Wednesday, February 18, 2009

St Nicholas, PA

Just after 3pm, we were back up north and arrived at the old St. Nicholas coal breaker which was constructed in 1930. It closed in 1963 but the building is still in wonderful condition with no signs of childish vandalism or graffiti. The new St. Nicholas breaker is just down the road. Half a village was moved to make way for this breaker and it was, and maybe still is, the largest breaker in the world. This behemoth of a building was incredible and knowing we only had a couple of hours of daylight, we set off immediately.

This view was taken from the top of the building and made me feel dizzy. In the first photo, you can see the small platform jutting out at the top of the building from where this shot was taken.

The workers had a room comprising only of benches and hooks on the walls to get changed in, and this pair of boots had been left behind with a few others. It seemed as if the place closed down only a few years ago instead of 45 years as around the building were scattered boots, jackets over railings, along with bottles and cans of products they used.

I loved the light in this accounts room and there were plenty of records still left strewn around the floor.

A rusty can of hand soap, tools and other artifacts stood and collected dust.

We were certainly careful as we made our way along endless broken platforms, bridges and stairs, crawling under and over the machinery to find a way through.

It took me a few minutes to realize that these old sacks were cushions on seats for workers sorting the coal pieces as they passed through. I was so busy looking at them up close, it wasn't until I stood back that I saw the full picture.

All the machinery here was huge and crawling amongst it, I occasionally felt a fear of it suddenly coming back to life. The noise must have been ear splitting.

Nearly all of the walkways on all the floors looked like this. I often suffered vertigo as I walked across them and looked down to the many floors visible below. I actually made my way across this, you can see where my feet scuffed the dust away on the left, and I had to photograph it as proof!

This must have controlled much of the machinery and I was amazed at how well preserved it was.

Some facts: 20 miles of railroad track were laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit,26,241 26,241 square feet of rubber belting, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed. When the breaker was constructed it was divided into two sides. Each side could be operated independently, producing 12,500 tons of coal a day. Once the raw coal entered the production process within the breaker it took just 12 minutes to pass through the entire breaker.
We had explored in two pairs and gone in different directions and the building was so large that even though it was empty and silent, we could not hear the others when we yelled out to them, we had to phone them. This was the electrical room at the bottom of the building.

I found these manuals and parts records, the list on the right is dated 1961. We had made our way to the bottom of the building as it became dusk. Even though we had flashlights, the floors above were losing light rapidly and we weren't keen on having to negotiate the broken flooring and steps in the dark.

This was one of the offices downstairs, obviously a favorite haunt of the pigeons. We regretfully left the breaker as it was getting dark and got back to D.C. at midnight. A packed and successful weekend of exploring with hundreds of photos to sort and edit!


greg said...

WoW !! It just goes to show there's more to life than sitting at home watching DVD's. What fantastic photography.Just love those pics! Nothing like that here in Malta.

Heideldy Deideldy said...

You have the bestttt damn pictures! I am hoping that once I drop some weight I can start doing cool excursions like this!