Where Are the Breakers Today???

Where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Gary in Pennsylvania On: Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:22 pm

GREAT forum you've got here admin! I like to wander through eBay quite a bit to see that old panoramic photographs (very early 1900's ) of Scranton & Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding areas. Many times they have those almost cartoon-like hand drawn topographical maps showing significant landmarks throughout the area.
But I don't recall seeing any breakers ( or I just wasn't looking out for them ).
Do you know of a website that would show me where these mighty breakers used to stand in our area?

End even more curiously......where are the breakers today??? They've gotta be around.....but I don't see any massive structures on our skyline or in our city limits that anywhere nearly resemble the breakers of yesteryear.
Has mining technology changed all that? Are breakers just small? Or are they remote? I know my way around Scranton awfully well. Where are the breakers now?


Gary in Pennsylvania
Gary in Pennsylvania

PostBy: Richard S. On: Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:49 pm

There's only a few places processing coal in the Wyoming Valley, you can count them one hand. There's only one that would be anywhere near comparable to the monstrosities they used to build and that is quite small if you did a side by side. Most of the mines are flooded so there isn't a whole low of raw coal to go around in the area.

They just removed the last few from yesteryear that were still standing except one within the last decade. Most notably the Harry E. in Swoyersville and the Sullivan Trail Breaker in West Pittston. The only one left that I'm aware of in the area is The Huber in Ashley. There's been a drive on for many years now to preserve it as a museum, trouble is the costs are estimated in the millions.. http://www.huberbreaker.org/index.html

This site here has a lot of great current photos: http://www.undergroundminers.com/index.html

If you follow the links or Google any of those breakers you'll find a lot of stuff. There's lots of sites.
Richard S.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: Gary in Pennsylvania On: Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:14 am


Just now was when I actually went in and looked at the breakers!


Thanks for sharing!

Gary in Pennsylvania
Gary in Pennsylvania

PostBy: barley master On: Tue Nov 14, 2006 7:52 pm

gary if you south into southern luzerne or schuylkill counties you'll see quite a few breakers of all different sizes and configurations. one of the biggest is reading anthracites saint nick breaker on rt 54 between mahanoy city and shendo. right around the corner is an operating breaker with a rail siding run by a family operation.

take a ride on 54 west to mt.carmel and you see some that are still working. also 209 from tamaqua all the way over to the other side of the county in tower city.

if you ever get the chance to have a tour of one take it. its pretty cool, just wear working clothes and don't touch nothing!
barley master

PostBy: Gary in Pennsylvania On: Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:30 am

That's neat...I'd love to see them!

But what about our suppliers like Richard S.?

Or more so, the suppliers in Scranton? There is a supplier in Scranton that, when you look at their facilities, it seems that nothing has changed since the place was built back in the E-A-R-L-Y 1900's ( or earlier!) It even still has the building that they used to use to load the horse drawn carts (so I've been told that's what it was for).
They mustn't get their coal shipped in from Luzerne or lower.

Admin surely knows who I'm talking about......maybe a PM to him could satisfy my wondering...
Gary in Pennsylvania

PostBy: barley master On: Thu Nov 16, 2006 12:29 am

most of the ones that I know of that produce a fair amount of tonnage have all modernized thier operations starting with the looks. metal siding is a simple and fairly cheap way of up grading the appearences. I know of one breaker that has powder blue for the siding color. its hard to accept this as a breaker compared to the looks of yesteryear. there is another one in luzerne county that is fairly new with metal siding and it computor controlled with only two men operating it. one to watch the computer and the other to free up jams and to do simple maintenance. the first time I visited the place I couldnt believe it was a breaker.

i used to do business years ago with an outfit that had a portable breaker. too bad for them they didnt operate well if at all in the dead of winter. with the modern look comes a better working atmosphere. I know of some that will operate on the coldest days of winter without freeze ups until its in the truck.

ask admin and maybe he could set you up with a tour :)
barley master

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Dallas On: Sun Nov 18, 2007 11:06 pm

I don't know where to put this question, exactly.

When I was a kid here in Luzerne County, of course the mines were all thriving.

Every morning on the radio (there weren't any TVs!), they would tell which breakers, collieries, and mines "were working" and which "were idle". Does anybody know what that was all about? Why would they be idle?
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Richard S. On: Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:36 am

They'd be idle if there was breakdown , not all that uncommon now especially in the winter. They use a lot of water so that stands to reason. Once it gets down below 20 they start to experience problems. Things freeze and thats it... During the years when coal was in its prime I understand they had 3 shifts to cover the entire day. 2 shifts ran coal and the last overnight shift fixed stuff until they started running in the morning.

Chris Murley would have a better idea where this is concerned.
Richard S.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: mike On: Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:35 pm

A mine or breaker would have been idled because of either a brakedown or a lack of demand, which was usually the case in the warmer months.
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Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Chris Murley On: Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:56 pm

yes all of this is correct, the colliery would be idle for numerous reasons. besides the ones stated here, they could be doing maintenance work in the mine, the mine could be shut down for "safety" reasons or violations, miners on strike, hit a fault in the coal and have to expand the mine elsewhere, could have robbed a section and proceeding to a new vein. many factors determined if the colliery was operational or idle. another thing that I can mention here, is that everyone seems to think that the knox mine disaster ended anthracite mining in the northern coal field. the knox mine disaster only flooded 3 collieries all other mines continued working just as they did before. the northern field is seperated in 2 basins, the wyoming and lackawanna. the split being the "moosic saddle" it is an anticline in all veins of coal. so even if the entire wyoming valley flooded not one drop would have reached into the lackawanna basin. what ended deep mining in the northern field was the coal companies greed, if you will. there was supposed to be barrier pillars, 100 foot thick coal pillars left between company mineral rights. well most collieries not only robbed these down to a small percentage, maybe 10 foot thick, some actually bored through them and "stole" coal from another company. we have actually seen this first hand, a coal tunnel driven through an old barrier pillar and workings on the other side from the same mining company! well what happened is one colliery would shut down for one reason or another and the pumps would be shut down. in the 60s, im not sure of the exact date, the state no longer took care of running the mine pumps. so the mine would be allowed to flood. well this water would pour into the neighboring colliery and their pumps would have to work twice as hard as before. making their coal less profitable. they would shut down and the next mine "downstream" would get hit. this continued until the last mine ceased operation in the early 70s. another thing getting back to taking coal from the barrier pillars, alot of people refer to "robbing the pillars" as stealing coal. thats another common misconception in the valley. drawing the pillars, robbing, or retreat mining was and still is common practice in anthracite and bitty mines. what the company does is advance the gangway and chambers 60 feet. of that 60 feet there would be 50 feet of coal then a 10 foot chamber. next another 50 feet of coal then a 10 foot chamber. some mines advanced 70 feet and left a 60 foot pillar. upon reaching the end of their property they would retreat back to the main tunnel, shaft, drift or slope, removing up to 75% of that coal they left on the advancement. sometimes this brought the pillars to less than 8 feet. this was considered normal practice in mining as the coal companies were not responsible for subsidences on the surface before sometime in the 20s I believe. im not sure of the exact date, I have it written down somewhere. for safety of the miners they would heavily timber the chambers to keep it somewhat safe where they were robbing but remember they got paid by the car load not to put props in so every prop they installed was time wasted loading coal, so thats where your collapses, injuries and deaths came from. sorry if this got off topic, but you know how it goes once you start typing :roll:
Chris Murley

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: CoalHeat On: Tue Nov 20, 2007 9:49 pm

Thanks for an interesting article, I enjoyed it.
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Baseburners & Antiques: Sears Signal Oak 15 & Andes Kitchen Range
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Ed.A On: Thu Nov 22, 2007 9:41 am

Wood'nCoal wrote:Thanks for an interesting article, I enjoyed it.


Chris, are these what you refer to as "Pillars?Image
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Alaska Channing III/ '94 Stoker II
Coal Size/Type: Rice

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Richard S. On: Thu Nov 22, 2007 10:46 am

Safety First! My guess is the wooden supports were used to help stabilize, not to support.
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Richard S.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: where are the breakers today????

PostBy: Chris Murley On: Thu Nov 22, 2007 11:39 am

yes those are coal pillars in a flat pitch mine. that is the baltimore vein. and the wooden props were used to hold up any loose pieces of top that have cracked or hanging top that were too big draw down. some veins like the clark had real bad top and had to be propped and timbered very well like this:


and heres some that I took:




adam and I setting a prop:

Chris Murley