Ashley / Huber Breaker (Blue Coal)
Located in Ashley, PA
Photo © 2005 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Ashley / Huber Breaker (Blue Coal) History
The site on which the enormous breaker sits on in Ashley PA, was once the location of another gargantuan coal breaker called the "Maxwell #20." It was a wooden structure built by the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, and was named after the company's president at the time, Roger Maxwell; the foundation was laid in 1892 and opened in 1895. The Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company merged with and took the name of The Glen Alden Company sometime in 1920, forming one of the largest coal operations in the area.
In 1938, a new breaker was constructed to meet the demands of the bustling Anthracite coal industry in Northern Pennsylvania; it was named "Huber #20" after Glen Alden's chairman, Charles F. Huber. This 1938 photo shows the Huber Breaker being built behind the old Maxwell breaker in the foreground. The breaker was built with some unique features, such as extensive window glass to utilize the most daylight possible, as well as tar coated sheet metal to reduce rust damage. It was able to prepare 7,000 tons of coal daily, and was one of the first plants to be able to separate different coal sizes using six Menzies Cone Separators. The company experimented with dyeing the coal a blue color - not for a scientific purpose but as an identifier, however it was marketed and advertised as a major selling point called "Blue Coal."
This entire location was a colliery; the anthracite coal was mined on-site, processed, then loaded onto trains for distribution. The process of "breaking" coal is actually like a giant sifter - the coal is brought to the top of the breaker and dropped through screens with holes of various sizes and other machinery, letting the smaller pieces fall to the bottom.
The facility was abandoned in 1976 as the demand for the mining industry in the region declined, and the area has been left exposed to scrappers and vandals since. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society was formed in 2001 and hopes to re-use the property as a historical site and park.
2014 update: the entire site appears to have been razed.