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What is a Coal Yard?

Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

A coal yard is a storage facility for the dense rock known as coal, which is used for heating and energy purposes. Coal yards come in two basic types, one being above ground and the other being partially underground. Several industries utilize a coal storage yard, from independent coal sales to power plants. On every yard there are a few common tools, like enclosures, crushers, conveyors and shipping and receiving areas.

A coal yard takes up many acres of land and must be cleared of obstructions like trees in order to properly store and retrieve the material. The oldest and most common type of yard is above ground and simply stacks collections of the rocks in piles that can often be larger than homes. A more modern solution to space constraints and safety concerns is the underground slot coal yard. This method digs out a wedge-shaped piece of land deep underground and lines its walls with cement. Coal is dumped into the opening and often rises above the ground level, but not to the extreme degree of above-ground yards.

Coal is stored in coal yards.
Coal is stored in coal yards.

For centuries, since the advent of coal as a method of powering production lines and industrial turbines, coal has been utilized for its ability to quickly heat up and maintain a constant temperature. The railroad industry was one of the earliest users of the coal yard, because its engines ran on coal for many years. In more modern times, a coal yard is frequently owned and utilized by electrical power plants that burn coal to create electricity. In addition, there are many independent coal yards that cater exclusively to businesses and homes that demand small quantities.

Coal yards can be spread out over many yards.
Coal yards can be spread out over many yards.

No matter what business the coal yard deals with, there are several things that are common sights. Recently, many coal yards have become enclosed by lightweight domes that prevent coal dust from blowing because it is highly flammable. Long conveyor belts are frequently used to send coal from the ground level, like off the back of a delivery truck, to the top of a tall stack of rocks. Industrial crushers are used by many yards to take large chunks and make them into smaller pieces. All yards also use shipping and receiving docks, generally catering to the trucking industry and the railroads, the two main ways of transporting coal.

Discussion Comments


@Markerrag -- A slot coal yard is an improvement, but placing any kind of large coal storage facility anywhere is a problem. They have a reputation for being dirty and people tend to not want them near their businesses.

That results in a lot of those facilities being isolated. It is not hard to get a large tract of land in the middle of nowhere, and that can make the ideal location for a coal storage facility.

The only problem with that plan is that an isolated spot may not be as accessible as people would like, but decent roads will take care of that.


The main advantage of a slot coal yard is that it can be used just about anywhere the zoning allows without resulting in a bunch of complaints.

Ever seen one of those above ground facilities? The piles of coal can get very high and the whole thing is an eyesore even in an industrial area. You can store just as much coal (perhaps even more) with a slot coal yard without messing up the horizon so much.

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    • Coal is stored in coal yards.
      By: Nigel Monckton
      Coal is stored in coal yards.
    • Coal yards can be spread out over many yards.
      By: adam88xx
      Coal yards can be spread out over many yards.