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Hazel Mine

The Pittsburg & Buffalo Coal Company's Hazel Mine on the southeast side of Canonsburg was a high-volume coal operation. The mine's tipple was across the Chartiers creek from where the mine was. The mine entrance was under Buffalo Hill. The tipple was located in Canonsburg-proper, but the other side of the creek was part of the North Strabane township. The Hazel mine was a slope mine that reached coal about 80 feet below the water line at about 400 feet away. The chain haul had a capacity of 200 mine cars per hour (the mine had a complete rail yard underground). The main ventilating fan was 22 feet in diameter and 8 feet thick, housed in a concrete building for safety.

The mine was started in 1900, and reached coal October of that year, despite the fact that the power house, tipple, and railroad sidings were still being built. The Engineering and Mining Journal issue of that year describes the Hazel Mine in great detail. The formal opening was in July of 1901, with the local newspaper, Daily Notes calling it the "Greatest in the World" (yes, the media has been "reporting" fake news for more than 100 years). Records indicate that in 1902 it employed 450 men. In 1903, the book The Successful American describes the Hazel Mine in great detail. In that same year, the Pittsburg-Buffalo company was formed by the merger of several companies, including an existing company by the same name. By 1904 production had increased to the point where 100 railroad coal cars, each with a capacity of 30 tons, were being filled daily. To handle the cars, the company bought its own switching engine as noted in the local newspaper, Daily Notes, "Freight Locomotive for the Hazel Mines" in the September 29 issue.

In 1905 an additional shaft and power house were built on the property of the Greer farm to handle the excess slack. An extensive report dated 1910 shows that the mine was remodeled between 1903 and 1910 and was now producing 3,000 tons of coal per day. At that time, the tipple still covered just the original 4 tracks. The associated power house had 7 boilers totaling 1,200hp that used slack as their fuel source. It generated 150kW of electrical power. Its feedwater was softened and purified (presumably obtained from the creek, initially). There was a 7-foot blower fan to ventilate the mine. The report also states that there was a supply house and a railcar shop on the property to make repairs. The publishing house, Arcadia, has a book titled Canonsburg which contains a 1912 photo on page 49 of a flooded Hazel Mine.

Pittsburg & Buffalo Company purchases its own hopper cars in 1907. In 1915 a bank bought the Pittsburg & Buffalo Company assets as there were no bids during its bankruptcy auction. This led to the Hazel mine being closed. However, in 1916, the Chartiers Creek Coal Company was formed, which re-opens the mine. The Hazel mine opens full-time in 1917 to support WWI's efforts. In 1922 the Hazel mine strike lasts 6 months.

The tipple, now referred to as the Buffalo mine, burns down in 1929. Its stable and lamp house were lost earlier in the year. This causes the Chartiers Creek Coal Company to go into receivership. While the mine re-opens, in 1931 fire in the shaft of the mine closed it temporarily. In 1933 Standard Tin Plate buys Chartiers Creek Coal Company's assets. Canonsburg Coal Company was formed to rebuild and operate the Buffalo mine. Coal mines were unionized again; Buffalo Hill mine housing was demolished. The mine and tipple were rebuilt again in 1934.

The tipple originally was 112 feet long and 30 feet wide, but in 1902 it was extended to be 172 feet long. The floor of the tipple was about 33 feet above the tracks. It contained 3'6"-gauged tracks for the mine cars. An article in the December 22, 1900 issue of The Engineering And Mining Journal provides a tremendous resource as the entire operation is described in great detail. For example, it mentions that the columns for the tipple are "formed of two 10-inch channels laced together, heavily braced with angle diagonals". How much more prototype detail does one need?! The image below was taken from that article.

The tipple as originally constructed; first view toward the west and then viewed toward the south (with Buffalo Hill in the background).

This diagram gives you an appreciation for just how large this operation was. You can see the tipple and the empties/loads yard at the bottom of the diagram. All of that underground trackage was funneled out and up on to the incline into the tipple.

In the photos below, you can kind of follow the timeline by keeping an eye on the number of vertical stacks coming out of the power house to the right/east of the tipple building. Originally, there were four, but later there were six. The first photo shows the tipple extension is under construction 1902. Buffalo Hill in the background.

Taken facing east, from the empties-side of the yard, showing the power house on the right.

Looking toward the west from the loaded-side of the yard, showing the incline across the Chartiers creek. By the time this photo was taken, the extension had already been built. The second photo show a different name on the tipple (note how "Hazel" is misspelled!).

The following set of photos were taken from the 1910 report referenced below. The first one was taken from Buffalo Hill, across the Chartiers Creek, showing the power house in the foreground and the tipple to the right.

Taken from the bottom of Buffalo Hill, showing the creek, power house, tipple, and the incline.

This is a photo of the interior of the power house.

Across the creek, up on Buffalo Hill, the company built miners homes.

Similar view as an earlier photo showing the view from the empties-side of the yard, but clearly years later, showing the two water towers on the left, and the power house on the right.

I happened to come across this 1939 aerial view of the tipple, so I have included it here. The Chartiers creek is visible, flanked by trees. It shows the large yard for this mine. The branch line itself runs from the lower left (above the creek) to the top right-third of the photo. The tipple's water towers and the power house are gone by now.

Timeline

Below is a timeline of the mine and its tipple. The principal source of this data was the May 2001 issue of the Jefferson College Times magazine, in an article by James T. Herron.

1900
- James Jones & Sons, via the Pittsburg & Buffalo Company, bought the land and the rights.
- construction of the mine and railroad tracks started immediately.
- the first load of coal came out of the mine on October 20th.
- only one track was operational.
- Fort Pitt Bridge Works (next door) was still building the tipple structure.

1901
- new boilers were added to provide the electricity required to run the facility.
- the official opening was in July.
- the mine was called Hazel (all Pittsburg & Buffalo Company mines had female names).

1902
- a 60-foot extension is added over the fifth track, to expand the tipple's productivity.

1904
- the tipple filled 100 train cars per day.
- Pittsburg & Buffalo Company bought their own locomotive to handle the switching.

1908
- Pittsburg & Buffalo Company bought their own hopper cars to handle the volume between all their mines.

1911
- March 22: a motor car jumped the track collapsing a portion of the roof, killing 9 miners.
- the mine was closed until all were buried.

1913
- considered the heyday of the mine.

1915
- deeply in debt, the Pittsburg & Buffalo Company's assets were bought by the bank on July 15.
- the mine was shut down in August.

1916
- Union Coal & Coke Company bought the mine and started repairing it.
- the company sold the mine to Chartiers Creek Coal Company.
- Chartiers Creek Coal Company re-opened the mine in April, under the new name "Buffalo Mine".

1917
- World War I required the mine to be fully operational.

1922
- A strike at the mine lasted for 6 months.

1927
- the United Mine Workers union created an area-wide strike.
- the union lost, and there was no union activity until 1933.

1929
- three fires at the facility, with the one in September badly damaging the tipple.
- a temporary tipple was constructed to continue operations.
- the Chartiers Creek Coal Company was in a state of receivership after the fire.

1931
- yet another strike.
- a fire broke out in August inside the mine due to a trolley wire short-circuit.

1933
- the mine was using West Penn Power Company's electricity.
- Standard Tin Plate Company (owned by Continental Can Company) won the court bid and bought the mine.
- Canonsburg Coal Company was formed to oversee the rebuilding of the mine.

1934
- the tipple was extensively rebuilt, including a new brick office building.
- the "Philadelphia Patch" miners' housing was rebuilt, one house at a time.

1935
- photographic evidence shows the enginehouse on the facilities as being gone.

1936
- 212,000 tons produced (216 employees worked 252 days).

1939
- photographic evidence shows the demolished company houses on Buffalo Hill.

1941
- Continental Can Company sold Standard Tin Plate Company, and thus Buffalo mine, to Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation (owned by United States Steel Corporation).

References