With construction of the Wayne County Historical Society’s new addition ready to begin, Wednesday, August 9, was the day the “Big Piece of Coal,” which has been on display at the site since the days of the gravity railroad, was moved to a new location in the museum. The Marjorie Smith Gallery (“glass hallway”) will be enlarged during construction, necessitating the coal’s move.
The 13,600-pound block of coal came from the Marvine Mine of the Hudson Coal Co. Mined in 1882 by William Jenkins, it came to Honesdale on the D&H Gravity Railroad on a flat bottom car and was placed outside the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. office. When the D&H building became the Wayne County Historical Society’s museum, the coal remained. It was moved indoors in 1996 to prevent further deterioration. The latest move was carefully planned by WCHS Buildings and Grounds Chair and Project Manager Harry “Skip” Hillier and a team from Grimm Construction. Final preparations were made on Tuesday, August 8, when the large glass rear wall of the Marjorie Smith Gallery and the rear door from the D&H building were removed.
Hillier and the Grimm team arrived early Wednesday morning to begin the all-day move. If the coal fell at any point, it would likely shatter, and it had to be attached to its base securely and with great care even before the forklift began its job. Over the course of the day, forklift operator Mark Kovaleski, assisted by Dave Haggerty, Andrew Burrell and Hillier, removed the coal from the old location, deposited it briefly in the open air, then reattached it to the forklift and moved it gently into the D&H building.
The move into the ultimate location, with a tolerance of less than two inches, required both brains and brawn – the ability to calculate the trajectory of the coal as it slid into place, and strong arms and backs to steer it as it slid along a path of strategically placed two-by-fours. The coal finally dropped into its slot at 3 pm, having started its journey at 30 am. After eight and one-half hours, the coal finally arrived at its permanent location – as part of the D&H “Movin’ Energy” exhibit.