Sunday, February 12, 2017

Export, PA and the Export Mines

Today was a good day to check out the Export Mines and try and solve some mysteries. I met up with my friend Melanie from the Export Historical Society and right off the bat she showed something I missed because I was looking in the wrong place! Anyway, I need to back it up a little bit. A couple years ago the location of one of the only physical remnants of mining in Export was cleaned up and turned into a small parklet/interpretive area. The ruins of the fan house for the No. 2 mine received some new attention after sitting in the woods alone and (almost) forgotten for over 50 years. 


The cleaned up ruins of the No. 2 Mine fan house. This area can be visited and is located right on Brick Hill Road next to Conway's magistrate office.

I didn't get a close up of the plaque but it reads "Fan House, Westmoreland Coal Company, South Mine Entrance, 1897-1952".



 I met Melanie at the fan house to try and make sense of this photo:




 This is a photo showing the No. 2 Mine entrance and what we just assumed was the fan house. I mean, it's obviously a fan house and this is certainly the entrance for the No. 2 Mine. The No. 1 Mine entrance was a straight shot from the mine to the tipple. The tracks for this entrance are definitely not straight. That wasn't the problem. The problem was the location of the fan house and the entrance in this photo and the location of the fan house and entrance on the ground. Notice in the above photo how the fan house is located almost directly on top of the mine entrance. This is how it's laid out on the ground:




 We couldn't figure out any way to make this angle work. No matter how you look at it there is no way to get the side of the fan house and the entrance to fit the angle of the old photo. And we tried. We went across the road, up the road, down the road, it just wasn't working. Melanie brought up that maybe there was a different fan house. We climbed up the hill behind the mine entrance and found a big pit that was filled with old garbage but definitely contributed to the possibility of another fan house.


The big pit.

Old mine track sticking out of the ground.

Old brick laying around from an old structure. Possibly from the building sitting below the fan house in the old photo.


There was still nothing really solid to go on. We went back to the borough building to look at some old photos and see if we could come up with anything. After awhile we came across this photo:



At the bottom right of this photo one thing clearly stands out. Two fan houses.


Closeup of the two fan houses. Why were there two? Why does only one remain? Who knows. This was a major eureka moment. At least the old photo finally made sense. 


 I guess now, looking at the mine map it does show two fans.



So back to the mine entrance. I looked for this entrance before but I was going off the old photo and looking for the entrance in the bank below the (remaining) fan house.  Melanie had found the entrance before and it was obviously not anywhere near where I had looked. 



 The No. 2 mine entrance buried at the bottom of the hill.

On the old photo you can see how the portals are split into sections. This is first solid wall to the right of the left portal.

 Part of the cut stone on the portal retaining wall.

 This is the far end of the right portal.



The Export Mine was the first major mine on the Turtle Creek Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This branch began as the Turtle Creek Valley Railroad and was incorporated in 1886 with George Westinghouse Jr. as its president. The first 6.24 miles were opened on September 28,1891 from Trafford to Murrysville as a way to reach the gas fields which were then all the rage in Murrysville, kind of like today. The coalfields east of Murrysville were well known for at least 100 years before this but they had yet to be exploited on a commercial scale. By the end of the 19'th century many of the mines working the Pittsburgh coal seam in the southern portion of the county were becoming worked out.  In 1892 the railroad was extended 4.62 miles to Export specifically to start working this coalfield. This field is known as the Irwin Gas Coalfield. The coal in this field wasn't ideal for coking (even though it was from the same seam) but it proved to be an excellent coal for making gas. The first Export Mine was opened by Westmoreland Coal Company on October 11, 1892. The coal was shipped to cities such as Philadelphia and New York to make gas. In 1897 the second mine was open. Both mines operated until they closed in 1952. After the Export Mines began operating the railroad kept expanding east creating mines and towns such as White Valley, Ringertown, and Dunningtown in 1915, Slickville in 1916, Elrico in 1918 and Patton in 1919 as well as other mines and towns off of its many branches. In 1919 the Turtle Creek Branch saw 2,410,377 tons of coal move along its tracks. The Export mines produced 634,712 tons that year.


Export Miners.

In 1910 and 1921 Westmoreland County experienced major mine strikes. This photo is from the 1910 strike. When the miners went on strike they were evicted from the company houses by the coal companies. The United Mine Workers Union supplied these miners with tents to live in throughout the strike. This camp was located on a local farmers property who was sympathetic to the strikers.

The tipple.

Export baseball team in 1929.


More of today's photos.


The mine track came through here after exiting the No.2 mine. It crossed Brick Hill Road on a bridge and went over to the tipple.

Looking across Brick Hill Road at the point where the bridge used to be.


Under where the bridge was is this old culvert.

Old railroad ties holding back the ground.

Looking back across toward the No.2 entrance. Up until a couple years ago there was cut stone retaining wall along this bank. For some reason it was removed.

This is a foundation for a structure that was located next to the bridge for the tipple.

Melanie looked down and found this miners check tag just laying on the ground. I am not blessed with this kind of luck.

The tipple location at the edge of the hill.

Looking across the valley toward the location of the No. 1 Mine. The tipple stretched across the valley and served both mines.

Looking back over at the fan house. This was before we found out about the second fan house. Melanie running off with her check tag treasure.

Over at the Mine No. 1 location. This terrain has been altered so much since the mining days. All that remains up here are some slate dumps.

Some clumps of ash.

A little bit of red dog.

A little mine track near where the No. 1 entrance should be. There is no physical evidence of the No. 1 entrance.

The entrance should be right around here.

Off to the side is this old pillar.

On the 1927 Sanborn Map of Export it shows the setup of the No. 1 Mine. To the right of the viaduct you can see a separate branch coming off of it. I believe this pillar belongs to that.

Big screw sticking out of the pillar.

Sun setting on Export.

looking across the valley from the No. 1 Mine side.

Old brackets sticking out of the ground.

The Italian American Club in Export is in the old power house from the Export Mine. There have been additions put on over the years but most of the original exterior is still intact.

The parking lot side of the club. The two gabled sections are part of the original structure.

The sun was going down, I was getting hungry and I'm not a member of the club. I'll be down for their fish fries coming up in a couple weeks though!


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