My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017

My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017
By Scott Wright Google

My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017 was a learning experience.  Over the summer we went on an 8 week Northeastern road trip. In each town or city we stopped in we would search things to do. The Lackawanna Coal Mine tour started as just a random search of things to do in Scranton PA but ended up having a profound impact on me. I left with a better understanding of a line of work that is well respected and protected by some and abhorred by others. Either way I left with the opinion that it is a tour that everyone needs to go on.

My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017

 

I knew little about the history of coal mining before visiting the Lackawanna Coal Mine and what I learned was just a drop in the bucket.  I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide to educate me then Tony. Tony was a retired miner who had come up to Scranton from working in the West Virginia coal mines. Funny we visited West Virginia and despite city dwellers preconceived notions is a beautiful state with rich history. Ironically enough I do not remember coal mine tours coming up under things to do in West Virginia. Anyway, back to Tony. I couldn’t tell you how old Tony is. Surprising considering coal mining is rough work even in modern times and not much has changed. This guy “Tony” really made my Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure an incredible experience for everyone on the tour.

My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017

Tony’s father was also a miner. I had a respect for Tony’s restraint as he talked about the history of mining, he did a great job of sticking to the facts without skewing it with a personal or political agenda. I know every generation bitches about the next. How easy they have it, no work ethic, no manners etc. In my mid thirties I already find myself talking like that but I remind myself societies and cultures change and evolve. Change is hard.   I will admit I have an appreciation for hard work but I don’t truly know it. I didn’t grow up rich but I didn’t have to worry about food or shelter. I didn’t have to take just any job because my survival depended on it. I do however have a great respect for the people who do and have. During My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017 (this year) Tony helped me respect it even more.

My Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017

I wish I would have written this earlier so I could remember more but the fact is the men and women who spend there days in the dank and dark tunnels to make our lives more comfortable have hard, dirty and dangerous jobs. Our tour started like all other tours, in a modern above ground building with a gift shop and a little movie room. We went into the “theater” and watched the movie while we waited for our tour time to come around. The movie does cover the basic history of the mine but if you don’t experience it for yourself you are really missing out. Especially if you are lucky enough to have Tony as your tour guide.


Our time came around. It was funny because we were travelling with a friend who was procrastinating about going down into the mine. I had my own reservations about cramming in to a squat caged rail car and going 1/4 mile underground but I was busy comforting  a giant man twice my age cope with claustrophobia, so I somewhat forgot about my own discomfort.  Truthfully the rail car is its own adventure. At least the benches are padded. You climb in as there is just enough room for sitting. The cars are definitely designed to fit the most amount of people. Maybe the strange higher up center benches were designed for children. Children did occupy them on the way down Which would make sense considering there was a time in the not so distant past that children worked in the mines. There is also a bench on the outside of the car for miners to ride on and radio to start the pulley system for the cars to make their descent and ascent in and out of the mine.

The descent into the mine is also an experience in itself. Down and down you go into the damp darkness. You can feel the change in temperature, hear the water dripping, feel the moisture on your skin. The dim and basic lighting is all that separates you from the damp pitch black underground.

We are in the mine now. A retired mine, mind you. I say that because despite newer technology and somewhat higher standards this was a mine, a real mine. A deep dark chasm opened into the Earth decades before I took my cozy ride into it. Despite the fact that it is now full of props it is still the real deal. You are a quarter mile under ground with standing room, well at least in the main tunnel,  hoping that the inspector did a proper job today. That is what every miner has hoped for decades.

Even though it is not an active mine, there are still inspections and safety procedures that need to be followed as if it were still active. Is the air quality safe? Could a tunnel collapse? When a mine is active this is just a couple of concerns. In an active mine, there are people busy inspecting, drilling, collecting detonating explosives. We were lucky to be in a the main tunnel being able to stand on our feet. Chutes go off in all different directions. No standing room, just enough room to lay on your side and push the freed coal down the chute into the main tunnel to be hauled out. Men would and still do spend many hours doing this very thing.

They still basically use dynamite wired in a series to open passages and tunnels and free the coal trapped in the depths of the earth. This is a job of trust. Also a job of loyalty, as I learned from Tony. As it should be. If you have the cojones, no matter your reason, to spend hours underground to make a living, that is the least you deserve.

 

Men, women, children, canaries and donkeys spent and lost their lives in coal mines. Not much has changed except for the donkeys canaries and children no longer work in mines…I think. The  electricity has been upgraded a bit. You are less likely now to get electrocuted by a live wire running through the mine. Blind donkeys are not hauling carts.  Exhausted children with only candles to light their way are no longer employed as trappers. Imagine falling asleep on the job and getting flattened by a blind donkey with a cart full of coal behind it. The donkeys were not in control of the cart they were mostly slowing it down a bit. So literally the cart was controlling the horse or donkey in this scenario. Yes, I say blind because once the donkeys went down they spent their lives in the mine and never saw daylight again but newer technology has taken their place.  Also they have some electronic gizmo that monitors the carbon monoxide instead of a canary. Well, I am just speaking about what I know about the United States. Maybe nothing has changed in third world country mining.  Still it is grueling work.

What really hit me was Tony’s story. Tony’s father died in a mine collapse. On the anniversary of his fathers death he too was trapped in a mine collapse. I wish I remembered the details. What I do remember is how emotional Tony was telling the story. There is a protocol in the event of a mine collapse but despite that Tony’s coworkers risked their lives to save him. Not only did I cry while Tony was telling his story but I am crying now in an effort to convey it to you. I wish I could remember more details but what I do remember is the pride and loyalty that this man conveyed about his experience as a coal miner. I felt it a privilege to hear Tony’s story.

Like me you may be a staunch proponent for protecting the environment and the future. You may also be a firm believer in the importance of keeping good hard working people like Tony carrying on the time honored tradition but don’t just talk out your ass. Experience it for yourself. I may think that coal mining is an outdated, dangerous and hazardous endeavor but I respect the people who have given their lives and time to do it. Its not the future that is the problem. It is not that jobs are lost to the future, it is how we treat the people left in the past. I don’t know what is going to happen in 2017 but what I do know is be kind to our coal miners no matter what you believe. Listen to their stories and family history. Educating yourself about the past is must to move into and appreciate the future. Coal mining may become a thing of the past but it helped shape our present and will shape our future.  Go and take a coal mine tour and leave em’ a big tip. Thank them for a job most of us or too lazy or afraid to get off our ass and do. Thanks for allowing me to share my Lackawanna Coal Mine Adventure 2017 with you today.

Below are some links to several of my other travel adventure pages. I am constantly adding more. This takes time so please sign up to my website RSS or come back often to see more. Thanks for visiting www.Spot77.com
Below are some links to several of my other travel adventure pages. I am constantly adding more. This takes time so please sign up to my website RSS or come back often to see more. Thanks for visiting www.Spot77.com

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