Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coal Dredging

Coal, coal, coal. Did you know that there is lots of coal on the bottom of the Susquehanna River washed down from the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania? In fact, the Susquehanna is one of only two rivers in North America read more
which has coal.

In the 1900s, men harvested coal from the Susquehanna and sold it, some of them becoming quite wealthy from their businesses. Working from spring through fall, they used three kinds of boats: a digger, a pusher, and a barge.

The operator of the digger boat figured out where the coal lay by observation of the river and by using a pole. He stuck the pole down to the bottom and listened. If the pole hit coal, it sounded like ice crystals. He then got busy with his suction machine pulling up coal and sediment. The sediment got washed overboard.

The coal went onto a barge. In the early days, arm strength and shovels moved the coal. Later, conveyor belts did the work.  

The pusher boat pushed the barge to the shore where once again, either men or machines unloaded it. From there the owner sold it to individuals for their stoves or to big companies who used it in manufacturing things including cars, steel, and electricity. 

Unfortunately, in the 1950s most of these coal diggers went out of business because of new environmental regulations. 

If you are interested in knowing even more about coal dredging and seeing a replica of a coal digger, the Billy Marks, watch Mr. Van Wagner's video from which I obtained much of the information in this post.

I am interested if any of my readers ever heard of coal dredging. Did any of your relatives do this? Please comment below if you can add anything to this information. 


Thanks to Louis Brubaker who first told me about coal diggers. He used to work on one!  

Thanks to Paul Hartley for letting me photograph his coal bin.


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