Working the mines

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Aug 24 08:04:50 EDT 2020

You might want to buy a copy of “Coalwood” from the commissary which takes you through the various operator/union negotiations and the benefits derived from them. One of the benefits was work time was measured portal to portal, rather than working time at the section face


Miners never worked 16 hour days, they may have worked 12 hours at some point if only a single shift was working, especially if the work shift was not measured portal to portal. They did work 6 days a week up into the 1930s and during World War II. Coal loader time vs company work time was different as coal loaders were paid by the ton produced, whereas company men were paid by shift work. A coal loader had a designated “place to work” and he might work 16 hours if he chose to or 4 hours or no hours on a given day. The difference between coal loaders (in the pick & shovel days) and company men and the wages for each job were published in “Gary Hollow,” which is still available from Amazon. The coal loader classification went away with unionization.


In the 1940s and 1950s the mines generally worked two or three shifts per day, five days a week. Some mines used the third shift for maintenance or blasting, others it was just a regular work shift as mines were worked in numerous sections.


Strip mines and “dog mines” were worked differently. Dog mines were generally worked by less than 10 workers.


“Billion Dollar Coalfield,” available from the commissary does not go into the mechanics of coal mining, but does go into every coal mine in McDowell County W.Va. from their opening to their closing.


Alex Schust   


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Subject: Working the mines


Just curious as to working in the mines in the Appalachians. Did the mines work multiple shifts or just one shift per day? I'm assuming they probably worked 6 days a week and 16 hour days back in the 1940-50 period. Anyone have any info? I haven't seen it mentioned in the several books I have on railroads and coal mines.




Roger Huber

Deer Creek Locomotive Works

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