I'm so glad Google led me to this site! Five years ago I vacationed in central PA and fell in love with the place, especially the people. My favorite area was the Clearfield, Dubois, Ridgeway area. I want nothing more than to move there, but unfortunately am stuck in eastern South Carolina.
I'm remodeling my garage into a "primative" mountain cabin style apartment, and in the 20x20 general room I've put a Vogelzang "Railroad" potbelly stove. I put that in quotes because I'm retired from the railroad and don't really understand exactly what they mean by the designation, maybe because it sort of looks like a caboose stove, but it definitely isn't one.
What I know about heating with coal I learned from my grandfather when I was a child, watching him tend his brick-lined Warm Morning stove. Now, virtually no one in South Carolina heats with coal. It's hard to even find a dealer. There is only one in this part of the state, about 10 miles away, and he quoted me $235 a ton for some of the crappiest coal I've ever burned. (I bought two 40-pounds bags to check it out--it was nasty, like burning tires.) A neighbor who is a general contractor was doing some work on a nearby house and there was a full coal bin in the garage. The owner wanted to get rid of it and said I could have it if I'd haul it away! It's the best coal I've ever burned... gotta be anthracite, it hardly smokes at all after it gets going, and the aroma is beautiful. I was going to only use coal as a secondary heat source, but I've decided as long as I can find a supplier, I'll make it my primary fuel. I might have to drive to North Carolina to get more when I use up what I've got. As warm as it is down here, though, a ton will easily get me through one winter, maybe two.
I saw some posts about runaway fires... my dad managed a poll hall and when I was about 14 years old he set me up with a table in our garage, and I got a laundry heater and a half ton of coal for the winter. I was totally inexperienced and let a fire get way too hot, and with nothing better to try I got a spray bottle and filled it with water and started spraying a mist onto the coals. (I had heard about firemen doing this on steam locomotives with hoses.) Of course it sent a huge amount of steam up the chimney, but as far as I could tell cooled down the fire perfectly and got it back under control in just a couple of minutes. The water vaporized before it ever came in contact with the stove, and the draft drew all the steam up the chimney, none of it came back into the room. Just thought I'd mention this.
Anyway, I didn't mean to run on like this, but am so excited about finding out that there are a lot of other people who love coal like I do. I'm going to spend the next few days reading and getting the benefit of all the experience that is evident on this site.