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BROAD TOP COALFIELD

Okay, so this isn't exactly Western Pennsylvania, but it's still bituminous. Actually the Broad Top Coalfield is a geological anomoly, not being connected with the main Appalachian coalfields at all, but existing as an isolated coalfield in the southern part of Pennsylvania. The coal there is considered low-volatile, or "smokeless." The three coal seams that are mined in the Broad Top Field are the Fulton, which is actually the Clarion seam, the Barnett, which corresponds with the Lower Kittanning seam, and the Kelly, a seam that is actually a continuation of the famous Upper Freeport seam. Coal mining in this coalfield dates back to colonial times, expanding to large scale commercial development in the 1850s. After a century of relentless extraction of coal most deep mines closed in the 1950s. Strip mining had became the norm in the Broad Top Field, by then, but there are no active coal mines in the Broad Top Coalfield at this time, according to local residents, one of whom said that there was "as much coal left as was taken out." The reason given for it not being mined is that it was too low, but one day the technology and price will be right to reopen the coal veins of the Broad Top Field.

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Old coal tipple near Shreeves Run. According to Google Earth, etc. this is still there. (Image source lost)


A group of preservationists did a great job restoring these beehive coke ovens at Riddlesburg, PA. Note the large slag pile in the background. At one time there was a company in Riddlesburg that sold the slag, to be used as a road bed material according to local residents. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


The coke ovens feature accurate details, such as the leveling bar and, in the background, coke drawers and a watering hose. In addition to coal mining and coke manufacture, there was a large foundary in Riddlesburg many years ago. All of this was owned by the Kemble Coal and Iron Company. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Another clever detail of the Riddlesburg coke ovens is this bricked up oven, replete with a draft hole. Many people are surprised that the ovens were bricked up each time they were reloaded. Operations of the Kimble Coal and Iron Company date back to the 1860s, but these ovens weren't constructed until 1913. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


A few of the company houses remaining in Riddlesburg. The village is named after Samuel Riddle, an early businessman and lawyer who was one of the first to ship coal from the area. At first the Riddlesburg mine was known as Mt. Equity. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


This company-built house at Riddlesburg retains much of it's original character. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Gob piles like this one above Coaldale are strewn along Six Mile Run. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Large homes in a section of Woodvale, PA known as Millionaire's Row. Woodvale is a company town constructed by the Rockhill Iron and Coal Company in the 1890s. They continued mining there until the 1950s. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


A coal company-built double house in Woodvale that has retained much of it's historic integrity. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Saint Michael's Greek Orthodox Church still stands as a reminder of the days when Woodvale was a destination for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Most of the structures associated with the Rockhill No. 6 mine are gone. However, here is the powerhouse that is extant. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Possibly more ruins of the coal mining operation at Woodvale. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Display in the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Historical Museum in Robertsdale, PA. Their website is here. This is only a fraction of the artifacts and memorabilia that they have on display there. I was fortunate enough to receive the guided tour by some very nice people that work there. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Robertsdale was another company town owned by the Rockhill Iron and Coal Company. Their Mines No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 were located here. Pictured here are some of the company-built homes that are still there. (Public domain image by Jet Lowe, HAER [Historical American Engineering Record])


The company store at Robertsdale was built in the 1870s. This priceless piece of industrial heritage was allowed to fall into ruin and was razed a few years ago. (Public domain image by Jet Lowe, HAER [Historical American Engineering Record])


The slope portal into the Rockhill No. 5 mine that still exists. That is my tour guide, peering over the retaining wall into the mine mouth. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


This mine fan is also still in existence. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


The residents of the Broad Top area have restored the Italian Cemetary in Robertsdale. This one of the few stone markers there. (Aug. 2004 image by author)


Ruins of the coal mining town of Joller, Pa. (Image courtesy of Rick F.)


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