~~ Sinclair Strip Mine! ~~
Peabody's Sinclair Strip Mine Office.
TVA Cooling Towers In Background.
Picture taken in mid sixties.
In the later years of the nineteen
fifties, Peabody and the Tennessee Valley Authority had worked out an agreement. Like the massive equipment that
Peabody Coal Company owns and operates and like the huge generating equipment that TVA operates, this agreement was
enormous. It was probably one of the largest "Coal Purchasing" contracts that had ever been made. It would also
entail Peabody building one of the largest "Shovels" ever build and TVA building the largest power plant in that
time frame. The cost of producing electricity is mind boggling and a very large part of that cost is for the purchase
of coal. The cost of transportation of the coal is a large part of the coal cost. Now, if a power plant was near a
producing coal mine, the total cost of the coal would be decreased. Enter Peabody with the ability to open a new mine
in the Paradise, Kentucky area
In the late nineteen fifties, work was started on the building of the shovel. Bucyrus-Erie Company got the contract
to build the world's largest shovel. It took two years to build and each piece was shipped by rail to the new mine
at Paradise. The mine was to be named Sinclair Strip Mine. Roads had to be built and a special rail line was made.
Special rail cars were made just to haul some of the parts of this big shovel. The assembly of the shove took eleven
months. A construction site existed and once the mine became operational, some of the construction people became
miners. In the mean time, TVA was building the world's largest power plant nearby. In the early nineteen sixties,
the Sinclair Mine became operational as well as the Paradise Steam Plant. For the next twenty-five years, Sinclair
Mines and Paradise Steam Plant were partners in the production of power. In 1986, the mine had removed most of the coal
in the area and shut down. Paradise Steam Plant secured other contracts for a continuous supply of coal and continues
to operate. Most of the construction people that wanted to were able to find jobs with either TVA or Sinclair. When
Sinclair Mine shut down, a lot of the miners retired.
Peabody's 3850 Shovel.
The large "Strippers" of a strip mine
and in some cases, the big "Loaders" are referred to by a number. The Shovel at Sinclair was referred to as the
"3850". Until recently, I have always thought that a "Shovel" or a "Dragline" was unique and no other shovel would
be called by the same number. Guess that I thought that the number was a serial number more so than a model number.
Anyway, the picture of the 3850 below is not the 3850 that was used at Sinclair. The 3850's are all similar, although
not identical. Most people probably could not tell the difference. I have been told that the Sinclair 3850 had a
larger diameter electrical power cord. I am sure there are some other differences, but all are built on the same
type frame. The picture of the 3850 was furnished by Dale Thomas.
A person would think that the "Office Complex" of a company would be the main center of attention. Not with "Strip
Mines". The office is a necessary part of a company. Payroll, operating decisions and plans, personnel, safety,
and etc., are all formed from the office. Shut the office down for a week and the mine continues. Shut the "Stripper",
down for an hour and every miner knows about that and will stop anything that they are doing to see if they can help
get the stripper working. The office may operate twelve hours or so six days a week. The stripper operates
continuously year around. No vacation for that big machine. As stated earlier, the stripper removes the overburden
from a seam of coal. Once the seam is exposed, a "Loader" will dig the coal and load it on a truck. Hence, the term,
Peabody's Loader, loading coal from a Sinclair Mine Pit..
Once a stripper enters a mine area and starts to "Strip" or remove the overburden, that area becomes known as a "Pit"
and when being mined, it is an active pit. The "Loader" operates in the pit to dig the coal and to load it into
massive trucks, where it is transported from the pit to a processing plant or a transfer point. Sinclair Mine was a
"Mine to Plant" operation and the coal trucks would leave the pit with a 100 plus tons of coal and transport it to the
TVA's Paradise Steam Plant. The loaded truck would drive over the plant hopper and dump the coal into massive storage
hoppers and in most cases without stopping. Then it was back to the pit for another load.
Peabody's Coal Truck.
How would you like to fix a flat on one of these trucks? Oh yeah, these tires do go flat and they do wear out.
Better still, how would you like to purchase a set of tires for this coal truck?
Peabody's Vertical Drill.
As with any "Big Production", the main attraction or event will have "Bit Players" that are important to the "Star" of
any production. Without the secondary equipment and operators, the "Big Shovel" would soon cease to dig. The "Dozers"
and the "Cats" move the dirt to build roads, levees, dams and smooth out the "Spoil". They also pull various equipment
in and out of pits. The "Graders" keep the gravel roads smooth and the "Water Truck" will keep them from being dusty.
Electricians keep the lights on as well as to keep the power readily available to the strippers and loaders. The "Drill"
operates in front of the stripper and drills holes either vertically or horizontally and above the coal seam where a
"Shooter" can load a blasting powder into the holes where it can be exploded to loosen up the overburden. Mechanics
of all types, welders, blacksmiths, office personnel, clerks, and surveyors are other vital positions that keep a
mine operating. Operators of conveyor belts and many other operating positions are needed and used in a "Strip Mine".
The list is almost endless and I have probably left out several crafts and pieces of equipment. I apologize if I
left out any craft or position. Feel free to contact me if you see any obvious omission of personnel or if I have
not correctly presented a position or a fact.
Sinclair Mines was furnished power directly from the Paradise Steam Plant. Most, if not all, of the power
produced from a Power Plant is placed directly onto power lines or the "Power Grid". Another unique situation
with the Peabody-TVA contract was that TVA would supply power directly to the Sinclair Mine. TVA had a transformer
bank in the TVA Transformer Yard that was a dedicated transformer to the Sinclair Mine. The power from Paradise was
placed on transmission lines at a voltage of 500,000 Volts or 500 KV. This special and unique "Sinclair" transformer
supplied power to the Sinclair Mine at 69,000 Volts. The mine main transformer was a 7,500 KVA transformer and it
stepped this 69 KV power down to 7,200 volts. The output of this transformer supplied the entire mines with power. One
output supplied the "Hot Houses" with 7.2 KV that fed the pit. Another output of the main transformer fed the mine
power lines. This voltage was 7.2 KV and went to the various garages, shops, offices and other places where electricity
was needed. The power was then stepped down to 4160 volts and finally to 110 Volts when it was used for lighting,
heating and air conditioning. Again, please feel free to correct any and all statements that are not correct.
Thanks in advance.
Power Supply Houses For The Pit.
Portable "Hot Houses".
These portable devices supplied three phase electrical power to the active pit. Voltage from the main transformer
supplied power to the white portable house. The white portable house fed the yellow houses. From the yellow houses,
power cables were run to the active pit to supply power to the stripper, the loader, as well as other equipment. The
supply cable to the stripper was a dedicated line, 1500 foot long, and about as big as a person's thigh. In effect,
the cables were big extension cords. As the stripper moved, it drug the power cable with it. When the stripper moved
away from the "Hot House" and ran out of cable, there was another Yellow house on top of the pit. The stripper was
shut down and the old power cable was switched over to the new cable. This process continued over and over. These
houses were safety devices and they contained equipment to monitor the electricity. Fault protection devices, as
well as current overload and voltage overload relays would interrupt the power if a faulty or dangerous condition
existed. Some earlier power sources to the pit was with 440 Volts. The Sinclair Mine used 6900 volts to power
the pit equipment.
In the prime time of the existence of the 3850 Shovel, records were broken. This mine produced more coal in a period
of time than any other mine. Muhlenberg County was the largest producer of coal in the state of Kentucky, the USA and
probably the world. The 3850 Shovel set records on the amount of overburden that it moved. When the 3850 was first
built, it was the largest piece of equipment that could travel under its' own power. I am convinced that NASA looked
at this shovel when they were thinking about building equipment that could transport the space ships. All of the
coal that was being mined went to Paradise Steam Plant. At the time, it was the largest coal fired power plant in
existence. The two 700 MW Generators were the largest of their type. Plans were made for two more similar units to
be build, but the decision was to build an even bigger generator. A 1150 MW Generator was added later and it was
the largest ever built in that time frame. Records seem to be made to be broken and most of these records have been
surpassed. Men and machines wear out and the 3850 was no exception.
In 1986, Sinclair Mine had been in operation some twenty-five years and had removed most of the coal in the area.
The 3850 Shovel was not through. It had been a "star" and the center of attention for almost three decades and it
had one more job to perform. With fanfare, the news media, a lot of the miners, the company that build the machine
and the company that operated the machine, State and Federal Government and the EPA looking on, the 3850 had one more
big dig to make. It would now be used to dig its' own grave. The 3850 faced the new pit and started to dig. It
settled into its' final resting place and was soon covered with the Kentucky soil and rocks that it had been digging
for a quarter of a century. Goodbye Old Machine.
Thanks for looking.