Coal mining has deep roots in West Virginia and today we’re going to explore what mining coal it all about!
In the small town (seems every town in West Virginia is small) of Beckley, is Beckley Coal Mine Expedition!
Here they offer tours of the old Buckley coal mine, given by people who have grown up in the mining industry.
Inside the visitor center is a small museum with tools, artifacts and fossils from the mine.
It’s interesting to see pictures of past coal miners
Some may have enjoyed it more than others…
They even have a coal mining simulator!!
Coal camps are entire towns dedicated to coal mining!
Located around the visitor center are historic buildings taken from various coal camps across West Virginia.
Here’s a typical bachelor pad for a coal miner… if he’s able to afford the lavish decor.
Coal Camps come complete with all the major services you’d expect in a town.
Check out the set of punishments for misbehaving children!
Playing cards gets you 10 lashes!!
While drinking spirits only gets 7… quite a different world back then.
The home we’re in right now…
…is actually the home closest to the bottom of the frame in this picture!
All each of these buildings are photographed, disassembled and repositioned here just as they had been.
Into The Coal Mine!
To start the tour we hop into a passenger car attached to an old mine cart.
Riding through the mine tunnel is a unique experience… and a little claustrophobic feeling!
Our tour guide Don explains life down in the mine.
Checking for gas
A man has to enter the mine each day with a lantern and small flame. Raising the lantern to the ceiling, if the flame grows in size he needs to high-tail it out of there!
Additionally, a canary is kept in a cage as the miner’s little buddy.
Some gases stay low to the ground and setting the canary down will give the miner a sign if gas is present.
If the bird dies… there’s gas.
Of course these practices are no longer used…
It’s interesting to learn older methods for lighting the mine while working.
Today LED battery powered lights provide the light we need, back then it’s the tiniest of flames.
Don tries to light one for us…
The height of this mine is much more now than when they were mining.
Workers have to mine while unable to stand. The 2 ton car below is about the height of this mine, while actively used to mine coal.
Imagine being crouched over 16 hours a day and swinging a pic!
Don does a great job explaining the various tools used throughout the history of mining.
Rods in the ceiling are to prevent the mine from collapsing.
Don explains how those rods get there.
Regulations today state rods, or supports must be in place within 4 feet in any direct of each other.
Lunch is typically in tin buckets, or pails.
With anything other than a metal container, the rats will get the lunch before you do!
There is so much information and we have zero experience with mining coal!
Don’s grandfather and father both made their living mining coal. Before working as a tour guide, Don spent 20 years himself mining coal.
Also included in the admission is the next door Youth Museum and Mountain Homestead.
Clifford The Big Red Dog
I guess we all have a little child in us.
Some more than others 😉
Behind the Youth Museum is the Mountain Homestead.
Similar to the Coal Camp, this homestead is pieced together with actual buildings from West Virginia’s first settlements.
The buildings are interesting to look at, and the people so friendly and knowledgeable.
In the schoolhouse, the guide quickly recognizes that Kali is a teacher!
She lets us take a shot writing with a quill.
Not too shabby!
If anyone happens to travel to West Virginia, Beckleys Coal Mine Expedition is a must see!