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Early Industry Case Studies

Humberstone and Technologies

Humberstone Coal mine 1916; loading coal on Grand Trunk Pacific Railway cars, Edmonton, Alberta. The mine was located between 118th Avenue and the Saskatchewan River in Edmonton's Beverly district. By June 1916, after Humberstone's major operation was opened, its manager, C.G. Skelton boasted that it was one of the most up-to-date in Canada "being equipped with a private electric lighting system, compressed air for machine mining and the latest type of shaker screen." Although perhaps an exaggeration, it was one of the most heavily mechanized mines within the city, producing over 100,000 tonnes from its eight-foot seam during 1917.

In 1918 Humberstone Coal Company published a pamphlet detailing its mechanical mining systems. When it had opened a mine in Clover Bar in 1900, Humberstone expanded its Edmonton plant, installing a major shaker screen. Also, major coal-cutting systems were put in place.

While most of the coal is machine mined, there was still a portion of the mine where it was taken out with an old-fashioned pick. The room and pillar system was employed and the machines cut under 6 feet 6 inches, the width of the room. Two holes were then drilled near the top of the seam at each corner of the room; these were charged with monobel, which is a smokeless explosive. Then the coal was shot down. From there, it was loaded into the cars and horses haul these cars from the rooms to two central points or partings in the mine. These cars were there made into trains by means of haulage engines and wire ropes are quickly brought to the shaft bottom.

A new box car loader was added during the First World War. At the coal face radialax cutters were used, as were punchers, to undercut the seam.

By 1920, Mrs. Humberstone was operating the mine due to her husband's poor health. The company operated a sixty-acre farm, mostly to raise feed for the mine horses. During the 1920s, some 700 tonnes per day were taken during peak seasons. Some was shipped to country points, but most was sold in Edmonton. In 1926, the operation closed. By this date all of the many operations between the High Level Bridge and 92 Street were closed.

Kenneth Tingley. Coal Mining in Alberta: An Introduction to Changes in Coal-Mining Technology in the Plains and Parkland Areas, 1872-1955. n.p.: Reynolds-Alberta Museum. With permission from the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.


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