Along the main road opposite the magnificent Restone Inn, a Victorian hotel that I will include in another post for it surely deserves some ink; I saw the honeycomb ovens, and had to investigate. After reading the information plaque, the site made perfect sense since the Crystal River runs alongside.
These “beehive” coke ovens were constructed in the late 1890’s to carbonize or “coke” coal mined in the coal basin for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. A narrow gauge railroad, approximately 12 miles long brought the coal down grades exceeding 4% from the mine to Redstone. Total coal production was 1.1 million tons. The coke made at these ovens was then shipped to Pueblo by way of the standard gauge Crystal River Railroad. CF&1 discontinued coking operations in 1908.
Coke is made when special coals are heated to drive off volatile matter and moisture in the absence of oxygen. Coal was charged into these ovens from the top and after charging the ovens were sealed for 48 hours except for a small amount of air which was admitted to support enough combustion to maintain a cooking temperature. As the finished coke was withdrawn from the ovens it was quenched with water to prevent further combustion.