Saturday, 8 August 2015

Just west of Fernie, BC July 26, 2015

Morrissey Mines is an abandoned coal operation just west of Fernie, BC. This is one of many old coal ventures that litter the Elk Valley.

Named “Morrissey” for James Morrissey, a local pioneer. In existence from about 1902 to 1904. Morrissey Mines is where CNP Coal built their coke ovens. The townsite was not that far away.

A quick internet search provided some history and background. Coke is made by heating coal in huge ovens to expel the volatiles (methane, hydrogen, tar and ammonia). What is left is the fixed carbon. Coke is up to 75.00% lighter than coal, making it less expensive to transport and easier to handle. At the time it was the fuel of choice for smelting ore. 

The coal in Morrissey was initially found to be nearly ash-free. Lots of coke ovens were built. The coal proved difficult to coke. The rock structure was dangerously unstable, and the mines were difficult to work. On August 6, 1903 the No.1 mine had blown-out. No one was killed. Two months later, on October 14, 1903, methane gas suffocated four miners. The coal was showing to be of inconsistent quality. On the November 18, 1904, fourteen miners were killed in a methane gas blowout. The mine was closed after this incident. 

The town of Morrissey had a brief revival as a World War I internment camp.Today there is not much that remains. I had seen the coke overns years ago and I thought I would take a quick detour when I was in Fernie to see if I could find them again. The coke ovens are heavily overgrown. If you did not know to look for them, you might not see them.

The ovens are just on the right, heavily obscured.

There are a couple of these signs posted. The coke ovens are behind this one. Since I was by myself I was not going to get carried away exploring.

No idea where this leads.

You can barely make out the brickwork through the trees.

The opening to a coke oven is just behind this tree.

There must be over one hundred of these.

It had rained heavily just recently. The ground was wet, slick, and muddy in some places. A place I will have to come back to another day.

1 comment:

  1. "A place I will have to come back to another day"

    Time gives perspective on that statement, there are a lot of places I won't be going back to.

    I'm not too old but I am past the cusp where I want to revisit.

    Great Blog, good reading, happy roads.