Sunday, February 7, 2021

Donohoe Mine and Coke Works

 Today was a good day to get out and see what we could find from the old Donohoe Mine neary Crabtree. I have done the coke ovens extensively, but never made it up to the top shelf where the mine buildings were. There is a lot left up there!


The Donohoe Mine and Coke Works is listed as a new drift opening in the Pittsburgh Seam in 1900. At that time, the mine consisted of 119 coke ovens, a coal crusher, and washer. A large Capell type fan was being erected for ventilation. 


This was an important year in this area, as the Alexandria Branch had just been completed from Crabtree to New Alexandria. Numerous mines sprang up along the branch in 1900, including Jamison No. 3 (Forbes Road Mine), and the Salem Mine of the Keystone Coal and Coke Company at Salemville. 


 Six years later, Electrical Mining Magazine featured an in depth article about the mine and coke works. By 1906, the plant had grown to 180 ovens, and "for the past three years there has been no occasion to put a single oven out of blast or to stock the product to any considerable extent. On the contrary "Donohoe coke" has generally commanded a premium share above market prices. By charging five instead of six days per week, four 72 hour burnings, and one 48 hour burning are secured, thus producing a maximum proportion of first grade foundry coke."


The mine and coke works employed 400 men that year. The workers are described as happy, well paid, and well treated. This would seem to last even through the 1910 coal strike when the mine operated 283 days of that year. 1910 also listed 193 ovens and 225 employees.  


Apparently the workers didn't feel happy, well paid, and well treated in 1923. In September of that year, they went on strike, dynamited the drift entrance, and the mine never reopened.  



Donohoe Mine as seen from the drift entrance.

A view from the area of the coke works.


This site was pretty easy to figure out. It looks a lot smaller than it does in the photos. Thankfully, there was a good mine map available, labeling all of the buildings. For the most part, everything seemed to fit. We were dealing with two distinct levels, as can be seen on the photo above. Behind all of the structures the outcrop had been stripped during WWII. This left some fill, and some details were certainly buried. However, the general layout remained and the structures were still identifiable. 



We came in from the area nearest the coke ovens, which starts with the washer, boiler house, and engine house. So let's start there.



Going from the right. Out front we see the washer, tipple, and boiler house. On the second tier, also going from the right, we see the engine house and office. The office is gone. The fronts of the washer, tipple, and boiler house are also gone. 


Ruins of the washer.

Back wall of the washer, front wall of the engine house above.

In the foreground, what remains of the front wall of the washer.

Rear wall of the washer.

One of the piers from the tipple.

Rear wall of the boiler house.

Corner front wall of the boiler house.

North end of the boiler house.

This is coming into the retaining wall visible in the old photos.

This is coming out into the pit wagon yard, as shown on the map.

Incredibly straight retaining wall for having sat here for nearly 121 years.

More of the large flat pit wagon yard.


The following wall, we believe acted as a levee, preventing the creek from flooding the mine yard. 


The mine side of the "levee" wall. 



Now we are approaching the mine entrance. Remember it was blown up in 1923. 


Pay attention to the houses above the portal in this photo. They're coming into play soon. The gradual slope from the houses to the floor is also entirely gone. That whole hillside is steep from being stripped.


Notice the house above the collapsed mine portal.

No way anybody is heading back there. It's completely collapsed further back. You can't even feel the draft you normally feel coming out of abandoned mine portals. 

Next, we come across the foundations for the smoke stacks. We're on the second tier now.

Next is the engine house. 

Back wall of the engine house.

Platforms where the engines sat.

Another platform.

Back wall of the engine house.

Front wall of the engine house, back wall of the washer.


Off of the back side of the engine house, we came across the footers for one of these water tanks on the map.




We believe the brick structure was part of a pumping system that brought water up from the reservoir to fill the tanks. The water would have been used in the boiler house, as well as to quench the coke.

A couple shots on the way out:



The remainder of the 1906 photos:



The entirety of the April 1906 Electrical Mining magazine. This is from Google Books.