Spring Trips 2013 travel blog

The one ton coal wagon

Our guide showing us how the miners worked the coal.

Larry's mother used a wood cook store for many of his childhood...

My grandmother used an iron like this, but I never did.

The superintendent's house.

We went on the coal mine tour and also we toured the real coal mine town where they had moved real buildings from a coal mine and created a small town for tourist to see. The coal mine used to be a working coal mine. The city had purchased it and reworked it for a tour to the public. They loaded us on open cars with seats facing to the walls and pulled it with a real machine they used for that purpose. They had lights all along the way and at one point our guide turned off the lights and let us see what dark was. There was water dripping down the walls and some from the ceiling. Not too bad but you did get a drop every now and again. The one ton wagon in the picture was what the coal miner loaded after he had set off a small charge to blast the seam of coal he was working. Then he could scoop it up with his shovel and load this one ton wagon. For all this dirty back breaking work he was paid a generous sum of 20 cents a one ton load. If he had sons ages 10 to 15, they were allowed to come to work and help him, with no pay because they were getting valuable training in the art of coal mining. Once they were 16 they could be paid employees. So if the miner had a son or two helping him he could earn up to $2.00 a day.

Also the miner had to live in the village provided by the mine in one of the coal miner houses. The rent was deducted from his pay. Also the miner was expected to shop for his and his families needs at the company store. He was paid in scrip (money created by each mine company that could only be used in their store). After the rent and his living expenses was deducted there was not any left. The married miners often rented a bed to single miners for extra money. Oh, I forgot to tell you, they also had to purchase their own warm clothing to wear in the mines and the tools they needed to work with.

The mining companies were not very nice in those days. Our guide said that today's miners were paid from $65 to $100 thousand a year. Quite a good living and much safer than the early mines.

I also learned that there is a certain coal in West Virginia that is not found anywhere else in the world. It is an almost no smoke burning coal. It brings a premium price because of that and is much sought after in many foreign countries because they can use it without alerting their enemies that they are coming. I guess in ships or whatever? I don't think he said what they burned it in.

The guide was a coal miner for 28 years and did a very good job in describing a coal miners life back in the day. It was dangerous and dirty work for very little pay of which most of the time you did not get to keep.

After the tour we checked out the coal miners house, it was usually 3 or 4 rooms with porches. We also saw the church house and the one room schoolhouse. The superintendent's house was quite different. It had 3 stores and was quite nice with all the latest modern conveniences for the time. I forget what they said his pay was but it was off the charts in comparison.

A nice place to visit to learn the history of coal mining.

On to Virginia tomorrow.

I guess that part has not changed much.

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