Pioneer Tunnel is a horizontal drift mine. Its level tunnel runs 1800 feet straight into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain. You make the trip in comfort, riding in open mine cars pulled by a battery-operated mine motor. The tour lasts about 35 minutes.
Deep inside the mine, you will alight from your car and follow your miner-guide as you are given an explanation of how coal is mined. There are storyboards inside the mine depicting the mining operation. Your guide will point out the numerous coal seams and describe various configurations of passageways, some cut from solid rock in order to reach the coal. The tour is educational as well as entertaining.
Travel back through time on an old-time narrow gauge steam locomotive, the Henry Clay. Built in the 1920's, The Henry Clay takes you on a scenic three-quarter mile ride around the side of Mahanoy Mountain to show you another kind of mining called strip mining. You'll learn about the Centralia mine fire as you gaze across the valley to find smoke rising out of the ground. This perpetual underground fire has resisted all attempts to extinguish it, and has necessitated the relocation of many residents. Nearby is a relic "bootleg" coal hole. This and others in the area were dug by men who were willing to defy trespass laws and brave cave-ins to obtain a few bags of coal to sell or heat their homes. The entire tour lasts about 30 minutes.
The surrounding park also includes a large open playground and clean public restrooms for visitors.
Pioneer Tunnel's lunch and snack bar offers a wide variety of lunch and snack foods. Popular menu items include pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and chicken filet sandwiches, chicken fingers, hot wings, shrimp baskets, pierogies, mozzarella sticks and french fries. Tastycakes, ice cream, snack bags, candy and gum are also available for snacking. Beverages include soda, iced tea, milk, fruit drinks, and milkshakes made with homemade ice cream.
The mine is inspected daily by the mine's foreman and periodically by state mine inspectors.
Each year, 40,000 people including students from pre-school through college visit Pioneer Tunnel.
Their gift shop offers fine handcrafted jewelry, books, apparel, coal-related novelties, and displays of interesting mining memorabilia.
Pioneer Tunnel is located in Central Pennsylvania in Ashland, Schuylkill County. Rts. 61 and 54 meet and run together in Ashland.
The temperature inside the mine averages 52 degrees, so a sweater or jacket is recommended.