NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jan 31 09:30:47 EST 2008

There was an number of factors in the coal car allotment issue in th eearly
days of the Pocahontas division, but by 1908 the coal car distribution based
on coke ovens was outdated from the fact that most mines established after
1899 did not have coke ovens in the Pocahontas coal field. The exception
was the Tug Fork Branch with the United States Coal & Coke (USC&C)
operations and Page Coal & Coke operations.

Starting with Pocahontas in 1883 the original intent of the mines was to
establish coking plants at the mines to supply the iron furnaces in Virginia
who had been buying coke from coke ovens in Connelsville PA with a high
transportation rate. The mines established along the N&W from 1883 to 1893
all had coke plants so the coke oven basis was not unreasonable.

There were no other coal companies chartered in Mc Dowell County after 1893
until 1899 with the Big Four coal company and they did not put in coke
ovens. As the coal companies progressed down the mainline from Welch to
Iaeger and on to the MIngo County line none of the coal compies built coke
ovens. There were 17 coal companies chartered in 1900 and 1901 between
Welch and Roderfield. With new mines being built many of the older mines
with coke ovens increased their number of ovens between 1900 and 1905
probably to guarantee their car allotment because in most cases only about
half of the ovens were under fire on an annual basis. Cherokee Colliery on
NOrth Fork branch built 100 coke ovens and never used them at all.

Early on USC&C recognized that the Pocahontas coal by itself was not great
for coking and was much better when blended with Connelsville Coal. Also by
1908 the By-product coking process captured more of the coke by-products and
made the beehive oven found in the Pocahontas coal field obsolete. This
contributed to making the coal car allotment process based on coke ovens
obsolete since as USC&C built operations No. 9, 10, 11, and 12 after 1908
they chose not to add any more coke ovens.

Another factor in the coal car allotment based on coke ovens was when the
land association decided to lease coal property and car alotment was an
issue between current operators and potential future operators. It was
decided to use the coke oven basis partially as a way to ensure capital
would be invested to make the mining operation a worthwild enterprise.

Having said all of the above, coke ovens operating at some mines in McDowell
County up into 1928 although most had shut down by 1920.

Alex Schust

----- Original Message -----
From: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2008 7:19 AM

> Roanoke Times - January 28, 1908




> Interstate Commerce Commission Decides Against the N. & W. and Others




> Commission Convinced it Results in Unlawful Discrimination, But It's Not

> Unmindful That Change May Occasion Loss and Injury to Some Operators


> Washington, Jan. 27. - Through Chairman Knapp the interstate commerce

> commissions today rendered its decision in the Powhatan Coal & Coke

> Company against the Norfolk & Western Railway Company and 56 coal

> operating companies in the Pocahontas district in which it was alleged

> that the method of car distribution known as the "coke oven basis" unduly

> discriminates against the complainant and requested that the so-called

> "capacity basis", of car distribution be adopted. The commission decided

> that the coke oven basis did not fairly measure the relative rights of the

> various ovens and did unduly discriminate against the complainant, and did

> operate to the unreasonable preference of other mining companies in the

> same field. The commission declared that when the supply of cars was

> inadequate it was the duty of the carrier to fairly distribute the

> available number of cars among all operators.

> "While the commission is convinced by the facts and circumstances

> disclosed that the present basis is unjust and results in unlawful

> discriminations, it is unmindful that the change which will be directed

> may occasion loss and injury to some of the operators whose expenditures

> for the construction of coke ovens, as required by their leases, may be

> materially and perhaps greatly diminished in value. Although not warranted

> in sanctioning a further continuance of the coke oven basis, which under

> existing conditions is found to be neither just nor suitable, the

> commission does not desire nor intend that the report and order herein

> shall affect the rights, responsibilities, or liabilities of any of the

> interested parties under any contract or agreement which they might have

> otherwise have been able to enforce to their benefit. It is assumed that

> some form of capacity basis suited to the conditions and peculiarities of

> the district in question will be devised and put into effect; but the

> railway company should take the responsibility, at least in the first

> instance, of determining and applying the substituted basis.

> "The Norfolk & Western Railway Company was ordered to cease and desist

> for at least a period of two years from enforcing the coke oven basis in

> said district. It was further ordered to establish for at least two years

> a regulation whereby coal cars shall be distributed fairly and equitably

> among the operators along its line in said district, without undue

> discrimination against or undue preference in favor of any of the said

> operators."


> -----------------------------------


> - Ron Davis, Roger Link



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