Destination Pennsylvania: Lackawanna Coal Mine

Destination PA

No matter how hot it is this summer, you’ll need a light jacket for this next destination. It’s about 50 degrees in the Lackawanna Coal Mine all year long.

“You’ll be loaded into the car, and then you’ll come down what’s called a ‘190 slope,’” said Edmund Neidlinger, Lackawanna Coal Mine Foreman.

A roughly four-minute trip 300 feet underground into the Lackawanna Coal Mine.

“Part of what you’ll be walking through is actually part of the continental mine that was started in 1860,” said Neidlinger, who has been mining since 1975.

He knows how important the industry has been to Pennsylvania.

“Everything revolved around anthracite,” said Neidlinger. “The mining of anthracite – that’s when all the industry developed.”

On the tour, you’re given a day in the life of a miner. “As the miners come in, each miner had a peg behind his name. He’d have to check in as he went by here.”

You learn all about how miners drilled coal, “using the whole hand brace, which was everything was manual,” and the meaning behind the sounds of a blasting battery. 

Miners even used special phones to communicate. “If you wanted the mine foreman, you’d ring once.”

Some of the people who worked underground may shock you. “The young boys used to lead the mules in the mines,” said Neidlinger. “This was back in the early days before child labor laws were in effect.”

It took a team to keep this place running. “This here is the ‘nipper boy,’” said Neidlinger. “His job was to listen to that coal car coming.”

There were even miners who had to crawl around all day on their hands and knees. The danger was clear so safety protocols were in place.

“Miners were always taught if they got buried to try to push their hands until they could feel air and move their fingers.”

Since it’s not an active mine, there’s no worry about falling rock anymore.

“What’s actually supporting the roof is these pillars of coal,” said Neidlinger. “The coal sparkles. That’s where anthracite coal got its name black diamond.”

Things have changed over the years to welcome more than 30,000 visitors each year.

“These walk boards that you’re walking on wouldn’t have been here for the mining time. These were all put in for the tours.”

The end of the tour is always a favorite among kids. “We give everybody what it looks like with no lights at all in an underground mine.”

The historic gem is open April through November.

No one leaves empty-handed. “It’s a miners certificate we give out to every tourist.”

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