Chuck Mack: 'Largest underground opening in the world'


— Well, now we know a little more of the history of the beginnings of the Mount Streeter mine.

I have to agree with the geologists that there was a lot of coal in that area. The Red Wing Mine operated under the ColoWyo Coal Co. from 1938 until 1974. It was considered a high-production mine for the times, and in all those years of mining, they hardly put more than a dent in that huge vein of coal!

I know some of you are wondering how they could mine a vein of coal 25 feet in thickness. (Actually, the Red Wing veins averaged 27 feet in thickness.) Well now to answer that, for several years we mined coal from the bottom up. We would take an average of 8 feet in the conventional mining stage.

When we worked out a section of rooms in this fashion, we would go back in and take what they called the top coal. In other words, we would go back in and take the remainder of coal. We would drill bore holes up into the coal, load the holes with dynamite and blast an area about 100 feet or so in length. When we did that, we had a mountain of coal, and it would take a week or more to load it all out and get it to the surface.

When the coal was all removed, there would be a large underground opening that would scare most underground miners to death.

The Red Wing Mine for many years held the distinction of being the most productive underground mine in the state of Colorado; we always had the record of the most tons per man shift, also. And the huge vein of coal made this possible and easy.

Now, with this in mind I have found other articles that will go along with what I've just written. So, let's get on to the next article.

Steamboat Pilot: 'The Largest Underground Opening in the World'

Information from 1918 articles in the Steamboat Pilot; compiled by Chuck Mack, Nov. 21, 2007.

What is thought to be the largest room in the world surrounded entirely by coal was recently opened up by Tim Murnane at Mount Streeter. The coal in the principally worked vein at Mount Streeter is 24 feet thick, but hitherto has been worked from the bottom upward to a height of only 12 feet.

In order that the immensity of the vein and unlimited coal resources of the Axial Basin Development Co. may be fully realized, Mr. Murnane opened up a section the full depth of the vein, 24 feet. Getting out coal while roosting on an insecure perch 24 feet above the floor is not recommended by Mr. Murnane as a Sunday afternoon pastime, but he is more than pleased with the results of his labors.

Plans for Big Coal Mine: Axial Basin Co. to Erect Three Tipples and Build Railroad

Information from another Steamboat Pilot article dated Sept. 6, 1918.

F. A. Metcalf, who went to Craig Monday to deliver a 2-1/4 ton Bethlehem auto truck to the Axial Basin Development Co. reports that he was informed by the officials of the latter company that they are progressing rapidly with their plans for engaging in coal mining on an extensive scale, and that within another year they expect to have in operation a mine exceeding in importance any that has yet been opened in this portion of the state.

Manager, M. T. Streeter stated to Mr. Metcalf that the company is preparing to immediately erect three tipples, each with a daily capacity of 4,000 tons. These will be located on the company's property in Axial Basin at the mine's 45-foot vein of smokeless, bituminous coal on what was formerly the Collom ranch, 40 miles southwest of Craig.

Series continues next week:

We will find that as this story progresses in future editions, it will list the thickness of the vein of coal in several measurements. It will all be the same vein of coal; the variations will just be in the way the different articles were reported to the papers.

We also will find there are a lot of exaggerated claims in future stories.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.