Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sutton’s Coal Story


Coal Wash Plant Ruins, Sutton
Our last stop just before reaching Palmer was the small village of Sutton.  Sutton is the sight of a large, short-lived Coal Wash Plant built in 1921.  

Historic Photo - Coal Washwery Plant
The Brinkley Co. of Seattle supplied the coal washing and handling machinery.  The Washery removed rock and other undesirable pieces imbedded in the coal that was mined at Chickaloon located 17 miles upriver from Sutton.  
The Washer (left)
A portion of the Chickaloon area was set aside for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet to obtain coal.  Around the same time, the Matanuska Branch of the Pacific Railroad had reached Chickaloon.  A power plant along with dorms, a mess hall, school, stores, and two roadhouses were established at Chickaloon.  Then in 1922, after only 6 months of operation, the Chickaloon facility was suspended; the Navy had turned to the new oil industry to power its ships.  
Historic Chickaloon Bunkhouse (now at Sutton)
People moved away and buildings were dismantled or moved elsewhere.  The Chickaloon Bunkhouse and the Lucas House (officers’ residence) were eventually moved to Sutton; both built in 1917, they are two of the oldest frame buildings in Alaska.  
Lucas House from Chickaloon (now at Sutton)
The Washery at Sutton was completely dismantled and all that remains is the cement foundation.  The preservation society in Sutton is instrumental preserving these historic buildings as well as equipment displayed at the Washery site, including the Eska Dryer and Boilers.  
The Dryer (left)
A motor and shaft at the top of the dryer created the centrifugal force that dried the coal which then was removed through a chute.  The boilers created the steam to power the motors.  
One of several Boilers
When people moved off the mountain, it was time for a post office and a gas station to be built in Sutton.  A dual purpose building was constructed in 1948 with a tiny cubicle allocated for the post office.
Sutton Historic Post Office and Gas Station

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