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The Railway Age - March 15, 1901

An Alaska Coal-Handling Plant

    Since the inauguration of one of the boldest of modern railroad enterprises, the White Pass & Yukon Railway, it has been the ambition of its general manager, Mr. E. C. Hawkins, to make the equipment throughout second to none and to be relieved of the necessity of relying upon the negative apology which might reasonably be expected to be offered for any shortcomings in the way of the equipment of an Alaskan railroad. As a matter of fact, no expense has been spared to secure the highest possible degree of efficiency and dispatch in handling the growing traffic.

White Pass & Yukon Route railway coal plant, 1901     Readers of The Railway Age have been informed by means of illustrated articles upon this subject of some of the features connected with the constructive engineering. Since the completion of the road to White Horse Rapids, the importance of the route has been sufficient to warrant the installation of improved facilities for its operation. Among the recent improvements constructed at Skagway, the southern terminus, are the steel traveling hoist and conveyor and the commodious coal bunkers which form the subject of the accompanying illustrations.

    The hoist and conveyor are designed to discharge coal from vessels and transfer it across the wharf into cars which are switched to the coal bunkers as fast as loaded. The hoisting tower and conveyor bridge are constructed of steel throughout and are supported on anti-friction wheels so as to make the entire structure easily movable along the tracks on the wharf and to discharge from the different hatches of a vessel.

    The hoist is equipped with a double cylinder 10 by 12 inch steam engine supplied by a 15 by 102 inch vertical tubular boiler. This equipment furnishes ample power for the work to be done. The coal tubs used are self-dumping steel tubs of one ton capacity each. In the operation of the hoist each loaded tub is hoisted from the hold of the vessel, transferred 150 feet across the wharf, automatically dumped into a car on either of the two tracks under the overhanging end of the trolley track and returned and lowered into the hold of the vessel again in a trifle less than one minute.

White Pass & Yukon Route railway coal plant, 1901     The hoist and conveyor are designed also to transfer ore shipments from cars on the wharf tracks to vessels, the machinery being arranged so as to handle loads in either direction over the wharf with equal facility.

    The new coal bunkers are included in a heavy frame structure 30 by 254 feet in size on the ground exclusive of the trestle approach. The storage capacity is 4,000 tons. Loaded cars are hauled up the trestle, which has a grade of 20 per cent, into the building by means of a worm-geared cable car pulley. The power for this is furnished by a 15-horsepower Otto gasoline engine.

    The bottom of the bins in the bunker is floored with heavy timber lined with steel and hoppered so as to discharge coal through spouts on either side of the building for coaling locomotives, or through spouts to cars on the track which extends underneath the bins, throughout the length of the building. The small illustrations herewith show the upper interior space to which loaded cars are hauled by the worm and cable hoist and also the lower interior underneath the bins where coal is loaded from the bins into cars. The spouts from the bins for loading either locomotives outside or cars inside are provided with hinged steel extensions, by means of which the supply of coal is regulated or cut off at will. Locomotives can be coaled in one minute and an entire train of cars loaded in ten minutes at this bunker. The design, as shown by the accompanying engravings, combines strength and simplicity with rapidity of handling. The coal handled is "run of mine" from Comax, British Columbia.

    The coal bunker, as well as the hoist and conveyor, were designed and erected by D. A. Robinson, an engineer and railroad contractor of Seattle, Wash.

White Pass & Yukon Route railway coal plant, 1901

White Pass & Yukon Route railway coal plant, 1901

White Pass & Yukon Route railway coal plant, 1901



This article has been reproduced as originally published. Photo quality is poor, however, as they are scans of photocopies of photocopies.

The coal was mined at Comox, British Columbia (not Comax). The Comox coalfield, on the central east coast of Vancouver Island, covers approximately 2,000 square kilometres from Campbell River to Fanny Bay. It produced 18.6 million tonnes of high-volatile A and B bituminous coal from 1888 to 1953.

The same issue notes progress on the Chilkoot Pass Railway: "Dyea to Lake Linderman, 40 miles; surveyed and 4 miles graded. L. D. Kinney, president, Dyea, Alaska. John H. Diers, C. E., Skaguay, Alaska."