Iron Miners
It is currently Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:50 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 9 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:48 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 479
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
West End Mine explosion buries six men alive

By William C. Kashatus (correspondent)
Published: February 26, 2012
Just after 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 1934, Gabriel Swarek and John Tagmani of Mocanaqua were mining the East Drift at the West End Colliery when they broke through to an abandoned section of the Sand Drift.

Within seconds, the two miners became light-headed from inhaling black damp, a carbonic acid gas which had accumulated in the abandoned shaft. Feeling the numbing effect of the gas, Swarek and Tagmani started out of the mine. On their way, they stopped at the turnout at the bottom of the drift to warn Henry Zeglarski and Jacob Tinus about the gas.

Zeglarski and Tinus continued to load coal onto a trip of cars, apparently believing they had enough time to finish their work. Swarek and Tagmani continued on their way out. About 500 feet up the slope, a heavy explosion caught the two men from behind and hurled them against the slope.

Badly burned and injured, they managed to get to their feet and stumbled out of the mine, just behind other miners who had been working the slope and left their posts when they heard the explosion.

Zeglarski, Tinus and four other miners - Paul Novak, John Molotoris, John Thomashunas and Joseph Motzoni - were less fortunate. All six were entombed in the mine, trapped by more than 120 feet of shelly coal and rock.

The West End Mine disaster has been overshadowed in the annals of anthracite history by the better-known Avondale disaster of 1869 and the Knox Mine tragedy of 1959. But the West End disaster proved that explosions can occur even in mines that are well-ventilated, which was the case in the Mocanaqua-Shickshinny operation.

Mining first began at the West End site in 1837 when Henry Colt, a budding entrepreneur, extracted coal and sold it to local residents to heat their homes in the winter months. Others followed Colt's example until 1856 when Jedidiah Irish purchased the works and established the Mocanaqua Coal Company.

Purchased by the du Pont interests in 1865, the operation was expanded to 1,900 acres and enhanced the financial fortunes of the Wilmington, Delaware-based family. Refusing to yield to labor's demand for higher pay, the du Ponts, in 1872, shut down the operation.

The colliery remained idle until 1881 when Charles M. Conyngham and John Teasdale re-opened it under the firm name of "West End Coal Company." Under their direction, improvements were made to the breaker and the river bridge, the labor force was expanded to 300 men, and an agreement was made with the Pennsylvania Railroad to transport the coal to markets across the East Coast.

Coal production steadly increased from a daily output of 600 tons in 1882 to 800 tons in 1889 to 1,200 tons in 1894 with the construction of a brand new breaker. Additional improvements were made during the early decades of the 20th century, including the installation of ventilators and an electric locomotive motor.

Steady work provided ample employment opportunities for the residents of the nearby patch towns of Mocanaqua and Shickshinny on either side of the Susquehanna River. Boasting the most up-to-date machinery and a considerable labor force, the West End operation was one of the more productive collieries in the Wyoming Valley.

Despite the improved technology, the operation was not immune to the dangers of fire and explosion. Black damp, in particular, was commonly found in abandoned workings where it accumulated over a period of time.

The explosion that occurred on Oct. 24, 1934, was the result of considerable black damp in the Sand Drift that was ignited by a spark from the electric locomotive motor at the turnout. What made the explosion possible was the opening of the abandoned Sand Drift by Swarek and Tagmani, exposing the gas to the motor in the adjacent East Drift.

The explosion brought down the ceiling of shelly coal and rock, trapping the six miners who were still working the East Drift. Those miners were: John Thomashunas, 40, of Shickshinny; John Molotoris, 35, Mocanaqua; Paul Novak, 40, Mocanaqua; Henry Zaglarski, 23, Mocanaqua; Joseph Motzoni, 22, Mocanaqua. Zaglarski and Motzoni were unmarried, the other four men had wives as well as several young children.

As word of the explosion spread through Mocanaqua and Shickshinny, stunned residents rushed to the West End Colliery office of Harry Williams, the superintendent. Others scurried up the hill to the opening of the East Drift where rescue operations had already begun.

Cars blocked the roadways around the end of the bridge as drivers from nearby towns came to watch the recovery effort. State police from the Wyoming Barracks were called in to handle the traffic, and established a deadline near the company offices beyond which only rescue workers, mine officials and families of the ill-fated miners were allowed to pass.

Miners and rescue workers labored feverishly into the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 25, to penetrate a 65-foot barrier of fallen coal and rock. Catholic priests arrived at the opening of the East Drift to console the grief-stricken mothers, wives and children of the trapped miners.

On Tuesday morning, Oct. 27, the rescue workers finally broke through the barrier only to find a second one, which proved to be of even greater thickness. The discovery of the second barrier led mine officials to believe that the entire East Drift had collapsed.

Still, the rescue effort continued until Friday, Oct. 30, when mine officials abandoned all hope of survival of the entombed miners. The general opinion was that the black damp from the Sand Drift had asphyxiated the victims had they not already been killed by the rockfall.

Though not as famous as the Avondale or Knox Mine disasters, the West End Mine tragedy serves as a reminder of the dangers associated with anthracite coal mining as well as the sacrifices made by many men to support their families by mining the black diamond.

William C. Kashatus teaches history at Luzerne County Community College. He can be contacted at Bkashatus@luzerne.edu.

_________________
Scott K
"Watch Your Top"


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:38 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 6906
Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
"the blackdamp was ignited by a mine locomotive" .........blackdamp being an inflammable gas..... ill dispute that one for sure!

_________________
Come over to the Dark Side....... We have Cookies!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:31 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:04 pm
Posts: 381
Location: WILKES-BARRE PA
interesting, i know right where the sand drift is 8)

_________________
running a dragline is like fishing for salmon - according to E.Bella


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:11 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 6906
Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
i think they meant to say firedamp everywhere blackdamp is mentioned in the article. blackdamp just makes it hard to breathe, methane, in large quantities has the effect described above. kinda funny.....

_________________
Come over to the Dark Side....... We have Cookies!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:12 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 6906
Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
bella, is it one of those gated entrances down there?

_________________
Come over to the Dark Side....... We have Cookies!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:54 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 479
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Chris,
I thought the same thing when I first read this. Blackdamp noooooooooooooooo.... firedamp yesssssssssssssssss......

_________________
Scott K
"Watch Your Top"


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:23 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2005 3:43 pm
Posts: 925
Location: Western PA
yea, they need to get the story straight... that coal is steeply pitched down there... any methane would have went up to the tops of the breasts, not down to the bottom of a slope

_________________
-Thou shalt not little vein-


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:59 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:04 pm
Posts: 381
Location: WILKES-BARRE PA
depends where, in mocanoqua some of the coal is pretty flat, its weird geology down their. i think the mine i know of is the sand drift, and no it has no gate.

_________________
running a dragline is like fishing for salmon - according to E.Bella


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Tragedy In The Mines
PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:13 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 5:11 pm
Posts: 899
Location: NEPA
OMGOMGOMG! ITS NOT GATED OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

_________________
"We don't look for any money all we look for is a little help and the only help we get is for the government to shut us down and if you go to the gas station and buy the gas you'll see why..........................you'll see why"


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 9 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group