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Part 9

In 1935, the Northwest Improvement Company built an off-site coal washer to increase efficiency. The coal washer helped separate smaller pieces of coal from loose soil and other debris from the mine (sometimes known as run of mine). Located between Roslyn and Cle Elum, it received and washed coal from four of the company’s mines, including the No. 9. Larger chunks of coal were still sorted and loaded at the individual mines, with the residual material sent by rail to the wash house.

To the casual observer, the seemingly random distribution of buildings and storage facilities made little apparent sense, but the economic imperative to maximize coal production ensured that everything at the mine was functionally important. Among the most important were those facilities that stored and maintained equipment, as well as administered the daily workings of the mine.

The office and lamp house was an important part of daily life at the mine. The main administrative functions of the mine were located here, including accounting and engineering functions. In addition to housing the mine administration, this building was where miners would clock in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. A portion of the building was known as the lamphouse, where the lamps miners would use in the dark mines were stored and maintained in good working condition.

The powder house was the main storage area for the blasting powder that was used in the mine. 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 dislodge as much as a ton of coal, which the miner would then load into coal cars. The use of black powder made the miner’s job much easier than manually undercutting the wall of coal and knocking it down with wedges.

When a miner undercut a coal face, it was usually necessary to prop the rock up with wooden wedges so that it would not collapse on the miner. Wedges were also used to strengthen and secure timber supports within the mine. A fully functional carpenter shop was responsible for building wedges, as well as a variety of wooden objects used at the mine site.

Next to the shop was a storage room where wedges were stored.

Another working mine shop was a fully functioning industrial service center for the mine. Shopworkers repaired mine equipment on-site, including coal carts, hoists, and other heavy machinery. The shop held a range of equipment, from drill presses and wheels to hoists, saws, and a full array of metalworking tools. By having a fully functioning repair facility at the mine, disruptions to coal production could be minimized.

Over time, the most important amenity at the mine was the wash house. In 1935 the

Northwestern Improvement Company built a wash house for workers at the No. 9 mine. In the wash house, workers would change out of dirty mining clothes, shower, and put on their clean clothes before leaving the mine site. The wash house consisted of three rooms – the dirty room, the shower room, and the cleanroom. A separate boiler room provided how water for the wash house. The boilers were fired by coal from the mine itself. Wash houses were welcomed by the mineworkers, who originally had to return home at the end of the day dirty, tired, and wet. In addition, miners had access to better facilities at the wash house than at their own homes.