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Published: August 23rd 2012
In May, 1963, Pioneer Tunnel, which ceased operation in 1931, was retimbered and reopened as a place where visiters could experience a real anthracite coal mine. According to their website: "Pioneer Tunnel . . . runs 1800 feet straight into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain. You make the trip in comfort
, riding in open mine cars pulled by a battery-operated mine motor." I beg to differ. I've had a bunch of medical procedures less painful than this ride. It had no suspension whatsoever. I can't imagine how people manage this ride whose bottoms are less padded than mine. Both going down and coming up --which was worse because the cars went faster on the return trip -- I held my head as tightly as I could so my brain wouldn't knock around too much as I can't afford to lose any more of my brain function.
I read with disbelief that it was one of the top 10 attractions in PA. Then I read the fine print and saw that this was true in 1989. Now we have such wonderful things as cushions and suspension. But it was interesting because of the history.
The next to last photo,
though boring in itself, has an intriging story behind it. This is one of the seven or so remaining homes in Centralia, PA, which is just a few miles from Pioneer Mine.
The borough was situated over a large vein of anthracite coal, a rare and valuable form of coal, which drew many miners to the area. By 1962, more than 1,100 people lived in Centralia, many of whom were coal miners. That year, on Memorial Day, a trash fire was lit in an abandoned mine pit outside of town. The fire traveled down a mine shaft, igniting a vein of coal. The fire spread throughout the coal mines underneath Centralia throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Some efforts were made to extinguish the fire but were unsuccessful.
Some people who lived near the fire reported the smell of coal fumes and emissions of carbon monoxide in their homes. Then in 1982, a 12-year-old was playing in a backyard when a sink hole, estimated to be 150 feet deep, opened up beneath him. The incident brought national attention to Centralia, and in 1983, the Pennsylvania government offered a buy-out for the residents. Most of the borough's residents opted to
move, and today many of them live in nearby communities. The remaining residents have refused all buy-out offers from the state as they believe the state has ulterior motives in forcing them out, such as claiming the mineral rights to the 3,700 acres of coal beneath the borough which they estimate to be worth hundreds of millions. (This blurb was lifted from http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/Centralia-PA-History.htm
) So there they are, those seven or so families, living in this barren, forsaken place thinking they're sitting on a gold mine -- coal mine, rather.
The last photo is Bob's family, all living in the central part of Pennsylvania.
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