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Cokedale - TravelStorys

Highway of Legends

Location Trip Time Travel Type
Colorado 2 hours


On one side of the road, you'll soon see a long row of low white structures with arches. These are coke ovens, and we're about to pass the town of Cokedale. Newly mined coal wasn't ready to be used in the factories just yet. It often had to go through another process. They would bake the coal in ovens, heating it up. This wasn't hot enough to burn the coal, but it took away some of the impurities that burned at lower temperatures. After this process, the coal was now called "coke". This coke was ready to be burned in the steel furnaces at incredibly hot temperatures. These white structures you'll pass were coke ovens. On one side of white coke ovens you'll find a pull off, where you can stop for a better look. You'll also notice a big slag heap at the side of the road - evidence of a once active mine. On the other side of this main road from the coke ovens, you'll see a smaller street leading up Burro Canyon, into Cokedale itself. The town is behind the iron sign and the large slag heaps. Cokedale is one of the most intact mining camps around, and a national historic district. If you drive into Cokedale, you'll be able to make short a loop around the town to see its historic mining homes and buildings, and visit the museum. When the company opened a new mine, they would build a town. Miners could rent their homes from the company while there was work to be had. But mines were expected to close one day, when the coal seam was used up. So the worker's communities built around the mines were called camps, not towns, because they were meant to be temporary. And the houses here were built to be movable! Once a mine was no longer producing coal, the company picked up the houses and moved them to the next camp. But when the Cokedale mine closed, the miner's families wanted to stay in their homes. They managed to buy them from the company, and the houses are still here today. The original mining homes are easy to spot: they are very square and have a central, peaked roof. Some owners today have added on porches or extra rooms, but the original structures were meant for a family of five, or even more. Living in mining camps came with an element of insecurity. Miners were allowed to live there only as long as one man from the family worked in the mines. If he died in a mining accident, his widow was given fifty dollars and the encouragement to marry again as quickly as possible, or to put one of her young sons into the mines. Otherwise, the family had to move out.

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