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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.