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Lehman No. 179 Slope

Located on Scranton’s west side lies the remnants of the last active deep mine in Scranton. Opened during world war two in the early 1940’s . Lehman mined anthracite continuously till November 1966. To the casual observer or historian that is not familiar with the anthracite areas of Pennsylvania this may seem like nothing out of the ordinary. But when one takes into consideration that anthracite production peaked in the 1920’s and lost 85 % of its market to natural gas and oil by 1960. You can see that Lehman was opened late in the anthracite era, and operated long after larger operations ceased production.

The answer to why it opened so late is the fact that anthracite experienced a brief resurgence thanks to world war two. Nazi submarines were playing havoc with oil shipments from Texas to the east coast. Texas at the time was the Saudi Arabia of oil and natural gas to the United States at that time. The railroads were already overburdened with war shipments, and could not handle oil shipments. Therefore anthracite was the logical choice as a domestic home heating source.

About this time the larger operators were abandoning operations or leasing mines to small and medium operators. Moffat coal company was one such company that was born out of Glen Alden’s lease agreements. Eventually purchasing various lands outright from the larger companies.. In turn Moffat would either run the operation themselves, lease, or outright sell various land which still contained anthracite deposits.

Lehman becoming one such operation Although the slope is know as Lehman, it was actually opened and operated by Henry Shuster, and during its operation was known as Shuster’s 179 slope. Shuster was a very active union member. And on more than one occasion was fired for these activities. Having led a wild cat strike against the Glen Alden coal company in April of 1932. After working the Archabald colliery of Glen Alden, he dove into business for himself. Taking advantage of anthracite’s resurgence.

Although Lehman was an independent operator, one condition of its sale was that all raw or “run of the mine coal”, had to be processed at the nearby newly purchased Taylor breaker, later know as Moffat breaker. ( look for the upcoming story on this breaker) having opened so late in the anthracite era the raw anthracite was transported to the breaker by truck rather than rail or an onsite breaker. The tipple that lied at the top of the slope was where the trucks were loaded. A very simple operation. Trucks would simply back under the tipple, and cars strait out of the mine would be hoisted to the surface and dump the mine run coal into the trucks waiting below. In 1966 the end was near, although 179 had survived the cessation of pumping operations and subsequent flooding of lower lying beds ., because of its location high on the mountain, above the water pool that formed. It still bowed to anthracites replacement by oil and natural gas to heat America’s homes. Lack of demand , higher wages, and new environmental laws made it unprofitable for operators, even as small as Shuster to mine it any longer. Frank Lehman took over operations from April to June 1966. Trying one more time to mine anthracite. Unfortunately it was also unprofitable for him, as it was for Shuster. From its closure in 1966 till late 2006 Lehman sat much as it had been left the day it closed. The hoist house, tipple, and fan house along with the actual mine opening remained as a silent tribute to days gone by. But in 2006 the Pennsylvania turnpike commission decided to build an emergency access road connecting Division Street with the nearby turnpike. The hoist house and tipple were directly in the path of the road. And ultimately met the scrappers torch. The actual slope and fan house survived a little longer than the support structures. Not being reclaimed till the summer of 2007. This closure was due to the fact that the newly constructed access road brought the opening into direct public view. Thereby making it a safety concern. So today all that remains of this operation is two gated openings to the workings below. The openings were gated, rather than sealed because the underground workings are home to large quantities of bats. Lehman was by most standards a very small operation. This can be demonstrated by the 1966 Pennsylvania department of mines report. In its last year it employed 11 people, and produced a little over 7000 tons. It may be interesting to note that Lehman purchased the mine outright. Instead of leasing. Since he purchased the mine outright he sent his production to the Pompey breaker located in Archabald. Rather than the nearby Moffat breaker.

Areas that made Lehman interesting is the fact that a few mine cars were left on jacks, awaiting repairs that never came. The reason for this, is like most mines the closure was only supposed to be temporary. Workers expected to return within a few weeks, or months when prices or demand for anthracite increased. This increase never came. And many of the workers never returned to reclaim there belongings, or finish the work that was left. Lehman also was the last area in Lackawanna county that remained mostly intact. Many sites having anything metal, cut up and destroyed for scrap. So as you have read, Lehman had a short, but unusual history. One of the more interesting finds in the Lackawanna county.

- Tony Wilson

For a continuation of Tony's comprehensive history of this historic slope please visit our friends at IronMiners.com


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