Underground coal mines could be cramped spaces

Frank Burkelza is shown operating an electric haulage motor, while the legs of John Babcanik are visible in the coal car being loaded from a chute.
Frank Burkelza is shown operating an electric haulage motor, while the legs of John Babcanik are visible in the coal car being loaded from a chute.

Underground coal mines could be cramped spaces. Frank Burkelza is shown operating an electric haulage motor, while the legs of John Babcanik are visible in the coal car being loaded from a chute. Because the coal lay at a steep upward angle, the coal was actually above the miners, with gravity being a key mining tool. Haulage motors (sometimes called trolleys) were powered by direct current electricity from a wire near Burkelza’s hardhat.

After the coal car was loaded, the trolley pulled it to the bottom of the mine’s slope for hoisting to the surface. This May 1948 photo was taken on the 2ndlevel of the McKay mine in Ravensdale. At the time the mine was owned by the Northwestern Improvement Company and contracted to Andersen Coal Mines, Inc.  James A. Andersen Sr. owned that company and operated both surface and underground mines in Ravensdale during the 1940s.

Andersen, his son, James Jr., and Carl Andersen later resurfaced as Coal, Inc. during the 1960s.  Coal, Inc. opened a small mine in Ravensdale and sold their product as Black Knight coal. It was marketed primarily to State institutions, but the coal was of inferior quality and used only sporadically. Though Coal, Inc.’s mining venture failed, civil lawsuits revolving around their ability to produce and sell coal went on for years.

This photo comes courtesy of the Black Diamond Historical Museum with additional caption information provided by JoAnne Matsumura of Issaquah and Michael Brathovde of Ravensdale.

This Saturday, July 7thplease join the fun and festivities at Black Diamond Miner’s Days held on Railroad Avenue between the museum and the bakery. There are a number of activities including a 5-K run, museum tours, and booths with food and merchandise. For more information visit: www.BlackDiamondMuseum.org

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