Chuck Mack: Astonishingly thick seam |

Chuck Mack: Astonishingly thick seam

Chuck Mack

Cardox were made of heavy, 2 1/2-inch pipe, about 3 feet in length. They had a rounded, slotted, removable snout on one end and a pipe-plug-looking affair, with a place to hook an electrical blasting wire on the other. They were filled under pressure with carbon dioxide gas. A fast burning powder primer was first placed in the plug end.

Cardox didn’t explode like dynamite. The primer would burn inside the pipe heating the carbon dioxide and build up tremendous pressure. The seal on the snout end would blow out, and the violently escaping gas would come out from the slotted snout with enough force to break up the coal. They didn’t create any sparks or flame, so they were safe to use in explosive atmospheres that are so often found in coal mines.

This wasn’t the reason Cardox was used in the Redwing mine, however.

At that time, most of our coal was sold on the domestic market as coal to heat homes. Our biggest seller was lump coal. Shooting with Cardox made the biggest, prettiest lump coal imaginable.

The Cardox tubes were filled in the “Cardox House” on the surface. A large carbon dioxide storage tank was kept on site, and it was constantly being refilled by a tanker truck. Willis Guptill, a longtime friend of mine, was often the one who filled the tubes. The job classification was “Cardox Man.”

Yes, Colowyo had a lot of antiquated machinery at that time, but even then they had one of the highest tons-per-man ratings in the state.

This was partially accomplished by the thickness of the coal seam in the Redwing Mine. It averaged 27 feet, which was well over twice what any other seam in the area had. I told this to some Oklahoma coal miners, who had spent their lives working in veins of coal of 1 foot to 4 feet, in thickness. You can’t imagine the astonished look on the faces of some of them. To them, 27 feet of coal was unimaginable.

This coal seam had a good, solid fire clay bottom and solid sandstone top. To mine it, we would stay on the bottom, taking about 8 feet. One section of five entries and crosscuts would be driven this way.

When they were completed, we would start at the back of the entries and take the remainder of the coal. We called this “top coal.” It would be drilled and shot in about 100-foot segments. Before it was loaded out we would trim the top with picks and bars exposing the solid sandstone. Then the coal was loaded out with either the duckbill or the Joy-loader. There would be several days loading in one pile.

Actually, the coal seam, in places, was close to 40 feet in thickness. There were two seams of coal that, in places, nearly ran together, being separated only by a two-foot rock parting. One place was just in by the portal of the mine. This section had been worked out in the 1920s and ’30s, when the Redwing was just a wagon mine and only sold coal locally. Being close to the mine opening, this section was really robbed.

The full 27 feet was taken top to bottom, and hardly any pillars were left. In part of this section, they had gone down through the rock parting and mined the lower vein. In this area, it was nearly 40 feet from floor to top.

The lower vein was a good 10 feet in thickness. This section was never worked during the time I was there, but it was never sealed. It was just ventilated with the rest of the mine.

During the time I was fire boss, I was required to examine it occasionally. It was in this area that an underground lake, or large body of water, broke through into the abandoned workings.

At that time I was starting my examination by going down the portal, then through the workings of the mine, then back out the air course, through the fan house, to the surface.


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