Monday, March 07, 2005

Re: CP/SP Coal History

From: "Kevin Bunker"

It's also important to remember that CP was burning coal in furnaces other than locomotive fireboxes...there would be foundry hearths, ferry boats' boilers, stoves galore in coaches, dining car galleys, depots, offices, cabooses...this surely would affect the total report on such a large railroad and industry. Were they also including subsidiaries in that report, or were those separately recorded?  



Blogger M Pasqualetti said...

I wish to know more about the import of coal to California in the "early days"; that is, by ship. Where did it originate? How much did it cost to mine/transport? How was it used? How did it compete with local coal (such as Mt Diablo)?

2/28/2006 7:32 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See other discussion comments about the use of coal.

3/01/2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


For the most part, ships carrying coal to California came from Vancouver Island, the state of Washington, Australia and England. Here are some pertinent newspaper citations (the following are short, paraphrased notes I made, unless surrounded by quotation marks):

December 3, 1874 – The Weekly Visalia Delta (1:6) – reported that several vessels bound from England to California have lately been destroyed by spontaneous combustion of their cargo of coal. "The English coal is better for many manufacturing purposes than any we can get from Australia or Vancouver Island, which are our chief sources of supply for imported coal."

March 8, 1875 – Santa Barbara Free Press – California Pacific Railroad will soon use Coos Bay coal. At present, Mount Diablo coal is used. [the California Pacific was the line from from South Vallejo to Sacramento, later absorbed by the Southern Pacific]

January 10, 1882 – Daily Commercial (Los Angeles) – told of coal from Liverpool.

November 7, 1883 – The Silver State (Winnemucca, Nevada) – ships arriving in San Francisco for wheat carry coal from England, Australia and elsewhere.

April 27, 1888 – Ashland Tidings (Ashland, Oregon) (3:4) – Huntington and Crocker of the Southern Pacific purchased coal lands in British Columbia and Washington Territory [I don't know if this citation was referring to a current event or recalling something that happened years earlier].

September 8, 1886 – San Francisco Chronicle – "At present very little coal is being taken from these mines [the Mount Diablo mines]. This Mount Diablo product is not a true coal, but like all the mineral fuel thus far found in California, is merely a first-class lignite. Being, however, of the bituminous variety, it burns readily, and is much used for making steam, and also for domestic purposes. It would come into very extensive use here, notwithstanding its rather poor quality, if it could be placed on the market at a somewhat less price, which it cannot be, the cost of delivering it in San Francisco having averaged $5 per ton. After the mines have been opened and equipped with plant, the cost of extraction alone has amounted to over $3 per ton. As Australian and Liverpool steam coal, a much better article, is now selling here at the rate of $5.75 per ton, there is, of course, little chance for disposing of the domestic product at a profit. Importation of foreign coal at this port have been heavy of late, keeping prices depressed to an unprecedented extent, coal having never been in such full supply here, nor prices so low as during the past year. The cheapness of both coal and iron at this point has of late years been largely due to the low freights charged on these articles by vessels coming here from foreign ports to load with wheat, and which in the absence of other lading carry them often at mere nominal prices, taking them on sometimes for ballast. With us, therefore, the price of foreign coal has come to depend a good deal on the magnitude of our wheat crop. With our present large yield of this cereal there have been attracted to this port many coal-laden vessels, some of which have brought large cargoes, adding heavily to the excessive stocks already on hand and precluding any chance of advanced prices for some time to come. The wholesale prices for this article ruling at present in San Francisco are about as follows: Domestic, $5.50; Australian and Liverpool, $5.50; Lehigh, $13; Nanaimo, Coos Bay and Seattle, $6; and Wellington, $8 per ton, the above indicating the principal sources whence we obtain our supplies of coal, the annual comsumption of which amounts to about 400,000 tons."

San Pedro was another California port where large imports of coal where handled. For example, the September 25, 1888 Los Angeles Express reported that 13 ships were unloading coal at San Pedro. San Pedro did not have the wheat traffic that San Francisco did; I don't know how this affected coal prices at San Pedro.

As the wheat trade between California and Liverpool diminished in the late 1800s due to new wheat-growing areas coming into production in other parts of the world, the number of ships carrying coal to California at low cost probably diminished also.

—John Sweetser

3/01/2006 11:58 PM  

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