Re: Oregon coal...?


Hi Richard, I don't want to sound like I am jumping on the pile here, but I was wondering when you said "nowhere in Oregon was coal mined in commercial quantities" whether you meant to bracket that to a specific time frame. Of course coal was mined commercially in the Coos Bay area on the Oregon coast for many years, but these mines pretty well played out, and/or done in by competition from oil, by 1910 or so. Most of that coal was sent to California ports by steamship. I ain't saying it traveled in N&W hoppers, but there is in fact a good possibility that some of this Oregon coal ended up in rail cars going at least a short way east in California.

As an aside, in the case of the western Washington mines mentioned by others, photographs and consist records show that coal traveled eastward over the Cascade crest at least as far as Yakima and Spokane in Pacific Coast RR gondolas, right up into the 1960s. The Pacific Coast was still ORER-listed as a freight car owner after acquisition by the GN.

For those with an interest in the early steam era, see the web link and excerpt below for one account of the Coos Bay coal district.

Back in 1854, A.G. Aiken shipped 200 tons of coal from Coos Bay to San Francisco via the shipping lanes. His success attracted gold miners, one whose name was Patrick Flanagan, an immigrant from Ireland. In 1855 in the town of Libby Mr. Flanagan found a rich vein running close to the Newport Coal Basin. The vein extended three miles. It was estimated in 1890 that there was as much as 6 million tons of coal in the mining areas. It was speculated by geologists that the vein may extend the length of North Bend, Coos Bay's sister city. As much as 30 to 40 thousand tons of coal were mined each year. Information recently released provides evidence that the massive coal mine still exists. During the late 19th century coal cars transported the coal after Mr. Flanagan brought steam locomotives to handle the shipments. One very large shipment was deposited in Bunker Hill, another well-known area in Coos Bay. At least 1,000 tons of coal were dropped in Bunker Hill awaiting shipment. There were many more mines which ran from Glasgow south and east towards Riverton. In 1860 the mines shipped 3, 145 tons of coal to the San Francisco area. The production of coal increased by 5,000 tons a year. Tonnage from Coos Bay in 1915 reached nearly 90 thousand tons in the late 1890's. However, by 1915 the tonnage dropped to 709 tons. The mining became sporadic. Boys as young as 13 left school to work in the mines and were given the nickname of "whistle punks". Due to the poor weather and the lack of a deep harbor and jetty the coal was unable to be shipped by barge. Soon, the mines closed. The advent of the combustion engine and the change from steam to diesel engines forced the coal mines to shut down. There is currently talk in the area about reopening the mines....<<<
Chris Frissell
former and occasional Oregonian
writing from Polson, MT
Season's Greetings

--- In STMFC@..., Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...> wrote:

On Dec 24, 2009, at 5:13 PM, al_brown03 wrote:

The N&W hoppers that went over Sherman Hill were back-loaded with
Oregon coal, right? :-)
Oregon coal? Surely you jest. In the steam era, most of the
relatively little coal used in the Northwest came from southern
Utah. Nowhere in Oregon was coal mined in commercial quantities.
That's why all the steam locomotives burned oil, and why most
industries were fueled by oil or natural gas. Coal was, of course,
mined in Wyoming, mostly in mines owned by the Union Pacific
Railroad, but in nowhere near the quantity that it now is. Union
Pacific coal traveled east over Sherman Hill, mostly in UP hoppers
and gondolas (mandatory STMFC freight car content).

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