Breaker at Williamstown Colliery
The Williamstown colliery was located on the south side of Big Lick Mountain on the Summit Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The colliery's first shipment was made on March 28, 1866 and consisted of six tons of stove coal and six tons of nut coal. ("Stove" and "nut" indicate the size of the coal pieces.) The colliery ended its first year of operation with 67,643 tons of coal shipped. Eight years later the Federal Mine Report listed the 301,326 tons shipped in 1873 as "the largest shipment of record from any one colliery in this country and in Europe for one year."
The breaker was where anthracite coal was sent for processing after being dug from the nearby mines and chuted into mine cars. It was sorted by size according to its intended use, and impurities such as slate were removed. "Breaker Boys," typically 8 to 14 year-old sons of the miners, were among those employed for the task at a rate $2.50 a week.
According to A Sesquicentennial History of Williamstown and Williams Township, Williamstown's breaker was situated 314 feet to the right of the mouth of a 1,040 foot tunnel. Inside were: two pairs of six foot rollers 32 inches in diameter; six screens five feet in diameter with seven jackets between 14 and 22 feet long; a 24 horsepower, 12 inch cylinder engine; two 30 foot boilers 34 inches in diameter; a 5-ply, 12 inch gum driving belt, engine and boiler house with stone foundation, patent injector, steam governor pump and water cistern. 101 feet wide and 91 feet high, the breaker had the capacity to process more than 1,000 tons of coal a day.
Though Short Mountain, Lykens Valley, and Big Lick collieries were nearby, the success of the Summit Branch colliery was responsible for the growth of Williamstown. As printed in the July 8, 1876 edition of Miners' Journal, the Rev. J. F. Wohlfarth remarked to the citizens of Williamstown during a Centennial Fourth of July address: "[Williamstown] has in the last eleven years sprung from apparently nothing to what it is - a town of 2,500 inhabitants. It has seven or more well established dry goods and grocery houses,... nine lodges, seven school rooms, five churches, two excellent bands, and, may I whisper it? too many hotels." Mining operations stopped in 1941, but the breaker was used to process coal for several more years. Photo ID: W02752.