the boilers, and further up, to the conveyor. At the conveyor, one could look down and see the now empty interior of the coal hopper. Looking out the windows was the roof over the boilers and the base of the smokestacks. By this point, the group had split up and I was worried that I might have been running out of time, so I went back down to ground level. After seeing others, I realized I had more time and proceeded to look around some more and came upon a machine shop. Although the door was open, the entrance was somewhat obscured, so I did not enter, but I could easily see a large lathe, drill press, line shafting (somehow on the ground) and other machines. We spent much more time at this site than I anticipated, but it was still not enough to see everything in detail, such as the train of boxcars alongside the power house. Satisfied that we did not leave anyone behind, we then proceeded to the Gravity Slope buildings. Like the tour in July, we saw the wash house and fan house, as well as the small office building and the ruins of another structure we have yet to identify. Without leaves, it was much easier to see and photograph the structures. Following lunch, we moved onto Slope 179. Having had the benefit of visiting it on the tour in July, I now knew to bring a tripod and was thus able to get some stable pictures of the tipple and also some foliage free views of the fan house and explosives shed. We were also able to get a glimpse at the electric hoist that remains on site. Although it was late in the afternoon, we continued on to make one last stop; the remains of the Moffat breaker. Emerging from piles of mine refuse into an open area, we glimpsed silhouettes of columns above a mound that created a landscape that almost looked like a ruin from ancient Greece or Rome. Looking closer, we came upon a mixture of concrete, steel, and machinery. Gears, rollers, and Menzies cones on their sides composed an odd but intriguing mountain that culminated in concrete columns that stand like gravestones over the largely barren site. With a colorful sunset well underway, the tour came to an end. I found the day to be very enjoyable and educational and I am looking forward to other tours. Anyone with any interests in mining, railroading, industry, or history should try to go on one of these tours. They are well worth the time and the group format and knowledgeable guides make it easy to see a lot, and see things more safely than one could on their own.



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