A tipple is a structure used at a mine to load the extracted product (e.g., coal, ores) for transport, typically into railroad hopper cars. In the United States, tipples have been frequently associated with coal mines, but they have also been used for hard rock mining.
Basic coal tipples simply loaded coal into railroad cars. Many tipples had simple screening equipment to sort coal pieces by size before loading.:20 Today, a coal mine facility usually includes a coal preparation plant which washes coal of soil and rock, before loading it for transport to market. The term "tipple" may be used interchangeably with coal prep plant.
Tipples were initially used with minecarts, also called tubs or tram cars, or mine cars in the U.S. These were small hopper cars that carried the product on a mine railway out of the mine. When a mine car entered the upper level of the tipple, its contents were dumped through a chute leading to a railroad hopper car positioned on a track running beneath the tipple. At some facilities, each car was tipped over manually—thus the name, "tipple." :4 In higher volume facilities, each car was placed in a machine called a rotary dump, which rotated the car to dump the coal.
In the early 20th century, mine operators began using conveyor belts to load coal and ores into railroad cars, eliminating the use of mine cars. At some mines the conveyor loading facility is still referred to as a "tipple."
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