Breaker Tour
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From a book written by
 Nesquehoning's Supervisory Principal, A. E. Wagner in 1910.


The car upon which we ride from the mines to the breaker has four wheels, is 4 1/2 by 3 by 7 feet, and holds two tons of coal. The distance from the mines to the breaker is about a mile and cars are moved on an east and west-bound track.

The engine stops, leaves the train containing our car, and makes preparation to return to the mines with a train of empty cars. We leave the car upon which we rode. A man comes along, uncouples our cars, and soon the first one in our train is caught by the axle with a hook attached to an endless chain and moves forward, turning to the right, and enters the head house. This is the part of the breaker in which the rock and coal are separated, and the coal is crushed. As the car enters, it passes upon a movable platform, which, at the motion of a lever by the dump engineer, causes the front end of the car to descend until the car is nearly perpendicular. As this end descends the two irons which have held the front end of the car in place are moved from the catch that is similar to an old-fashioned door latch; as these bars are released the coal slides into a large chute containing automatic feeders, the car descends, and by a peculiar arrangement arrives on the second floor about eight feet lower in its natural position. Here it is again caught by the chain and drawn to the return track where it is coupled to a train of cars which are ready to return to the mines for another load of coal. About a thousand such cars are dumped every day, but on the day of our visit the number was twelve hundred and four.

As the coal fell from the car upon the chute some of the smaller lumps were sifted out through a sieve to fall upon lower chutes and the larger lumps of coal and rock descended to what is called the first platform. On this platform there are twenty-two men who separate the rock from the coal by causing each to go down a chute prepared for the purpose. The rocks descend to cars and are taken away by a small engine to the rock bank. The rock bank has been growing for years. It looks like a real manmade mountain, One can never look at it without thinking of the enormous toil and sweat that the making of such a bank mast have required.

The crushers are two large revolving cylinders between which the large pieces of coal are crushed into smaller particles. After passing the crusher it drops upon shakers where it is divided into two portions; that which is rather small and clean passes from the head house proper by one of the conveyor lines; the larger pieces and such dirt as there may be passes down by the other. The whole of this conveyor line is a chain of buckets about 400 feet long arranged like a chain of buckets in a grain elevator.

On leaving the conveyor it falls upon shakers, of which there are seven, one above the other. The bottom of these shakers contains holes of various sizes, and here one size of coal is separated from the other, since the larger sizes must drop off the end of the shaker, while the smaller pieces must drop through the holes.

After leaving the shakers in regular chutes according to sizes it is made to pass over the spirals. Slate and rock are always heavier than coal. In passing down the spirals, the lighter substances fly farther away from the center of the spiral, and where the projecting part of the spiral ends are two chutes. The slate and rock being near the center drop into the chute near the center, later to be conveyed to the dump heap; while the coal drops into the outer part and is taken to the cars to be carried to market. The spirals, however, can do the work of separating the slate from the coal only while the coal is passing in small quantities. As soon as they become well filled the slate and the coal are not free to move to the inner or outer portion of the spiral and so jigs must also be used in order that all the coal that is mined may be prepared for the market rapidly enough.

Like the spirals, the jigs are machines to separate the rock and slate from the coal. The principle involved is that of gravity. The base of the jig tank contains a number of holes. When the jig tank plunges into the water the slate and the coal lying on the perforated base are raised up by the water that rushes up through the holes. The coal being the lighter, is raised from the base of the jig farther than the slate. When thus raised it is caused to move forward until it reaches the end of the jig tank. The coal drops into a chute that is higher than the one into which the slate drops. In this manner the coal is taken to one part of the breaker and the slate to another.

Not all the slate is removed either by the spirals or the jigs. A number of boys or old men are therefore stationed along the chutes through which the coal slides to pick out the slate which remains after the mass has passed over the spirals or through the jigs. One of the large well-equipped modern breakers will prepare 100 cars of coal in one day, each car containing approximately 50 tons.


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