The Independence Train

The Norfolk and Western Railway Number 1776 on Display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.A.

There was a small camp that was hundreds of miles from the nearest town known as Camp Abuse.  Here, young girls and women were brought here by their parents, their ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, or their ex-friends to be brutally abused.  Their head abuser was a muscular woman named Ella Beathem.  As they arrived at the camp, Ella brutally beat them.  They were stripped of their clothes and were only allowed to wear a shirt and shorts, and they were barefoot.  The grounds were covered in sharp objects that dug into their soles of their feet.  Even when it was brutally cold, they were never given any shoes or coat, nor were they allowed near a fire or heat source to keep them warm.  Many of them froze to death, and their bodies were burned.  Those who survived were beaten and abused.  They had bruises and cuts all over their body, and they were given no medical attention leaving scars on their body.  They were given very little to eat causing some of them to die from starvation.  Their abusers ate heavy meals, and, on occasion, made them watch as they ate.

Every night, Ella whipped them as they were in bed. “If any of you think that you are going to escape me, you better think again.  My dogs can find you in an instant, and I will have the glory to watch my dogs eat you alive, and they will eat you.  Now, go to sleep, and if any one of you makes a sound, I will beat you will my steel rod.”

They were all terrified of her.  She walked out of the room, and she slammed the door hard making an extremely loud noise that echoed through the room.

The women were outside chained to poles.  It was very hot, and the sun was beating down of them sunburning their skin.

“How will we ever escape from here?”  One of them whined.

Ella grabbed a sledgehammer and whacked her mouth hard ten times.  “There is no escape.  You will remain here and be beaten and abused until the very day that you die, and even after you die, I will still beat you and abuse you.”

As the woman was being beaten, a teenaged woman whispered to a few teenagers around her, “There may be a way to escape.”

“How?” a few women asked.

She looked around and then whispered, “There is a railroad line a few miles east of here.  In a few days, the Independence Train will come.  If we can get there, we can board the train and get away from this place.”

“How are we going to get away from here and her?”

She smiled.  “I have a plan.  I am Zana.”

“I am Pamela.”

“I am Jenny.”

“I am Amanda.”

“Nice to meet you.  We will wait until tonight.”  Zana informed them.

It was evening.  Ella beat them and whipped them before leaving the room slamming the door hard causing a loud echo in the room.

“Here’s our chance.”  Zana jumped out of her bed stepping on a sharp blade on the floor causing her to jump around.

“What are we doing?” Jenny asked.

Zana pulled the blade from her foot, and she limped to the door. There was barely enough light to where she was able to see the hinges on the door.  She took the blade and began to unscrew the screws.  After a long while, she unscrewed the first screw.  She slowly was able to unscrew the second.  Then the third.  Then the fourth.  After a long while, she unscrewed all twenty screws.  “Here we go.”

She pulled the door, and it opened.  She peeked outside, and the area was dark.  She saw the guards in the towers with their searchlights.  She pushed the door closed.  “If we are going to escape, this is the time.  We will have to leave slowly.”

“How are we going to get out of the camp?”  Jenny asked.  “The only road is heavily traveled.”

“We can escape behind the trash shack.  Amanda, Pam, and I will go ahead, and we will try to dig under the fence.  When we have a hole big enough, we will come back to get you.  We will escape through the forest.  Hopefully, we can get far enough away before they find that we are gone.”  Zana revealed the plan to everyone.

She peeked outside, and then she, Amanda, and Pam walked outside under the cover of darkness.  They felt their way to the trash shack that a short distance from where they were kept.  They went to the back side where they were out of sight from the searchlights.

“How are we going to dig?”  Amanda whispered.

Zana felt her way around the trash shack.  A great stench was coming through the entrance.  She looked up to see the searchlights focused outside of the camp.  She stepped inside and onto a shovel that caused her ankle to twist.  She lifted the shovel with her foot and grabbed it with her hand.  She limped her way to the others.  She looked around before she started digging.  After a little while, she dug a hole large enough to where they were able to get through.  Pam went back to the others.

“Are we going?”  One of them whispered.

Pam whispered to them.  “Take only what you need.  The searchlights are focused on the area outside.  Once we get under the fence, we will need to be careful.  If we get spotted, we are dinner for her dogs.”

One by one they went to the trash shack.  They pushed themselves through the hole, and they hid themselves outside.  Zana was the last to go through.

“Alright!”  She whispered to everyone.  “We must get away as fast as we can.  When they see that we are gone, they will come for us.”

It was pitch black.  They felt their way feeling the sharp rocks dig into the soles of their feet.

Days later, they arrived at the railroad line.

“What now?”  Jenny asked.

They heard a whistle.

“They train is coming.  All aboard.”  Zana smiled.

They made their way to the train tracks, and they watched as the Independence Train was approaching.  Soldiers were at the doors ready to grab them while other soldiers aimed their guns ready to defend them.  They hear barking.  Zana looked back and saw the dogs charging them with Ella close behind.

“You will not catch that train!”  Ella shouted.

One by one the soldiers grabbed the women and pulled them onto the train while the others shot the dogs.  When Zana was finally on the train, she said to the soldier, “Thank you for saving us.”

“Just doing our job.”  He continued to pull more of the women on the train.  When they were all aboard, the train sped away.

Zana and Jenny sat in their seats as they were exhausted.  The general came to them.  “I am glad that you are safely aboard.  I am General George Washington, the leader of these commandos who safeguard the Independence Train, which is driven by our engineer, Benjamin Franklin.”

“Thank you.”  Zana puffed out.

“Walter Reed, our doctor, will come around to tend to all of your wounds.”  General Washington assured them.

“Not so fast!”  Ella shouted as she climbed onto the train.  “You are my prisoners, and you will never be free.”

“They are not yours.  They are free.”  A soldier spoke back.

“Mister tough guy?  No man can fight me.”  Ella boasted.

The soldier handed Jenny his gun.  “Could you hold this, please?”

Jenny took the gun.  The soldier tightened his fists, and he charged Ella punching her in the face ten times, and he kicked her in her chest five times, and he kicked her in the head four times, and he made one flying kick into her chest, and Ella flew off of the train.

“That was good fighting.”

“Thanks, Tom Jefferson.”  The soldier said.

“Now we know that he is not a man,” Thomas Jefferson said.

“What do you say that?”  Zana was curious.

“Because he whacked that woman off the train.”  Thomas smiled.  “Let me introduce you to Private Charles Norris, a great soldier.”

“Happy to meet you, Private Norris.”  Jenny smiled.

“Happy to see that you are all safe.  Not I must go and finish the checkers game with John Hancock.”  Charles Norris went away.

The train continued on until they arrived at Freedom City.  The women were happy to be independent and free, and they continue that way ever after.

Wishing Everyone a very Happy Independence Day!!!

Mullens, West Virginia

The town of Mullens in the southern region of the U.S. state of West Virginia is not a popular small town to tourists.  It has no great history although the town’s historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The town grew around the coal mining and lumber industry.  What do these industries have in common?  They are both users of the railroad.  A short line railroad was planned, but the Virginian Railway was the first railroad to be built in Mullens where there was a yard and engine terminal near the town.  The Virginian Railway was taken over by the Norfolk and West Railway which is now owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway.

As you visit the town and follow the railroad line along West Virginia Route 54 just north of the town center, you will notice a unique feature.  What is it?  You may have heard of situations of the railroad using natural rock tunnels.  You will find one in Mullens.  It is a short tunnel, but you can see it from the railroad crossings on the north and south side.  (Please observe from a distance, and do not walk on the tracks.)

The town of Mullens, West Virginia is served by West Virginia Route 16 and West Virginia Route 54, and it is south of West Virginia Route 121.  It is only accessible by car.  (There is no airport or Amtrak service.)  It is twenty-four miles southwest of Beckley.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Annandale, Virginia

A Small Creek at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, Virginia

The town of Annandale in the U.S. state of Virginia is a suburb of Washington D.C. that is on the Little River Turnpike, one of America’s oldest toll roads.  (It is now Virginia Route 236.)  Just a little drive from the town center of Annandale in the U.S. state of Virginia nestled in a protected wooded area is the Hidden Oaks Nature Center.  Here you will find an art center, a small zoo where you can see animals native to the region, a picnic area for picnics, a few basketball courts and over a mile of hiking trails through a natural wooded area.  You come here and you will feel like you are in nature in spite of the fact that you are surrounded by urbanization.

Now some of you think of how wonderful it is to have a place like this in a hustling and bustling place like Annandale, but you are wondering what the railroad has to do with this place.

A Path Going Under a Fallen Tree

As mentioned, there are over a mile of nature trails here.  As you walk through the woods, you will notice a long embankment.  As you look at it, you see that it looks like a rail line was once here.  The answer is that a rail line never passed through here… but there almost was.

What you see is the embankment of the proposed Manassas Gap Railroad, a rail line that was supposed to go from Alexandria through Annandale and Fairfax and connect to Manassas and Gainesville.  The embankments were built, but the rail line was abandoned for a more southern route.

Today, the embankments remain as a reminder of what could have been.  Imagine what the area would have looked like if the Manassas Gap Railroad would have passed through.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located off of Hummer Road in Annandale, Virginia.  It is just minutes from I-495.  There is no admission fee, and the walk to see the remnants of what could have been is just a short walk from the visitor center.

So, when you visit the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, think of it as a place when a railroad could have been.

The Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland

The Old Chesapeake Beach Train Station in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, Home of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum

Today, you visit the town of Chesapeake Beach in the U.S. state of Maryland, and you see a town on the west coast of the Chesapeake Bay.  As a suburb of Washington D.C., people come here to do some fine dining with the view of the bay.

That was not always the case.

A Map of the Original Town. The Map is Courtesy of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum

It was the late nineteenth century.  A group of men wanted to build a resort town on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay where the people of Washington D.C. could escape the big city.  The resort featured a beach, a roller coaster, a carousel, a band shell, a casino, and a hotel.  At the time, not as many people owned automobiles so getting people to this resort town would be a problem.  The Washington Metropolis was pretty far away.  How where they going to get the vacationers here?  In 1898, a train station was built just a hundred feet from the beach, and, on June 9, 1900, the Chesapeake Beach Railway was erected.  Passengers boarded at District Line Station in Seat Pleasant, Maryland which was located at the easternmost point of the District of Columbia, and they rode the train making various stops along the way and arriving at the train station in Chesapeake Beach.  Sadly, the railroad died in 1935.  Decades later, the town was no longer a resort town.  The train tracks were taken up in the 1970’s…. but the owners of the Rod and Real Resort and Spa spared the old Chesapeake Beach Railway Station leaving it in its original location making it the only surviving train station from the railway.

Map of the Chesapeake Beach Railway. Map Courtesy of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.

So, the train station was left to rot…  Not exactly.

In 1979, the old train station became the home of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.  Inside, you will see displays of the glory days of Chesapeake Beach, and you will see how the Chesapeake Beach Railway contributed to the success of the town.  There is a model train display that shows the journey between the District Line Station in Seat Pleasant, Maryland through to its arrival in Chesapeake Beach.

The Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum is open on Saturdays from 12:00pm to 4:00pm from April to November.  It is located at 4155 Mears Avenue just off Maryland Route 261.  Parking is free and available in a nearby parking garage.  Admission is also free, but donations are accepted.  The museum is run by volunteers from the Friends of the Chesapeake Beach Railroad Museum.  The train station is on the National Register of Historic Places and is includes with the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.  You can learn more about the museum and the history of the town and railway at https://chesapeakebeachrailwaymuseum.com/.

A Mural of the Chesapeake Beach Railway

When you visit the town of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, you will see a different town that what is was when it began.  It was a town made possible by a railroad.  The railroad is gone, but thanks to the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum and the Rod and Real Restaurant, the ghosts of the railroad still remain.

A Poster for the Chesapeake Beach Railway. Poster Courtesy of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.

The Conneaut Railroad Museum, Conneaut, Ohio

Old Train Station, Conneaut, Ohio

The town of Conneaut in the U.S. state of Ohio is a small town on the shore of Lake Erie in the northeastern most part of the state.  Today, it is just a small town with a small lighthouse on Lake Erie, but it was once the site of a roundhouse for the Nickel Plate Road to service its steam locomotives.  When the era of the roundhouse died, the roundhouse in Conneaut, like many others, was demolished.  The town does have the privilege of having two main lines pass through town with railroad traffic running between Cleveland, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania.  The one thing that does remain is the old train depot.  With its brick and stone, it remains as the symbol of Conneaut’s railroad heritage.  Once a passenger depot for the New York Central System, it now is the home of the Conneaut Railroad Museum.

Located in its original location, the Conneaut tells the story of the railroad in the town.  You see the original ticket office and many models of the trains that once made Conneaut their home plus photos and paintings.  There is a model train display where you can watch trains go around.

On the outside, you have a short train.  You first see Caboose Number 1825 from the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad.  The next car is a hopper Number 76857 also from the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad.  At the head of this train is the Nickel Plate Road Number 755.  Other things on display is maintenance equipment and a New York Central System shanty from the town of Girard.

With all the great things inside and all the great things outside, another great thing is that the trains still pass through town, and the trains still pass by the old Conneaut depot.  While you are looking around, you will need to pause to watch the CSX trains roll by.  Once the last car leaves, you will be able to resume with looking through the museum.

The old Conneaut Depot is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  It is a reminder of the railroad town it once was, and it pays tribute to those who worked on the railroad.  The Conneaut Railroad Museum makes its home in this depot to keep the town’s railroad heritage alive.  The museum is at 363 Depot Street in Conneaut, Ohio.  It is just minutes from Interstate 90 and U.S. Route 20.  It is open from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend from 12:00pm to 5:00pm, and it is run by volunteers.  Admission is free, but donations is gladly accepted to help keep this great piece of history.  Parking is street parking.  (No parking meters.)  The museum does not have its own website, but they do have a Facebook page.  You can go to the Conneaut town website at http://www.conneautohio.gov/visitors/conneaut_railroad_museum.php to learn more about the museum and for contact information.  Along with the railroad museum, you can also visit the Conneaut History Museum located across the tracks from the railroad museum, the World War II History Museum located at 851 Harbor Street, and you can drive to the lake shore to get a great view of Lake Erie and to see the Conneaut Lighthouse.  (The lighthouse is on a sandbar and is not open to the public.)

So, you never had a reason to visit the town of Conneaut, Ohio.  Now you do.  It is a small town with great railroad charm.

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Memorial Trains

Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Memorial Day is that day of the year that is set aside to remember those in the military who lost their lives while fighting in battle.  In the United States of America, it is observed on the last Monday in May.  (The official day is May 30th.)  Although it is becoming more and more a forgotten day, it is a significant day as if these soldiers did not fight the wars, millions of innocent lives would be lost.  These servicemen and women gave their lives so that many can live theirs.

The Norfolk and Western Railway number 1776 at the Virginia Museum of transportation in Roanoke, Virginia

The railroad has been a part of the United States Armed Forces since the American Civil War, and it still plays a role in the military today.  Through the years, the locomotives and the rail cars get old, and the parts get worn, and they too ‘die’ in service to the military.  Although some of the locomotives and rail cars are preserved and end up in museums or city parks, many are scraped and are lost forever only to be remembered in memories, stories, and photographs.

Caboose Number 17965 of the New York Central System in Ypsilanti, Michigan

As you go about on this Memorial Day, never forget what this day stands for.  Remember those who died in battle so that you can enjoy your day.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Number 4500 at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum, Dunkirk, New York

The Dunkirk Lighthouse, Dunkirk, New York

When most people think about the U.S. state of New York, most minds think about ‘The Big Apple’ commonly known as New York City.  A few people may think about Niagara Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in the world.  A few may think about a small town in the Upstate region called Lake Placid, a small town that hosted to Winter Olympics, the same Olympics where the famous ‘Miracle on Ice’ when the United States Men’s Hockey Team defeated the Soviet Union and went on to win the gold medal.  For those who have traveled across the state, it has many great small towns and many great historic sites like the Saratoga National Historical Park that preserves the site of the Battle of Saratoga which was the turning point of the American Revolutionary War and where a Revolutionary Soldier named Benedict Arnold fought and then betrayed his countrymen.  You have the town of Jamestown, which is the birthplace of Lucille Ball, a woman who was the ‘Queen of Comedy’ who had a television show in the 1950’s.  Of the many towns in the state, very few have ever heard of the town of Dunkirk.

Veterans Park

What is special about the town of Dunkirk?  It is a town in the western region of the state on the shore of Lake Erie.  The famous site in the town is a lighthouse.  Built in 1875, the Dunkirk Lighthouse shined the light for ships in the lake and for ships going into the nearby harbor.  Today, it is part of the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum where they pay tribute to those whose served in the nation’s armed forces as well as those who worked the lighthouse and those who worked on the ships in the lake.  If you are in the western part of the state of New York, the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum is a must see.

Lake Ontario

Some of you are saying, “This is nice.  I enjoy lighthouses, and I enjoy places that pay tribute to our veterans.  There is one problem.  This place has nothing to do with the railroad.  Therefore, I will not be visiting this place.”

The Lightkeepers House

Well, you do have a point.  The lighthouse does not have any connection with the railroad.  What is the point of visiting this lighthouse?

The Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum consists of the grounds where you can see memorials to those who fought in the war, the lighthouse, of course, a small museum, and the lightkeepers house.  The lighthouse is built into the house.  You can climb to the top of the lighthouse and get great views of Lake Erie.  Inside the house, you see rooms set in the way the lighthouse keeper and his family lived.  Then you have rooms that display military artifacts from the different branches of the military.  Among those artifacts are model trains.  Yes, model trains.  Well, they are military model train displaying cars that were used by the U.S. military.  Encased in glass, you will see cars that carry tanks, guns, plus boxcars.

The Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum is open from May to October.  It is located at 1 Point Drive N. in Dunkirk, New York.  It is a few miles from the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90), and hour drive southwest of Buffalo, New York, and hour east of Erie, Pennsylvania.  Admission is required to enter the house and lighthouse, and the tours of the lighthouse and house are guided.  The grounds are self-guided and open sunrise to sunset.  Please note that that house and the lighthouse is not wheelchair accessible, and there are many steps to climb.  You can get more information at http://www.dunkirklighthouse.com/index.htm.  The Dunkirk Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now you have a reason to visit the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum.  It is really worth the trip.  Oh, they will leave the light on for you.

The Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, Pocahontas, Virginia

The U.S. state of Virginia is known for many things.  It is in Virginia where you will find the oldest town/city in the thirteen original colonies (Jamestown).  It was the site of the first Thanksgiving (Charles City) predating the more famous one in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  It has produced more U.S. Presidents than any other state, and it is the birthplace and home of the first president, George Washington, and the birthplace and home of the third president and the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.  It is the home of the largest natural harbor in the world and the largest naval base in the world (Norfolk).  It is the home of the world’s largest manmade star (Roanoke).  The first major battle of the American Civil War was fought in this state and is the only site of two major battles of the war (Manassas).  It was where the British surrendered at the end of the American Revolutionary War (Yorktown).  The largest living history museum in the United States of America is here (Colonial Williamsburg).  It has the largest caverns on the east coast of America (Luray) and is home to a currently dormant volcano (near Harrisonburg).  As for the railroad, it is the birthplace of the Norfolk and Western Railway Number 611 (Roanoke), a Class J locomotive and the only surviving locomotive of its kind.  Tragically, it was the site of the worst train wrecks in history, the wreck of the Old 97 (Danville).  The first military railroad in the nation was built here (Manassas to Centreville), and it was the first time the railroad was used for military service (Delaplane to Manassas).

There is so much about the state of Virginia that has shaped the history of the United States of America, but when people think about the state, not many people will think about coal mining.  That normally goes to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but not Virginia.

Welcome to the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine in Pocahontas, Virginia.  It is a place where you can come and see how mining was done.  Before it was the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, it was… a coal mine, an actual working coal mine.  Coal was first mined here in 1882.  What is special about this mine?  It was used by the United States Navy as fuel.  The coal was mined here until the 1950’s, and the mine was closed.

Some of you are saying, “This is nice, but of what I read, this mine, unlike other mines, used carts pulled by mules to move the coal out of the mine instead of a train.  It looks like this mine has no history with the railroad.”

Yes, the coal was taken out of the mine but mule drawn carts, but how did it get out of town?  The railroad, mainly the Norfolk and Western Railway, transported the coal out of the town.  The carts took the coal to the train were it was loaded into coal cars and taken away.

The town of Pocahontas, Virginia is the first coal town in the state.  Today, you can tour the coal mine.  You can walk through the original mine and see the places where the coal was removed, and you can see some of the old equipment.  There is also a museum that is located in the original powerhouse that supplied power to the mine.  The rail line that served the mine is now a rail trail.  Just a short drive away is the town cemetery where some of the miners are buried.  You can tour the town and see where the railroad line went through.

The Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine is located at Shop Hollow Road in Pocahontas, Virginia.  It is open May to October on Saturday and Sunday, 10:00am to 5:00pm.  Parking is on site.  There is an admission fee to enter the mine.  The floor is mainly silt and may be difficult for wheelchairs.  Walking is required, and there are no places to sit.  Sandals and flip flops are not recommended.  You can get more information at https://pocahontasva.org/whats-new/exhibition-coal-mine/ or by calling 276-945-9522 or at pocahontasva@comcast.net.

So, today, you have learned some new about Virginia.  You now know about coal mining in the state and how the railroad played a role.

The Lehigh River Gorge Scenic Railway, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad Number 425 at the old Central Railroad of New Jersey Train Station in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

The town of Jim Thorpe in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is considered to be one of the best small towns in the United States of America.  The town sits in a valley where the Lehigh River flows.  It is also a railroad town with a train station built by the Central Railroad of New Jersey.  There is no regular passenger service to the town, but it is where you will find the Lehigh River Gorge Scenic Railway.

You arrive at the old train station.  You by your ticket.  You wait.  Then, the train comes.  You board the train.  When the time comes, the train leaves the station.

You head north.  You see the rail yard.  Then you pass the junction with the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern, and you cross the river, and you cross the tracks owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway.  You see the rail trail that parallels the tracks, and you wave to the hikers and bikers as you roll by.  You cross the river again, and you see where the railroad once tunneled through the mountain.  You go a little ways and see a waterfall.  You arrive at the end, and you watch as the locomotive goes from one end to the other.  Sadly, this means that you are on you way back to Jim Thorpe.  You look out the window, and you enjoy the scenery along the way.

The Lehigh River Gorge Scenic Railway is a treat for the rail fan and anyone who enjoys beautiful scenery.  The ride is only seventy minutes, and it is an enjoyable seventy minutes.  If you visit the town of Jim Thorpe, it is definitely a must do.

The Lehigh River Gorge Scenic Railway is owned by the Reading, Blue Mountain, and Northern Railroad.  It is located at the old Central Railroad of New Jersey train station in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania at 1 Susquehanna Street (U.S. Route 209).  The railway does not have its own parking, but the town parking is located next to the station.  (Payment required.)  The train is wheelchair accessible.  The ticket office is outside the train depot on the north side next to the boarding area.  You can get more information at https://www.lgsry.com/.

Get out into nature.  Enjoy the scenery.  Ride the Lehigh River Gorge Scenic Railroad.

The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, Beckley, West Virginia

The Old Rahall Company Store, Home of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia

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.

The Home of a Miner’s Family

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.

Inside the Coal Mine

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/.

The Coal Mine Superintendent’s House

So, you want to know about life as a coal miner.  The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine will tell their story.

Dinky Locomotive Number 1