FEBT Restoration – Coal Dock

The Rockhill Coal Dock was constructed in the 1910s to replace a previous timber structure. The dock is unusual in that it is built into the side of a hill rather than being freestanding. The dock was serviced by a long ramp track to the south that allowed hoppers full of coal to be spotted in a frame shed atop the structure and dumped into the concrete coal bin inside. A chute in the west wall — later supplemented with two additional chutes — allowed the coal to be loaded into locomotive tenders. Adjacent to the Coal Dock is one of three water columns in the Rockhill Yard for filling the locomotive tenders with water. This water column was erected at the same time as the dock was built. It continued to be used into the early 2000’s, though by that time the valve in its base would no longer seat and the water had to be controlled by a water valve near the shops. Excessive wear on the valve caused frequent failures.

The Coal Dock served until the end of common carrier service and continued to serve through tourist operations. Although it was solidly built, time has taken its toll on the dock. At the beginning of tourist operations two large holes were cut in the rear of the shed atop the dock and the rear grade raised to allow it to be loaded from trucks. The shed deteriorated and finally collapsed in the winter of 1996. After that, rain water entered the coal bin, running though the coal and slowly leeching out sulfuric acid. This greatly accelerated the deterioration of or the steel chutes, wooden doorways and concrete walls. By 2008 the dock was out of use, the chutes badly corroded, the doors had fallen off their rusted tracks and the wood doorway parts were being eaten away.

The Coal Dock project is just beginning. The primary work so far has been for stabilization. The interior of the structure has been cleaned of feet of dirt and coal. In 2009 the old doors were removed and used as patterns for new doors which have been installed. The first stage of a replacement retaining wall to the north of the dock has been installed. The drainage pit for the water column has been excavated to repair drainage in the area. The window sashes have been removed and replicated and await re-installation. In 2010 new foot boards below the chutes were installed and a new roof was installed over the bin. In 2011 a new chute was fabricated and installed to replace the south chute.

A great deal of work remains to be done, including reconstructing the top shed, continued rebuilding of the wing walls, wood work, reconstruction of the other chutes, track work and overhaul of the water column.