Montour Railroad

Montour Railroad








Working on the Montour

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Railroading 101



Dickson Mine

Here is Bob Ciminel's report on the Dickson Mine 

Dickson Mine
P.O.    Imperial, Allegheny Co., Pa.
Ship    Cliff Mine, M.R.R.
Seam    Pittsburgh 68 in. Thick
Kind of Opening    Drift
Daily Cap.    1500 T
Preparation Equipment    Picking Tables, Loading Booms & Coal Cleaners

Moving eastward on the Montour Railroad, we pass Scott Siding and the B&T railroad scrapyard at Lotus, reaching Cliff Mine Siding at Milepost 6.8 (Trail Milepost 6).  The history of this mine is a bit confusing, but we do know that in its last 31 years of operation it was called Dickson mine.

With the startup of the Montour Railroad in 1878 the mine was called Cliff mine, but by 1881 it was referred to as Beach Cliff mine.  In 1890, it was back to being called Cliff mine, but by 1898 it was the Beechcliff mine.  What we do know is that there was a village called Beechcliff along Enlow Road northwest of Tucker Lane and a place called Cliff Mine at the intersection of Enlow Road and Cliff Mine on the Montour. Because the Pittsburgh coal seam was located below and north of the Steubenville Pike, one of the mine entries was located at Beechcliff and called “Cliff,” while the entry marked “Dickson” was farther west, but at the same elevation and south of where the tracks curved below Cliff Mine Road.  The old tipple and sidings were located where the light industrial complex is west of the trail parking lot.

There was no bony dump near the tracks because the rock, shale and slate were dumped up the hill at the mine entrance in an area now covered with subdivisions and apartments.  Coal was brought down the hill on an inclined plane about 200 feet long. Dickson was a large mine and extended underneath Steubenville Pike to the southwest
and southeast until it reached the boundary line where it abutted Carnegie Coal Company’s Oakdale mine.

When the workings were begun in the late 1800s, the coal was being mined “up dip” and water naturally drained to the north out of the mine and into Montour Run.  After passing beneath Steubenville Pike, the coal seam dipped to the southwest and water collected in the back of the mine, creating what the miners called “swamps.”  Dickson eventually dug a drain at the southern end of the mine and let the water run into one of the streams south of Steubenville Pike.

Opened in 1878 by the Imperial Coal Company, Dickson mine had several different names and operated for about 50 years.  It was the reason that Cliff Mine Siding existed. Thanks to the excellent web site created by Ray Washlaski at, we have some records from Dickson mine.
J.E. Crouch was listed as Superintendent in 1900, followed by F. B. Dunbar in 1904 and W. M. Garrett in 1917. The General Superintendents were W. W. Keefer from 1903 to 1905 and J. M. Armstrong as GS in 1917. Some sad injuries were also reported: Charles Hampson, age 14, lost an arm in a slate fall in 1900 and Clarence Cole, a 17-year-old, fractured an arm in 1916.

The following images provide both current and historical views of Dickson mine. This Google Earth image shows the locations of Cliff Mine and Dickson mine as they exist today

This is an excerpt from a Works Projects Administration map showing the extent of the mine workings as they existed in the 1930s.

This is a photo of the Dickson mine tipple looking toward Imperial.

Below is an aerial view of the Dickson mine taken in the late 1930s.  The bony dump and incline plane are visible at center left, with the tipple near the top of the photo.  The community of Beechcliff is on the right, with Steubenville Pike running from left to right across the bottom.  If you look closely, there is a trestle exiting the hill south of the Pikewhere the mine continued to the southwest. (Two photos courtesy of the Penn Pilot web site).

 This is a close up from the previous photo showing the mine and tipple in better detail

The mine was owned by the Imperial Coal Co. & called Cliff Mine or Beechcliff Mine from its opening in 1879 until 1899. In 1899 the Pittsburgh Coal Company was organized and bought the Imperial Coal Co. & redesignated the mine as Dickson Mine - the tipple was listed as Cliff Mine Station on the Montour. The mine closed about 1930.

Looking now across Montour Run at the far bank - there are several timbers sticking out of the hillside. They are about the right height to be the mine railroad that goes into the top of the tipple.

There are 2 identical structures along the side of the trail where the Dickson Mine tipple was located. They are about 300 feet apart and about 150 feet on either side of where we think the tipple was located. They are:  a 3-sided concrete box with 2 steel H-beams laid across them. The boxes are a U-shaped with thick side walls (18") and a thinner front wall (8") - open on the back side.  The side walls run 12 feet and the front is 8 feet across with about a 5-1/2 foot opening. The beams are thick steel - 10" top and 11" high.  They are 7-1/2 feet long and rest on the side walls of the concrete box.  The beams run parallel to the trail.  ​The beams show places where something was tack-welded to them - and it certainly looks like it was rails.  The right width to be the base of a rail - and the correct spacing between the beams to set the rails to gauge. ​Under the steel beams is a piece of sheet metal that fills the opening of the concrete box.  Perhaps the sheet metal was a curved piece - a little hard to tell in their rusty condition - there are some L-shaped brackets on the edges of one of them. These structures do not look like footers for the tipple and are too far apart for that. I am by no means an expert on steam locomotives - but they remind me of an ash pit.  If so - why would there be 2 of them - 1 on each side of the tipple? They appear to not be on the main line rails - they are off to the side of the trail - so perhaps on one of the loading tracks?? Anyone have any ideas?? -Bryan Seip Probably the scale track for the mine.