There’s a dynamic in the biennial Bluefield Coal Show that mirrors the status of the coal industry, and is perhaps most telling on the third day of the show. This year, exhibitors started packing up shortly afternoon, while families walked around enjoying the displays in a relaxed atmosphere.
“I’ve already seen what Danny does in the mines,” Ashley Radford of Lashmeet said. “They took me on a tour underground so I would know what he does.”
Ashley’s husband, Danny Radford, who works at the longwall of Cliffs Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County was operating the continuous miner simulator at the Joy Global exhibit. Ashley, Danny and their son, Tyler Lee Radford, all watched as Danny maneuvered the simulator.
“We have the only plow in the United States and one of only two in the world,” Danny Radford said as he slowly guided the simulated Joy continuous miner into a cut of what appeared to be a 5 or 6-foot coal seam. Radford said he had never operated a continuous miner before, but the skill he displayed on the simulator clearly demonstrated that he understood how.
“You’re seeing the future right there,” a coal miner said as he and a friend stood in the crowd watching Radford make his cuts in the coal. “They’ll be running the miners from outside.”
“This simulator allows operators to do realistic training in a less stressful setting than at the mine,” Dave Senter of Joy Global said. “We have had lines of people waiting to try it out for three days now. It gives them a good training session.”
Charles W. Fickter, manager of marketing information of underground mining for Joy Global, said that Joy’s simulators were also a big hit at the MinExpo in Las Vegas, as well as the American Longwall show in Pittsburgh.
“This unit has been like a magnet for people,” he said as 14-year-old Noah Moneyhun of Big Stone Gap, Va., waited for his turn to try his hand at operating the simulator. In the meantime, Joy had a huge 14TM47 continuous miner positioned near the simulator to put a little more realism in the presentation.
“This is the third rebuild for this continuous miner,” Fickter said. “It has moved 7 million tons of coal through it.” He said that the miner is owned by Patriot Coal, and will be heading back into service after the coal show. “It has the second generation proximity detection system installed in it as well as the quiet conveyor system, “to reduce the noise levels coal miners are exposed to,” Fickter said.
The Bluefield Coal Show has a tradition of being a Coal Show for Coal People, and the volunteers of the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary knew they were among friends at the show.
“It’s no surprise that everyone here supports coal miners and the coal industry,” Regina Fairchild, president of the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary said. She said that even the elements cooperated during the three days of the show, running from hot to wet to cool. “People could enjoy all of the fashions we have on display from rain jackets to long-sleeve shirts and sweaters,” Fairchild said.
“None of this would be possible without the work of all the volunteers making it happen,” Fairchild said. “We’ve been blessed to have three great days here.”
Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, was pleased by the way the show has been received. “The responses we have had from vendors and visitors have been outstanding,” he said.
Meachum was the topic of conversation on the bus ride from the National Guard Armory to the Mitchell Stadium parking lot where three Quest USA buses and two contract buses had been hauling visitors and exhibitors along the 3.4 miles to and from the show for three days.
“When we came here and said we would need five buses I thought they were wrong, but after the show opened and people started coming out, I found out they knew what they were talking about,” Richard Marcus, a Quest driver said as he was dead-heading back to Mitchell Stadium to get reunited with his bus that Quest Owner Clark Woods was getting refueled.
“Even the Chamber of Commerce president rode with me this morning,” Marcus said. “All of the comments that we, as drivers, have received have been positive.”
Teresa Barringer, vice chair of the Chamber’s Economic Enhancement Division, said that she and the staff of J&R Manufacturing Inc., had a good show. “We have had a chance to visit with several of our customers and talk about some new applications they are considering,” she said.
George McGonagle, chairman of the Bluefield Chamber Board of Directors said that the storm that passed through the area Thursday evening caused some anxious moments. “Some of the displays needed to be straightened up, and it soaked the sports fields so much that we couldn’t let people park there today,” McGonagle said.
P.T. Spangler celebrated another birthday working with the Coal Show’s electrical crew. He said that he comes back year after year because of the people associated with the show, the volunteers, vendors and his fellow electricians.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 or 30 years, and I have never heard the first cross word spoken between us,” he said. “I think everybody really likes this show.”
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com