When people think about the U.S. state of West Virginia, the common things are the mountains and the coal mines. Coal mining is one of the state’s top industries. One of the places you can experience life in the coal mine is at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in the city of Beckley.
You have coal mine tours, and you have the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine Tour.
Some of you are saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I have seen this so many times. You go into the coal mine. They tell you about the coal mining. Then you leave. I have seen this many times.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. As you arrive, you will see something completely different. The first thing you will see is the Rahall Company Store. Well, it is where you buy your tickets for the coal mine tour. It also contains a store, well, the gift shop, and it contains a museum that tells the history of the mine.
So you bought your tickets, but you have a little time before your tour begins. No problem. You can tour the coal camp. No. It is not your summer camp where you sleep in tents or cabins. The camp features an old schoolhouse, the home of the superintendent of the mine, the home of a miner’s family, a home of a bachelor miner, and a church. Each structure is open for touring. You get a glimpse of how the coal miners lived.
Well, it is still not time for the tour to begin. You can walk the grounds. You can take a look at the Number 1, a dinky locomotive that was donated to the mine that is similar to one that was used to move coal cars from the mine to the main line along a spur track. (The spur and main line are now rail trails.) You can take a peek at a statue of a coal miner. You can also see a sign from the Slab Fork Coal Company and some old mine equipment.
Now it is time to do the tour of the mine. You put your hard hat on. You step into the mine car. The tour guide, a former miner, is about to take you into the mine. You enter the mine riding the mine train. You see the top of the mine just over your head. The tour guide points out the different veins of coal. He tells you about life in the coal mine. He tells you the methods of mining and shows the machinery that was used. You ride through the mine, and you exit through the second entrance giving you a little enjoyment of the outdoors before returning to the starting point.
The Beckley Exhibition Mine is a decommissioned mine that is open for public tours. The good thing for those who have trouble walking is that the entire mine tour is done from the mine train and requires no walking or standing. All of the structures in the coal camp are wheelchair accessible. This allows everyone to enjoy the experience of the life of a coal miner without the coal silt or any of the dangers associated with coal mining.
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine is located at 513 Ewart Avenue in Beckley, West Virginia. It is close to Interstates 64 and 77, U.S. Route 19, and West Virginia Routes 3 and 16. (Signs will direct you to the mine.) The mine is open from April to October from 10:00am to 5:00pm, but arrangements can be made for groups 15 or more. Parking is on site. While at the mine, you can visit the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia (open year round) and the Mountain Homestead. You can get more information at https://beckley.org/coal-mine/.
So, you want to know about life as a coal miner. The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine will tell their story.