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One Tank Trip: No. 9 Mine & Museum

By Karin Mallett, Anchor / Reporter, KMallett@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 17 2011 09:58:41 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 14 2010 05:29:26 AM CDT
LANSFORD, Pa. -

You can wear shorts and a T-shirt, but we guarantee you'll be in a sweater by the end of the hour.

Packed in a coal car, a bumpy ride takes you 1,600 feet into the mountain..

You'll want to hang on as you go underground.

When your eyes adjust to the darkness, you'll start to notice solid rock above and all around you.

It's the No. 9 Coal Mine in Lansford, Carbon County, the oldest continually-operated deep anthracite mine in the world.

Larry is our guide for the walking tour and we learn the mine opened in 1855, was reconstructed in 1931, and closed in 1972.

Thirty years later, it reopened as a tourist attraction.

As Larry explains the history, visitors start to put on what they brought with them..

It's only 52 degrees inside the mine. That's a little chilly.

And that's in the spring, summer, winter, and fall. So year round it's an escape from the heat or even the extreme cold.

That's a heck of a break, said David Kuchta.

We met Kuchta outside the mine, who like most of the museum contacts here, has a deep connection to the industry.

Both grandfathers worked in mines, my father worked in the mine, uncles worked in the mines, said Kuchta.

And even though his family tried to keep him out of mining, he ended up working in this one after retiring from Bethlehem Steel, getting it ready for visitors.

You don't hear the explosions, said Kutcha. You don't see the dust from mining and the noise like that, otherwise, you can actually experience the real McCoy in there.

A cave-in shows the grim reality.

There's no record of what happened, but it led to the construction of an underground hospital, carved out of solid rock.

Mixed in with the age-old stories of a hard-knock life, there's humor, like when the guides pull out their pet rat.

You'll meet Mr. Face, the underground mascot, a natural glob of iron oxide.

And at some point, the lights go out.

I always like it because when you say to the kids "what do you remember?," they remember when the lights go off, said Kutcha. They remember so-called ghosts and rats and bats and all.