People from all across the globe visit the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine to learn all about the black rock that fueled the economy and enriched the history of West Virginia.
Tour guide Don Barrett is no stranger to the dark and dusty tunnels running under the Mountain State. A former miner for more than 20 years, he now enjoys taking class trips and guests on a ride through history, as he teaches them all about the back breaking labor miners endured in this former operating drift mine in the late 1800’s.
“There’s a lot of people here who have relatives that worked in the coal mine, and they have no idea what it was like or what they went through,” Barrett said. “People from out of state, they know that West Virginia is a coal state, and a lot of them are impressed when they see what guys had to do to get the coal.”
Barrett makes a few stops on his tour, demonstrating things like how little of light they had to work in, how they hand loaded coal, and even how they would pack their lunch. The learning doesn’t stop when you see the light of day. The grounds feature a coal camp, museum, and gift shop.
“We have the coal camp here and the miners house, ” Barrett added. “It shows the living condition that the miners had to live in since there was no running water or plumbing.”
The Exhibition Coal Mine operates on a seasonal schedule, opening on April 1 and closing November 2.