In the late 1920s, the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company began a series of improvements to the company that included the centralization of its 35 big collieries associated breakers. Under the direction of the newly appointed president of the company, Andrew J. Maloney, all of these operations were combined into two large processing plants, the Saint Nicholas, located between Shenandoah and Mahanoy City, and the Locust Summit, near Mount Carmel. At the time, the company employed 1,200 salaried workers and 15,000 day-rate and contract miners.
The Locust Summit Central Breaker was built at a cost of $4,000,0000 and went into operation in March of 1930. The massive railroad storage yard at the plant contained 42 sets of track and a large thaw shed was provided at the site to receive 24 car-loads at a time during the winter months. A pair of electrically operated rotary dumps overturned the largest of railroad cars delivering the raw coal to the two main conveyors, which carried the product to the top of the breaker at a rate of 1600 tons per hour. The internal process of the plant was divided into two wings, and employed several sets of large diameter, Chance Sand Cones for separating the coal from the rock and over 12,000 square feet of shaker decks for sizing. At its height, the breaker produced 15,000 tons per day, and operated three shifts, running the waste generated throughout the day back through he breaker at night to retrieve whatever available coal was left.
The breaker was distinguished as being the largest in the world when it was built. Its only rival was its sister operation, the Saint Nicholas. The declining coal market and the eventual bankruptcy of the P&R brought about the demise of the Locust Summit and in 1955, the breaker closed, laying off 1,700 men. A year later, the company changed its name to Reading Anthracite Company. It changed hands several times over the years, and the current owner renamed it the same name.
The Locust Summit Central Breaker was demolished in the fall and winter of 2002. Lost were the dual-rotary dump house and a early Reading hopper car still sitting in the structure.
Historic photos of the Locust Summit from the Eric Bella and UGM collection.
Steam locomotive CNJ 113, which was used as a switching engine at the breaker, as it sat abandoned. It is now restored back to operating condition in Minersville PA.
Our photos from the late 1990s showing the breaker and rotary dump before and during demolition.
Our photos from the early 2000s after demolition.