Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine Is One Of The More Unusual Of The West Virginia Attractions In The New River Gorge
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine is located at New River Park in the town of Beckley in Raleigh County, West Virginia. It was originally known as the Phillips-Sprague mine and it opened in 1889 on the site of what had previously been a drift mine. The first commercial development of the mine wasn`t until 1905 and the first load of coal left on January 4th 1906.See this map of The New River Gorge to locate Beckley
Coal mining in the New River Gorge was widespread with over sixty coal camps to be found on the coalfield.
The coal that was produced was of a particularly high quality and helped to drive the industry of America at the end of the 19th century and through into the 20th century.
The coal that was mined in the gorge was taken from the area by the mainline of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway which ran along the bottom of the New River Gorge beside the river.
It was while building the Big Bend rail tunnel near the town of Talcott that the John Henry Legend was born.
Many spur lines branched off from the mainline to go to what were then important coal mining towns such as Raleigh, Thurmond and Quinnimont.
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine continued to produce coal until 1953 when it was closed down and the property was sold to the City of Beckley.
After several years of planning the site re-opened and became a centre dedicated to educating visitors about coal mining in West Virginia and the New River Gorge in particular.
There is a visitor centre, coal museum, a 14,000 square foot company store and a gift shop. But the main attraction is a tour underground into the old mine itself. You are able to go 1,500 feet below the surface riding in authentic cars that would have taken the miners to the coal face.
When you travel through the New River Gorge area there are a number of places where you can see the derelict equipment associated with the mining industry.
One such place is Kay Moor. Although the site is overgrown and partly obscured with foliage it is still considered to be one of the most complete examples of an integrated coal mine and company town in West Virginia.
Part Of The Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Another example is almost directly opposite Kay Moor and that is the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex which is actually on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
This old town was built around the railway line at the bottom of the gorge and had a mass of coke ovens and mining structures. Most have since been salvaged for building materials but there is still plenty to see.