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The movement is so swift and easy that we seem to be standing still, while the walls of the pit rush upwards. It is said that one can see the stars in the daytime when looking up from a deep well. We look up to prove this 5 fact, and are greeted with drops of black water from the sides, which give to our eyes for a time the sight of many stars. Just as we fancy that the bottom of the pit is about to bump against our cage, the pace slackens, lights appear,
and unearthly voices and uncouth beings welcome us below 10 and hand us out. We have been shot into one of nature's
vast coal cellars, stored countless ages ago with fuel, in quantities large enough to last for ages to come.
The temperature is warm, as is also a stream of black water running through the mine. The heat increases as 1€ we descend into the earth's crust and helps us to under
stand better how the coal can be changed from vegetable to mineral matter. Collecting our wits, we have to leap aside to let the mules approach with their trolleys of coal. Yes,
mules are here, some fifty or more, who never see daylight, 20 and only know of night by their hours of rest in their
stables at hand. They emerge from the gloom of tramways laid in the tunnels and from various quarters, their tramp and the creak of wheels giving notice of their approach.
With no time to lose, they are unyoked and yoked again 25 to empty trucks and go back into the darkness.
Our first duty must be paid to the furnace, the “tutelary genius” of this mine. We leave gas jets behind and trust to the feeble glimmer of our lamps as we wander into the
recesses of the pit. Now we must bend nearly double at the 30 risk of a crick in the back, for the roof is very low.
The road is dry and dusty. Right and left, drifts, at intervals, lead to the workings; and the coal, still in place as it "grows,” glistens in the walls. The roof is kept
from falling by close, massive timbers or walls of rock. The 35 danger, strange to say, is often, not from the roof falling, but from the roadway rising. So vast is the pressure of the overlying strata that the roadway, relieved by excavation, heaves up, and with such force, as to fracture the metalrails; to snap in two the thick short trunk of a tree, put as a 5 support, and soon to fill up the drift. The timber in a mine appears sufficient, if left there long enough, to make another bed of coal. Our passage is blocked by a trap door; our guide asks us to wait, for the noise of wheels on the
other side announces an arrival. The door opens and a 10 truck of coal passes out, and we pass in. A rushing sound,
as of floods of water, besets our path. Our friendly guide tells us it is the air to ventitale the mine. He opens the door that divides the passage, and we pass under, and the
roar of mighty water ceases. We feel, however, a strong 15 current of air setting in our own direction of traveling.
We are, in fact, close to the furnace, the sole means trusted to for the ventilation of this mine. The downcast current of air from the shaft we descended, moves along one side
of the partition through every drift and working of the mine, 20 driving the foul air and gases before it, and returns on the
other side, driving along faster and louder as it nears the all-consuming furnace, which it feeds with the roar of the hot blast.
And what a chimney shaft-over four times as high as 25 Bunker Hill! "Shall we go up it?” Surely our guide
is poking fun at us. No; he says he generally goes upstairs that way because it is warmer. It is the upcast shaft, with cages ascending and descending the same as with the
downcast. We straighten our aching backs in presence 30 of the Fire King, bending low again in leaving; we cannot well do otherwise in a three-foot seam.
Here are pitmen and boys in free and easy costumes, limited as a rule to black and ragged trousers. Here
a stalwart miner lies sideways at full length with his pick, 35 under-cutting the coal, so that the upper mass comes down
with a run. There another, bent upon earning as much money as he can, has worked a dangerous distance without placing props.
A group yonder, indulging in a few moments' rest, 5 have put their lamps on the points of their picks, against orders, and long to smoke, but dare not. The officer gives a friendly word of warning, saying to some reckless one, “You never know when an accident may happen.” The
mine is treacherous and fiery. Explosions have cost the 10 lives of hundreds of miners.
Remembrance of these gives a gentle sadness of tone to the man's voice, for he himself lost two fine boys in the last catastrophe. He takes us to the scene of death, now
shut in from the rest of the mine. He points out where the 15 poor charred bodies were found. The seams of coal crumble to the touch, the surface being burned by the fire.
By screwing down the flame in our lamp it will lengthen into a needle point if there is gas in the air. We try it, but no gas can be found to-day.
We ascend by the warm upcast shaft with the same curious feeling that it is the pit which moves. As the pit sinks faster and faster, it leaves us at last on top, where the wintry mists seem bright after the murky darkness of hours in the coalpit.
Having seen how the coal is mined, we are now ready for a visit to one of the great coal storage plants. Here we see stocked immense quantities of coal, and cars laden with coal from the mines are being constantly unloaded. Again other cars are being reloaded for shipment.
All this unloading and reloading is done by means of wonderful coal handling machinery. That used here is known as the Dodge System, which is installed in plants providing for the storage of nearly four and a half million tons of anthracite coal.
It is a fascinating sight to watch the automatic reloader
in operation. The coal is taken by it from the face of the pile, conveyed up the incline, and into the tower, from which it is delivered to the cars.
One of the largest coal storage plants is that of the 5 Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company, at Abrams, Pennsylvania, which has a capacity of four hundred eighty thousand tons.
HELPS FOR STUDY
How does the district around the coal mine appear to a visitor?
Look up the meaning of "tutelary genius," and tell how the furnace is the “tutelary genius” of the mine.
Why do the miners not dare to smoke in the mine?
Tell what you have learned by a visit to a coal mine and a coal storage plant.
418:17 George Stephenson. (1781-1848.) The inventor of the locomotive.
418: 19 Davy lamps. Safety-lamps used by miners, so-named from the inventor, Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), a celebrated English chemist.
SOMETHING ABOUT GAS
How many have seen, while watching a coal fire, the jets of curling smoke bursting from a lighted coal, and every now and then blazing up with a pleasant, rushing sound. He must have been an intelligent man who first thought of 5 catching these jets of smoke, before they lighted, and carrying them through pipes any distance, to light at the other end. Yet this simple idea led to illuminating our cities with gas. Man did not invent gas, but the mode of turning it to our comfort and welfare.
Before coal-gas was used, the towns and streets of cities were lighted with dull oil-lamps, hanging from cords or chains slung across from side to side, and our villages trusted solely to the moon, as the people still do in many country places.
As in so many of the arts, the Chinese were the first to make use of natural gas, which, a chance product of their salt wells, they applied to village lighting; but the first mention of artificial gas is in a letter of Dr. Clayton, of
Crofton, England, dated 1688, published in 1739, in the 20 "Transactions of the Royal Society," describing an in
flammable “spirit,” resulting from the distillation of coal. The discovery, however, was treated as a scientific curiosity, and no definite use was made of the now indispensable light
until about 1803, when the Lyceum Theatre in London was 25 lighted by gas, under the direction of a Mr. Winsor. The
following year a gas installation of some three thousand candle-power was put into operation in factories at Manchester, and on December 31, 1813, the success of
illuminating gas was finally demonstrated by the lighting 30 of Westminster Bridge in London.