EXPLORING THE HISTORY OF PA’S COAL FIELDS
AT THE PIONEER TUNNEL COAL MINE
AND STEAM TRAIN IN ASHLAND
By Jim Cheney
Located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, Ashland is one of many communities that once relied on the coal industry. From 1911-1931, the Pioneer Tunnel operated on the outskirts of town on Mahanoy Mountain. Owned by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, the mine was dug straight into the mountain and extended thousands of feet underground.
When the mine was closed in 1931 due to the Great Depression, the equipment was placed inside the mine and the entrance blasted closed. The company hoped to resume mining operations when the economy picked back up. However, the mine would never again be an active coal mine.
In the early 1960s, the borough of Ashland and its citizens were looking for a way to draw visitors to the area, help their economy, and preserve their history. It was from these conversations that plans were made to turn the abandoned Pioneer Tunnel into a tourist attraction.
In the summer of 1962, the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine officially opened for visitors, though work continued on the buildings and trains throughout the next few months. This gave people the chance to tour a real coal mine in Pennsylvania and learn what life was like for those working underground.
Over the last 50+ years, the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train has delighted visitors to this Schuylkill County borough. Located on a small rise above town and adjacent to Higher Ups Park, visitors can take a ride into this old coal mine and ride a steam train along the old rail line.
The coal mine tour takes visitors more than 1,800 feet straight into the mountain. Visitors ride in original mine cars along the track into the mine. These cars used to be the ones that carried coal out of the mine but have been retrofitted to ferry visitors on their journey.
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About Jim Cheney and Uncovering PA:
Jim Cheney’s many experiences as a travel writer and photographer have helped him to understand the needs of fellow travelers. As a result, he made it his goal to provide visitors to Pennsylvania with honest information about the places to see – or not throughout the state. Jim’s website, UncoveringPA.com, provides his personal accounts of the many places he has visited and uncovered throughout Pennsylvania. Follow Jim as he continues his exploration of Pennsylvania. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a frequent traveler in Pennsylvania, UncoveringPA.com is a great resource for information on places to see and explore throughout the state.
Read Jim’s stories about the places he visited in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.