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 Post subject: Pioneer Day marks 47 years of mine tunnel tours
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 6:31 am 
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Pioneer Day marks 47 years of mine tunnel tours

BY DUSTIN PANGONIS
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
August 16, 2009



ASHLAND - To escape Saturday's hot, humid August weather, visitors to Pioneer Day simply had to hop in a mine car headed for the depths of Mahanoy Mountain.

"It's about 52 degrees," tour guide Tom Colihan said as he led a group through the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine, which has served as a tourist attraction since 1962.

Higher Up Park hosted the 17th annual Pioneer Day on Saturday. The first celebration marked the 30th anniversary of the mine's re-opening as a tourist attraction, including both mine tours and train rides around the side of the mountain.

"It's just important to educate people on what the coal miners went through in that early industry, how hard they worked," Pioneer Tunnel business manager Kathy Lattis said. "It's just a dying story."

Employees commented on the long lines for the mine tour, which took in a new load of visitors every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

After a group of about 30 people rode a mine car for a few minutes, Colihan walked them through the tunnels of the mine, explaining the tools and methods the miners used, as well as the dangers they faced.

The mine operated from 1911 to 1931 before closing during the Great Depression, Colihan said. It never re-opened because of complaints from Ashland residents - the mine was so close that dynamite blasts shook the foundations of their houses.

"There's over a million tons of coal left in this mountain," Colihan said, then asked a visitor, "Are you looking for a job?"

Although the Pioneer Tunnel was fortunate enough to avoid any fatalities - "that includes tourists," Colihan quipped - there was a constant possibility of danger, and many safety implementations.

Timber supports along the tunnels could do little to prevent hundreds of feet of solid rock from caving in, but they could serve as a warning to miners if they started bending and splintering.

"The old miners had a saying about the timbers: If the timbers start a-talking, you'd better start a-walking," Colihan said.

Colihan also demonstrated a hand-cranked emergency telephone, and described how caged canaries served as alerts for toxic gases.

The tour group included locals as well as visitors from Philadelphia, New York and Oklahoma.

Lattis said Pioneer Day gives locals who may have heard about the mine but never visited - "You never go to visit what's in your own backyard," she said - an excuse to stop by.

"It's of great importance, No. 1, for kids, because of history and heritage of this area, and also their family history," Lattis said. "We get thousands of school children here every year. A lot of them had an ancestor who was a coal miner."

Over the years, Pioneer Day has also added to its initial purpose of celebrating the mine tunnel, and Saturday's festivities also hosted tables for crafts vendors, live music and food.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 4:00 pm 
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Was a good day. I think poor Paul Wagner was extremely hot and bored all day.

~S

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:29 pm 
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Location: Binghamton, NY
Been a coupla years since I've been to Pioneer. There's a million tons left in there? Jebus! Educate me on the methods here, is drill and blast all they can do in that mine and bother the neighbors like the article says, or could they re-open with a CM?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:34 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
naw its all pitch mined. youd have to strip it as its all robbed and caved inside. you would waste more money driving through it and timbering than the coal is worth. its pitch mined, no cm's here....... except me.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:34 pm 
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Rodge. I couldn't remember if it was all pitch mining or if they were mostly tunneling in along the seam and had pitches as well. I remember looking down into that one. Looked like something you wouldn't want to trip into. You ever go down that Chris? Someone has to change the bulbs! Or did they talk Banks into that job.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 5:29 am 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
yea we both did a few times........

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