May 11, 2013

Return to the Charcoal Trail

My 2009 post showing a collier's hut still gets a surprising number of visitors, so I couldn't resist posing at the hut when we returned to Elizabeth Furnace recently. We took a short hike on one of the trails. I didn't see a sign explaining which trail this was but it goes off to the right from the Pig Iron Trail.

Link, National Forest site: Elizabeth Furnace

Since the trail is an interpretative trail, there are signs telling a story. In this case there's a main character, Paddy the Collier. Paddy's job is making charcoal out of trees that he cuts down.

Paddy builds his own shelters out of wood. He tells us via a sign that "We build these cone-shaped huts while we're coaling this part of the woods. Inside we put a wood stove and a small log bunk. It don't look too grand but it ain't so bad."

My guess is that a real collier's hut was a little larger than the one I saw, or a log bunk and wood stove would not fit inside.

The term "hut" often refers to a temporary structure but not always. A hut is made from local materials. Some Native American structures from olden days would qualify under this definition, as would some cottages.

Back to the interpretative signs, there was one telling how charcoal was made. (Click on it to see a large version.) Apparently the secret to making charcoal from wood is to limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the logs as you "char" them. Large amounts of charcoal were needed for the iron-making furnace nearby, which functioned in the 19th century.


  1. I'd say that's more of a child-sized hut, but still fascinating.

  2. pretty interesting little hut!

  3. What a great hut. I have to agree that the actual huts they used were probably bigger...

  4. Fascinating post! I've never seen one of these before.

  5. Well look at you peeking out of the little hut. Love it!!


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