Mountain Memories: Coal Mining Tipples

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800px-Clarksburg_Fuel_Co_Tipple_1908Contributed by Hubert Crowell

My first memory of a mine, did not have a tipple, the coal was brought out of the mine by a pony and the coal was dumped over the side of a bank. Tipples were great for climbing and exploring. You had to be careful and watch out for the cables and other moving machinery. Tipples were built strongly to hold up under the shakers that sorted the coal from small stoker coal to large lumps.

Construction

The tipples I remember were made with large twelve inch post tied together with lots of two by eights angled between the posts. They would rise high so that trucks or train cars could pass underneath. There were usually two or more loading bays so that the trucks could drive through without backing up. Above the bays would be the hoppers lined with steel to help the coal slide smoothly down to the cute. The chute may be directly under the hoppers or mounted on the side. Some chutes would rise and lower to control the flow of the coal onto the bed of the trucks.

Above the hoppers were the shakers that ran from one end of the tipple to the other. They were on a slight downward angle. Large metal plates with holes starting with small holes then gradually getting larger until at the last hopper, the remaining coal just dumped into the hopper for the large lump coal.

The plates would shake side to side and move the coal slowly from one size to the next. This shaking was hard on the tipple requiring lots of extra bracing. Of course more bracing made it easy to climb. Except when the tipple was running, then it could shake you off.

At the top of the tipple the coal from the mine was dumped onto the shaker.

Getting the coal to the top

There are several ways to get the coal out of the mine and to the top of the tipple. The most common method is to use a belt line. These large sections of belt, some up to forty-eight inches wide could run for thousands of feet into the mine and up onto the tipple. The top edge roller’s would be tilted to create a pocket for the coal to ride. The lower rollers were flat to keep the lower return side of the belt from dragging on the ground. They are driven by large electric motors.

Before the belt line was used, cables pulled the coal cars out of the mine on tracks. When the cars would reach the top of the tipple, it would dump the coal onto the shakers.

Another less common method was to use electric haul jeeps with three wheels. These were used in mines located on the sides of mountains where the mine shaft was level and the tipple was on the edge of the mountain slope. A good operator could back two attached trailers out onto the tipple at once.

Some tipples had vertical shafts that went down into the mine and the coal was hauled up with buckets or a string of buckets on a continuous chain, dumping the coal as they turned over at the top.

Pictures I have seen of tipples, show little of what goes on inside. The danger in working on the tipple range from cables breaking, to clogs in the hoppers and chutes. Some tipples even have washers to clean the coal and remove the rock.

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