colliery (col·lier·y): A coal mine together with its physical plant and supporting outbuildings and equipment.
In April 1867, the Pittston Railroad and Coal Company acquired more than 6,000 acres of coal lands along the Susquehanna River in and around Nanticoke, in the rich coalfields of the Wyoming Valley in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Only two years later, in 1869, the Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the Pittston Railroad and Coal Company and changed its name to the Susquehanna Coal Company.
The new company’s 6,000 acres of coal lands were on both sides of the Susquehanna River at Nanticoke Dam, where traces of its mining are still visible today. During the next half-century men working in its deep mines and sloping shafts took literally millions of tons of hard black Anthracite coal from beneath the ground.
Then, in 1913, the Pennsylvania Railroad began consolidating and selling its Susquehanna stock and property to the Susquehanna Collieries Company, a subsidiary of the M. A. Hanna Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Within four years, by 1917, the Pennsylvania Railroad had divested itself of all its interests in mining and selling coal.
The plan was that the railroad, with 10,000 miles of Pennsy track, would make its profits carrying the coal. After the sale, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the sole provider of transportation to the Susquehanna Coal Company and its collieries. Before 1900, the Sunbury Division of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad – a Pennsy subsidiary – served the Susquehanna collieries; after 1900, the Delaware and Hudson (the redoubtable D&H), another Pennsy subsidiary, took over. After 1917, the Pennsylvania Railroad began using its own rolling stock on the route, so that, day after day, long coal trains rolled out of the Wyoming Valley, all bearing the Pennsy keystone on its black hopper cars. That business relationship between the companies continued until the end of the Coal Age when the Pennsylvania Railroad was about to merge with the New York Central Railroad and the Susquehanna Coal Company was dissolved around 1967.
The photo galleries below depict the Susquehanna Coal Company’s operations, breakers, equipment, out buildings and life in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, from the mid-teens to the early 1920’s. The photographer of these pictures used the initials J.G.W. and on one of the photos the name “Watkins” appears. There is a record of a James G. Watkins (born 1864) living in Nanticoke during this time period and his occupations are listed as outside laborer and coal company clerk. If anyone knows who J. G. Watkins was or has any information on him, I’d love to know more. I do not have any real information on the photographer or what his relationship to the Susquehanna Coal Company was, but, thanks to his photographs, I am able to share a glimpse of the coal mining industry in the Wyoming Valley from the late teens to the early 1920’s.