At the beginning of his shift, a miner would check in at the lamphouse, make sure he had enough blasting powder for his shift, and work his way into the mine. Since he would stay underground for the duration of his shift, the miner would also carry his lunch bucket and any tools he needed in the mine. In some mines, the miners would walk into the mine to the active coal face, and out again at the end of their shift. As the mines grew deeper and became more extensive, it was more common and efficient to send miners in and out of the mine on passenger versions of coal cars.
A miner’s daily work consisted of four major tasks: undercutting, drilling, blasting, and loading. Undercutting meant digging out rock from the base of the coal face, which would allow the coal and rock to collapse in a pile of rubble that could be loaded and hauled out of the mine. All of the undercutting was performed by hand until cutting machines were introduced into the Roslyn area in the late 1920s. After the coal face was undercut to a sufficient degree, the miner needed to drill holes into the coal face, a laborious task that as usually performed with a hand auger or drill. A miner would drill a long hole into the top of a wall of coal, wrap black powder in a newspaper, and insert the charge into the hole with an iron rod. After making a squib, or fuse, of wax paper and more powder, the miner would light the powder and leave.
The blast would often dislodge as much as a ton of coal, which the miner would then load into coal cars. Coal cars weighed around 1500 pounds empty and could be filled with as much as
2500 pounds of coal and rock – over one ton of coal per car. The actual loading of the cars usually finished the daily process, since miners preferred to start a day with a clean work area surrounding the coal face, for maximum production on a shift.
Once a coal car was loaded, it was transported to the surface through a vast network of tracks and tunnels. In some mines, trips were hauled to the surface by mules, in others by electric locomotives or even a counterbalanced steel cable system. Once collected into strings of cars, trips would be pulled from the mine. As the trips were pulled from the mine, they would be hoisted to the tipple, where coal was sorted and weighed. The fruit of the miner’s toil would be recorded, and the coal was conveyed into rail cars for shipment. The cars would then
be sent back into the mine, and the whole laborious process would continue.
In addition to the miners working the coal face, there were numerous other jobs inside the mine. The need to haul coal with mules required mule skinners and tracklayers, as well as rope riders to help guide the trips out of the mine. Inside the mine, men were also employed to maintain the rails, grease machinery, and coal cars, and as trappers and pump men to direct air throughout the mine. At the surface, the mining workforce included hoist operators, blacksmiths and shop workers, carpenters, and those employed for coal sorting, plus the administrative employees and mine management.