2022 Mining History Association


Blocton Coke Ovens Tour
Tour Leader, Jack Bergstresser

West Blocton, Alabama
June 26, 2022



The Cahaba Coal Mining Company was founded by Truman H. Aldrich in 1883-1884.  The first coal was shipped from the Cahaba Coal Field in 1884.  Eventually ten mines were opened in the area.  Construction of first 140 bee-hive coke ovens started in 1887.  They supplied the Woodstock Iron Company in Anniston, AL.  Coke had become the preferred fuel for iron and steel furnaces.  It burned hotter, was lighter to transport, had fewer impurities than coal, and produced better steel.


The Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company (TCI) purchased the Cahaba Coal Company in 1892.  The number of ovens was expanded to the 467.  They also supplied furnaces in Oxmore, Bessemer, Birmingham, and Trussville.  By 1900, Blockton had become the largest company town in the Cahaba Coal Field with a population of around 3,600 people.  Six hundred tons of coke were being produced each day.  In 1907, TCI became a division of U. S. Steel (USS).  By 1927, USS had ceased production at Blockton.


In 1985, the end-wall stones at the north end of the abandoned coke ovens were used during the restoration of the Tannehill Ironworks State Historic Park. The town of West Blocton purchased the coke ovens site in 1972 and 1997.  It has been transformed into the Blocton Coke Ovens Park.


(Summary history adapted from park signage.)


(Above) Entrance to the Blocton Coke Ovens Park.


(Right) Two views of the Blocton Coke Ovens in operation.  The ovens were loaded from the top from coal cars pulled by a dinky engine.  The finished coke was quenched and then loaded into rail cars from the front of the overs. (Blockton Park Signage)

Tour Leader, Jack Bergstresser, describes the history and operation of the coke ovens.

The park map shows the trail system and the four batteries of ovens. (Blockton Park Signage)

Ralph, inspects the scale of the end-wall stone abutments at the south end of the batteries of coke ovens.

A dinky engine that once served the coke ovens is on display.

The MHAers follow the accessable boardwalk between two batteries of ovens.

Looking into two of the coke ovens.

The view down the old railroad bed running between the batteries of ovens.  It now forms part of the trail system.

Stairs descend from the boardwalk to the old railroad bed trail below.

The right and left photos show the four batteries containing 467 coke ovens.

The end-wall stones from the north end of the Blockton coke ovens were removed in 1985 and used for restoration work at the Tannehill Ironworks State Historic Park.

Did you notice the small sign next to the West Blocton Coke Ovens Park entrance?  The Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad Site sign signifies that the Blocton area railroads were part of the rail network serving the iron industry. Check out the website, Bham-MRR.com.

Photos courtesy of Silvia Pettem and Mike and Pat Kaas




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