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The City of Pittsburgh (Harper's Magazine, December, 1880) - Page 55

in thirty-six hours, can hardly be fittingly described. The small, old-fashioned locks of the Monongahela dams are gateways utterly inadequate to the task of passing the fleets of barges and steamers and flats and boats that await their turn. Crews, and boats, and big ropes, and rolling smoke, and puffing steam, and shouting men, are features in a scene only to be witnessed, even in Pittsburgh, when there comes a sudden rise after a long season of low water. But at last the rearmost craft gets through, and joints the emancipated throng of boas that are slowly steaming down the winding Ohio.
At the Lock
Each boat has charge of her "tow," the latter consisting of from five to twenty-five big square boats, holding in all from 50,000 to 600,000 bushels of solid carbon.
This coal is mined along the Monongahela Valley and up the valley of jaw-racking Youghiogheny. The coal seams lie in most cases far above the level of the river, and in the older pits the coal has been removed for a distance of three miles from the water's edge. The mouths of these ink-black tunnels show far up the green-walled hill-sides. From these inky spots issue noisy cars that rush down the "incline," bang against the "tipple," and discharge their contents over sloping "screens" into the waiting boat or barge below. And back and forth in these gloomy pits stalk the forlornest of mules, solemn visaged, and wearing a bandage over one eye in a way suggestive of some subterranean difference of opinion. This bandaging is done for the good of the beast, which, unbandaged,
will "shy" over to one side and bang his anatomy against the wall, but the drapery does not add to his beauty in the least.
For half a century this undermining of these everlasting hills has been going on, until they rest their strata upon posts or upon thousands of columns of coal in the abandoned mines beneath. An acre of coal, be it understood, means 120,000 bushels of the merchantable article stored in a "seam" four feet eight inches thick. A single tow-boat will take to New Orleans, 2000 miles away, the output of five acres of coal, at a cost for transportation of four cents per bushel. While this work is going on along the rivers mentioned, coal is leaving the Pittsburgh fields by rail at the rate of 180,000,000 bushels per year, and the supply is practically inexhaustible.
From coal it is but a short step to coal's brighter and purer first cousin, coke.