Cardiff came and went with coal coking industry |

Cardiff came and went with coal coking industry

Willa Soncarty
Registrar, Frontier Historical Museum

“Cardiff is the town of coke ovens,” reported the Glenwood Springs newspaper, the Avalanche Echo, in May 1893.

Cardiff was founded in 1887 by the Grand River Coal and Coke Company. For nearly two decades the long string of coke ovens, located in the community of Cardiff four miles south of Glenwood Springs, served as an industrial hub for the Roaring Fork Valley.

In December 1887, construction of the Colorado Midland Railroad reached the Cardiff townsite. At the same time, the first 50 of 240 brick coke ovens were under construction. In January 1888, the coke ovens were fired for the first time.

Production of coked coal had begun.

Coking “cooked” impurities from the coal at very high temperatures. The process involved washing and sizing the coal, which had been mined at Sunlight and Spring Gulch, hauling it in a mule-drawn cart across tracks located on top of the ovens, depositing it in the ovens through an opening, and igniting the deposited coal. The resulting end product was a fuel that burned hotter and cleaner, which was necessary for use in the silver smelting process and in making steel.

Because of the success of the coking industry, Cardiff became a thriving community of approximately 150 people. Most of the workers were employed by the railroad or labored at the coke ovens. Neat rows of houses and businesses, and even a post office were constructed. Water for the town was supplied by the Roaring Fork River.

The decline of silver mining in the 1890s signaled a decrease in the demand for coked coal. The coke ovens closed forever in 1915. Slowly the community of Cardiff, created by an industry, faded into history.

“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, located at 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. The museum’s summer hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

Join Cookout at the Coke Ovens Saturday

The fourth annual Cookout at the Coke Ovens begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Coke Ovens site, located south of Glenwood Springs adjacent to the airport. Lunch will be provided to volunteers. Call 945-4448 for details.

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