Uncle Bob's Travels

Places I've hung out in or just neat postcards

Archive for the tag “coke ovens”

Keokee Coke Oven


This is a remnant of one of the 200 coke ovens that once lined the valley behind the extant power building along what is known now as Fire Hall Road in Keokee VA.  A rail spur brought the coal in and took the coke out, bound for steel mills in the north.
If you look carefully, you can see the curve of the right side of the heavy piece of brickwork.  That’s firebrick that lined the inside of the oven.
My friend Mr. Stone (an expert in topo maps, Google Earth and the old coal mines and towns in Southwest Virginia) and I saw these ovens intact maybe five years ago. When we came back some time later to take photos, they were all gone.

Paraphrasing Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”, I was older then, but I’m younger than that now and I always carry a camera with me.

Reference Jewell Ridge

Jewell Smokeless Coke operation

This large coke operation is between Oakwood and Vansant VA in Buchanan County (that’s BUCK-anan County, son).  First time I saw this, I thought of Mordor from”Lord of the Rings”.  It was winter and the heat and steam coming off the numerous coke ovens was much more evident.  As it is, if you look carefully, you can see the heat waves coming out of the first tower.  That’s Dismal Creek flowing down the valley.  It joins Levisa Fork just behind where I’m standing.  Why “Dismal”?  The story is that soldiers camped here during the Civil War declared the area to be “dismal”.
This facility is now owned by SunCoke Energy.

Pine Branch coke ovens

Well, what’s left of the coke ovens, that is.  There are about 60 here now, out of at most 300 in the heyday of this place in Wise County VA.  This was a very busy place between 1920 or so and some time in the mid ’80s.

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