Chuck Mack: Old-time mining wasn’t easy
December 20, 2008
Remembering The Old Redwing Mine: Part 4 of a 5-part series
This one morning during my examination, I found the bottom of the portal flooded. I could not get through this way. I knew that the area around the bottom of the portal was in a low point of the mine.
Just in by this, 300 yards or so, the coal pitched up and went quite a ways before it rolled over and started down again.
I figured the area around the bottom of the portal would be the only place flooded.
I went to the fan house and checked the air reading and determined that there was sufficient air still getting in through the flooded portal to ventilate the mine. I went in to investigate. When I got back around to the backside of the water, I could hear a roaring coming from the worked-out section, so I went to investigate this.
At the very back of these abandoned workings, the coal had been undercut and drilled. It had been that way ever since I had been there, but for some reason, on that eventful day, one of the drill holes was shooting water like a fire hose. The water was coming out with such force that I could just see the hole getting bigger.
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It was about six weeks before we got the mine back into operation, and by that time the hole where the water had been coming out was more than 4 feet in diameter.
We had a superintendent who wasn’t very knowledgeable about water pumps, but he wouldn’t admit it. In a couple of week’s time, he had rounded up every stray, antique and obsolete water-pumping device in the area. We had eight of these pumps pumping around the clock and all we were doing was holding our own.
This went on until the president of the company came out to see what was going on. When he saw the pump battery and all of those water lines, some with not much more than a dribble coming out he just shook his head in disbelief.
About a day or two later, a pump expert showed up, looked around for just a little bit, did some quick figuring in his notebook and then left. A day or two later we had a couple of new submergible pumps and enough 8-inch hose to make two discharge lines. Just one of them would pump half again the water that our eight antique ones were pumping!
It didn’t take very long for us to pump the underground lake dry, and from that day on there was never a trickle that came out of that hole.
The company tried to develop their entries in the “off season” and save their top coal for their busy season, which usually ran from November through February, depending on the severity of the winter in their market area.
The Redwing Mine was also one of the safest mines in Colorado for most of its life span. It was classified as “non-gassy,” and roof falls, cave-ins, etc., were virtually unheard of.
For several years after I went to work at the Redwing Mine, I ran the haulage motor. This was used to bring the loaded coal cars from deep inside the mine to the car dump, which was near the surface.