HANDLING ANA ELEVATION OF COAL.
To return to the handling of coal, we would notice particularly the economy of this item. As before observed, there is no case in which coal, when mined on a large scale, need be handled more than once. When the cars go to the miner in the breasts, we have shown the course it takes. When thrown into the cars by the miner, it is handled no more until it goes to the market,—perhaps to Maine or California. When worked by the run, it is not touched by the hand of man, with rare exceptions, until it goes to the cities. When worked by' breast and shutes, it need be handled only once, as in the case of breast and cars.
The coal is thrown by the miner or his assistants into the shutes, and slides down the incline of the shutes by its gravity into the cars at the bottom. There are instances where the dip is not steep enough for this, and a second or third handling is required to get it into the cars; but in all such cases we think it better to take the cars into the breasts. Of course, from the cars there need be no rehandling. It goes through the process described.
In a mine from which 1000 tons per day are expected, a second handling not only interferes to a great degree with the amount of work to be done, but increases the cost largely. Outside, when circumstances are favorable, a man may handle 20 tons of coal, but in the mines 10 tons is a good day's work; and, generally, including superintend ence, oil, tools, and interference with the transaction of business or the amount of work to be done, this rehandling will not cost less than 15 cents per ton ; but, in order to be within the limits, we will estimate it at 10 cents per ton, and we will find that this simple item—which operators do not notice—costs them ($100) one hundred dollars per day on a business of 1000 tons per day.
In these little items lies the success of mining, very frequently, and they often depend on the manner in which the mines are laid out and the manner in which they are worked.
In the outside arrangements many large items of expense are incurred without notice by the proprietors, unless they are practical men. We have frequently seen three men employed where one would have done much more work by the aid of the least bit of ingenuity. We will give a few instances out of many we have seen.
A heavy car comes to the top of the shaft, and this must be removed to the breaker, which is 30 yards distant. The grade is level and the curve of the track great, with rails of equal height. It requires four men to push the car to its place and dump it, and two minutes are consumed in changing the cars; perhaps the same thing happens at the bottom ; and thus not less than five minutes are taken up with each car of coal, —say two tons.
Now notice the difference. By elevating the car six inches higher and raising the off rail in the curve a little higher than the inside one, and by a simple contrivance on the "cage," the car leaves the cage and runs by its own gravity to the dump, and one man can manage it and change the cars in half a tninuq. Here we not only save about five dollars per day for labor on the top alone, but the business of the colliery may be more than doubled, which is enough to "break or make" a concern, when all the machinery and contingent expenses remain the same.
But at the same place there may be, and are, other items equally expensive and objectionable. The top of the breaker is limited for height and space, and there is not room to dump more than two or three cars. The men whose duty it is to put the coal into the breaker are crowded together, and cannot do half their duty. They put every thing through the breaker. A rock, which might be thrown out easily, is broken into a hundred fragments and mingles with the coal. Much of it remains there; and what may be picked out is with great labor and expense.
The coal comes out of the mine faster than it can be handled on top of the breaker, and the machinery must wait, the men on top must wait, and half the men in the mine must wait. Instead of 500 tons of coal being mined and prepared per day, at a cost of 70 cents per ton, less than 300 is done, at a cost of $1.25 per ton.
These items may be carried out from the miner through all the processes until the coal reaches the cars for shipment to the markets; and instead of two or three instances we might name and describe a dozen or more,—not all at one mine, or no concern could bear the expenses; but generally one or more of these "profit and loss" items are to be observed at each establishment.