One of the things on my "to do" list, while we are here, was to visit a Pennsylvania coal mine. When Ceekay was visiting she was game to venture underground to see how her own grandfather had once made a living.
There are several nearby mines that give tours but we chose the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train in nearby Ashland, Pennsylvania.
The Pioneer Coal Mine is a horizontal drift mine and its level tunnel runs 1,800 feet straight into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain. We boarded an open mine car pulled by a batter-operated mine motor for our trip into the tunnel.
It got dark very quick! Once inside, we left the car behind as we followed a miner-guide on foot as he explained how the coal was mined.
Inside the mine, the temperature averages 52 degrees so we had donned our jackets.
Our guide pointed out the coal seams and explained how passageways were cut from solid rock to reach the coal.
The miners put in long dangerous days shoveling coal into the ore carts after it was blasted loose.
Men weren't the only ones risking their lives so people could heat their homes.
Back out in the warm sunshine, we boarded the old-time narrow gauge steam locomotive, the Henry Clay.
The train took us around the side of the mountain to show us another kind of mining called strip mining. This is an area where a thick seam of anthracite, known as the Mammoth Vein, outcrops to the surface of the earth. There's not much evidence of it today, but once, monstrous steam shovels ripped out millions of tons of coal from this area.
Our tour guide advised the youngsters in the crowd to seek other lines of employment than mining. I think I have to agree!