Coal Conversations

Coal Conversations

PostBy: EPugs45 On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:44 am

I find when I tell people I have a coal stove it is usually a conversation starter. My favorite one was with my grandpa a couple weeks ago. I told him I was firing up the coal stove and he was telling me how they used to have coal heat in their first apartment in Hartford. (1 million years ago ;) He was also a conductor/engineer for Amtrak all his life, and he told me when the coal cars used to come in the yard if he "hit" them together just hard enough coal would spill out and he'd shovel it up to take home, oh Grandpa! This made me laugh. He also told me they had a garage, but he'd put the car on the street all winter and get tickets so they could put all the coal in the garage. What are your favorite coal stories?
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark II
Coal Size/Type: Nut Coal
Other Heating: Oil Furnace/Propane Stove

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: freetown fred On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:57 am

My Grandfather also worked for the RR & one of my fathers jobs on the way home from school, was to walk the tracks with his American Flyer wagon he kept stashed somewhere, picking up coal that rattled off the coal cars. He told me he'd pretty much get a good wagon full every day & that was their heat source. Nice post EP
freetown fred
Hand Fed Coal Stove: HITZER 50-93
Coal Size/Type: BLASCHAK Nut/Stove mix

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Carbon12 On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:35 am

My grandfather used to pick coal off the railroad tracks as a kid too. He also did a stint as a breaker boy. Grueling work for a kid. Eventually became a banker. Classic American success story. Way to go Grampa! :D
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA-6
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite
Other Heating: Heat Pump/Forced Hot Air Oil Furnace

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Richard S. On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:47 am

I have a lot of them delivering but one my more memorable ones was delivering to this house that had this enormous black Great Dane. This thing was big even for Great Dane standards, I'm a little over 6 foot and the damn things head must of come up almost to the top of my chest. It was a friendly dog and the homeowner was usually there when I delivered. The one delivery he wasn't going to be there and left the door open, so I'm down in the basement in the dark becsue I couldn't find the light switch watching the coal come in. You'll know this is really loud.... After the coal was done I turned around and here's this dog nearly staring me right in the face.... I almost had a heart attack. I completely forgot about the dog being there.
Richard S.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: ntp71 On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 12:01 pm

Well my grandfather Wassil didn't talk too much of working in the mines, however I do know that he supposedly built his home from the wood of a nearby breaker that burned down near Milnesville, PA. He was receiving black lung benefits, collecting social security, rasied and bartered chickens, had a healthy garden every year, and canned alot of what he grew, never drove, and always had a wad of cash in his pocket.

When I was younger though, I also had a red wagon that was left at the house we bought from an old timer. My father had just put in a pot belly stove in our kitchen as supplemental heat. This was during the early 80's. Since we lived so close to what were then inactive coal fields, I was tasked to go out and fill the wagon with coal every other day. You would think this would be an easy task, but they call them spoil piles for a reason. The banks were mostly slate and I did alot of walking around looking for coal. One day I got smart and ventured deep into an open mine pit. Along the side of it I found a vein of coal so with a hammer I started busting away at it. I filled my bucket up in no time...then I realized how heavy that sucker was and that I had to bring it all the way back up to the top of the pit...not an easy task when you are 10 years old. Today that coal field is part of Blashacks Lattimer operation. I have a few other stories but I am not sure that the statute of limitations has run out
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Reading Foundry Water Heater
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Old Mill Mini Stoker with Keystoker Feed System
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Gibraltar SCR
Baseburners & Antiques: Caloric UltraMatic Coal-Gas Range
Coal Size/Type: Chestnut

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: coalkirk On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:17 pm

My grandfathers house had an old coal fired steam boiler. Every fall he would mix up a new batch of asbestos and patch and cover the boiler with it. When his kids got older (my uncles) it became their job. Now I'm not saying asbestos is a good thing but my grandfather lived to be 99 and all of my uncles lived into their late 80's and 90's. Go figure.
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Hambden Bob On: Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:29 pm

The Old Man had told me stories of walking the tracks close to his home as a kid to scrounge coal. It would've been on it's way to Clevelands' Mills and Depots of the era. Both he and my Uncle would lug it home after picking it up amongst the track ballast. It was a hell of a time,but every little bit helped. My Grandfather kept his job at the old Republic Steel,but if it serves my memory correct,wages had been scaled back for all the workers. That's my earliest memory of my Family's exposure to Coal,and of the converted to N.G. Monster Coal Gravity Furnace in her Basement.
Hambden Bob
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Harman 1998 Magnum Stoker
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Blower Model Coal Chubby 1982-Serial#0097
Coal Size/Type: Rice-A-Roni ! / Nut
Other Heating: Pro-Pain Forced Air

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: wsherrick On: Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:02 pm

When I was a locomotive fireman for the Southern Railway we often ran through remote regions of Appalachia. You would be astounded if you saw how isolated some of these places are from any paved roads, utilities, etc.
Well, it was a grand tradition of all good railroad men to throw shovelfuls of coal out of the cab so people could come and pick it up. I was instructed in the Godly work of charity with the Railroad's coal and contributed to the cause as well.
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Base Heater, Crawford Base Heater
Baseburners & Antiques: Crawford Base Heater, Glenwood, Stanley Argand
Coal Size/Type: Chestnut, Stove Size

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Sunny Boy On: Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:32 pm

Great stories gentlemen, thanks for sharing.

Up until a few years ago, we had a steam train come through a couple times a year to get ready for the fall foliage tours up into the Adirondacks. It was a Chinese built engine. The line through here from Binghamton, belonged to a guy named Walsh from Cooperstown.

I love all types of machinery so, every time I heard that steam whistle down the end of the valley, I'd race out the shop door. The kid who worked for me was just as big a machinery nut and would be close on my heals.

Couple of times we made it to the tracks in time to see it roll by.

Once, it even stopped here to water up. We had time to walk around and look it over. Very impressive. Even more so was how easily this massive machine moved from a dead stop when the throttle was opened. The kid and I stood there with our mouths open until it was out of sight !!! I would have shoveled coal and taken the bus back home, just to get to ride in that cab !!!!!

I heard that Walsh passed away and now the line is abandoned. No idea what happened to the rolling stock. Such a shame. And, I sure miss hearing that far-off sound of that steam whistle.

Sunny Boy
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Anthracite Industrial, domestic hot water heater
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood range 208, # 6 base heater, 2 Modern Oak 118.
Coal Size/Type: Nuts !
Other Heating: Oil &electric plenum furnace

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Greyhound On: Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:09 am

You should check for any Steam Locomotive Restoration Clubs in the area. A friend belongs to one near Harrisburg, PA. They do maintenance on the locomotive monthly, but a couple of times a year, they take it out for a run and members get to be Fireman or Engineer. He brings his sons along. I suspect it is on a rotating basis. He was an engineer this past Fall and he and his kids were Firemen the previous Spring.

Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Keystoker 105
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Other Heating: Lenox Oil HA, Heat Pump

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Kennebago On: Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:34 am

I lived in Johnstown and later Windber, PA as a kid. Mom and dad both worked so my job was to have the house warm when they got home. Big old hand fired monster in the basement- big shaker on the right side - and a great set of pokers and shovels and scrapers. I would come home from school (started firing the furnace when I was 11) and open her up. Not long to get a good hot fire - of course one of my joys was playing blacksmith with dad's assorted pokers. Open the front door, in goes a poker, get it bright red then pull it out and beat on it with a napping hammer. Dad was never that keen on the new looks I gave his tools!!

Was pretty interesting with some of the "gassey" Bit with lots of fines - nice hot fire - in goes a shovelful - outcomes a blast of fire and heat - lot of cursing from dad when we got bad coal and from mom when the coal man shot 8 tons in the coal bin and there was black dust all over the house. I was fortunate to grow up when you could really be a kid.

Dad died from anthracosis at 72. He had gone to work in the mines at age 12 since the family was pretty poor. Later as he developed issues he was always embarrassed that he came from such a poor family that he had to work in the mine at such a young age. He changed jobs and got away from the mines when he was in his twentys but it was too late I guess. But --- we always heated with coal. It can get in you lungs - sure / but It is also addicting. Nothing like gazing at a great coal fire -- very relaxing.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Coming Spring 2014
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood Oak / Home Grand Restoration Projects
Other Heating: Arrgghh "Oil Boiler"

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Frackstoker On: Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:22 pm

My dad grew up in St. Clair and he told how lots of people would go to the tracks with buckets after the trains rolled by to get the coal that spilled over. The trains must have been piled high with coal back then!
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Keystoker 90
Coal Size/Type: Rice - Blaschak
Other Heating: New Yorker Oil Boiler

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: mmcoal On: Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:35 pm

As a kid my father lived in the Bronx for a time and he use to remember all the coal ash in garbage cans outside some buildings on garbage day. My father in law remembered the same thing in Jersey City, but he even knew someone who use to pick through everyone's ashes to find unburnt coal and they use to dump those ashes into the back of a horse drawn wagon. In the Bergen county area I know there are still many homes with coal chute doors in the foundation.
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Coal Size/Type: nut

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: Sunny Boy On: Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:15 pm

When I was growing up there were still many homes that heated with coal in the 1950's. My parents first house and my grandparents house in Brooklyn, and my first house out on the Island, all built in the 1920's and all had coal bin rooms built into the layout of the house foundations. All the bins were rooms under porches near the street end of the house. With a simple hinged window for the coal shute.

Up until I moved upstate in the 90's, it was not uncommon to hear some Long Islanders still refer to garbage cans as, "ash cans".

My house here, built in the 1800's, still has many lumps of stove coal that had bounced up on the foundation above the shute window where the old coal bin used to be.

And, the basement dirt floor still has the brick-lined, slate covered, cold air chaise that lead from the base of the "octopus", coal furnace, to a wooden duct attached to the front basement wall, leading up to a 3 foot square cold air return floor register near the front doors and base of the front stairs. It steered the cold air back under the furnace to be re-heated by natural convection.

Sunny Boy
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Anthracite Industrial, domestic hot water heater
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood range 208, # 6 base heater, 2 Modern Oak 118.
Coal Size/Type: Nuts !
Other Heating: Oil &electric plenum furnace

Re: Coal Conversations

PostBy: DePippo79 On: Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:48 pm

Nice stories guys. Keep them coming. Matt.
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood Oak 40, Stanley Argand No. 30, Glenwood Modern Oak 114, Stanley Argand No. 20 missing parts.
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite. Stove and nut size.
Other Heating: Oil hot water.