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Dorrance Colliery Fan Complex

The Dorrance Colliery was located along the Susquahanna river in the eastern section of Wilkes Barre. This was one of the collieries operated by Lehigh Valley Coal Company from 1880 through 1959. Through the vertical shaft, this operation mined 10 veins of coal under the area. The Dorrance Colliery's fan complex spanned the entire history of the colliery. The oldest fan, a 1883 iron and wood double outlet Gubial, is the last known survivor of this type. In its double outlet, air is drawn up the airshaft and divided by a pointed brick wall where the air was split and entered both sides of the fan. The air then entered the sides of the fan and was pushed to the outside by centrifugal force. Then the air was sent out the expanding exhaust stack. The reason for an expanding exhaust is to slow down the air by giving it more area to travel through. This provided less resistance when the air exited the stack and made it easier to turn. The Gubial has a diameter of 35 feet, which was one of the largest in the coal field. This fan is still attached to its original power plant, a 1883 horizontal slide valve steam engine. One of the main characteristics of Gubial fans is their slow rotation speed. This fan had a speed of 49 revolutions per minute. In addition to this Gubial, the Dorrance fan complex has two other smaller fans. One is a 1908 28 foot Dickson-Gubial fan powered by a Corliss steam engine. The other is a 1930 Duplex Conoidal fan and Corliss steam engine.

It is clear from reading statistics on mine disasters that these fans were needed. Between 1870 and 1950, 76 disasters were from gas explosions. Two of these happened at the Dorrance Colliery. On October 7, 1895 a fire boss leading mining engineers into abandoned workings with open flame lamps set off an explosion that killed seven men. Thirty years later on, August 3, 1925 ten men lost their lives in an explosion. The Dorrance Colliery closed its doors shortly after the river break-through at the Knox river slope. The Knox Mine disaster filled all of the collieries remaining minable workings and ended deep mining in the Wyoming Valley.

We were very impressed with fact that for well over 100 years this complex has remained virtually un touched. There is your standard graffiti and some fallen brick walls, but for being so old it is to be expected. It's also surprising how close it is to civilization and remains in such good condition. This is a very interesting find and think anyone interested in the area should check this out



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