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Tour-Ed Mine and Museum

Alle-Kiski

Tour-Ed Mine and Museum

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Location Details

PHONE: 724-224-4720
ADDRESS: 748 Bull Creek Rd.
Tarentum, PA 15084
HOURS: Memorial Day through Labor Day: Mon, Wed-Sun: 10am-4pm
COST: Adult $8.00, Children 12 & under $6.50

Description

If the walls and tunnels of the Tour-Ed Mine could talk, they would tell stories that date back more than 150 years. They would remember the miners who came armed with nothing more than candles on their helmets and picks in their hands. They would remember generation after generation of fathers and sons who labored inside the long horizontal shafts. They would remember so we wouldn’t forget.

In a way, the walls and tunnels of this mine do talk. They speak through the voices of retired miners like Larry Kurtik. All we have to do is listen. At 50 years old, Kurtik still works the mines, but now his job involves taking the public on excursions inside the drift mine. As general manager, Kurtik oversees the 13.5 acres that make up the Tour-Ed Mine & Museum (“Tour-Ed” stands for tours and education).

Formerly known as the Avenue Mine, this tract in Tarentum served as a source of raw materials for Allegheny Ludlum Steel. In 1964, the Wood Coal Company took over opera-tions, and for the next six years it supplied coal to local businesses like Tarentum Power and PPG.

Its purpose changed in 1970 when owner Ira Wood decided to use the mine to preserve the culture, the tools — the life — of the men who once worked there. Today, visitors come from nearby school districts or as far away as Japan to experience the mine from the inside out. Riding in trams for the two-hour tour, they can’t help but notice that the ceiling, supported by wooden beams, is just 6 feet tall. Although electric lights illuminate the narrow paths, the darkness is ever present.

Along the way, Kurtik or one of his fellow miners-turned-docents explains the business of mining. They talk about state law, machinery, explosive “shots,” the different kinds of mines and the different kinds of coal. As part of the Pennsylvania Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Stay Out–Stay Alive program, they also make a point of telling kids about the dangers of abandoned mines and quarries. Then they invite their guests to check out the museum.

Chock-full of stuff — figurines, photos, maps, laundry soap and starch, a 1908 Sears & Roebuck catalog, lanterns, lunch pails, blasting caps, a bicycle, a baby carriage — this cabin-like building houses the past. Period settings take center stage in the museum. With mannequins dressed in vintage clothing, these vignettes show a miner’s kitchen (complete with a coal-burning stove, pump, sink, and icebox), a living room, a bedroom, and the neighborhood barber shop.

The Tour-Ed Mine is not out to impress. But if you look beyond the simplicity of the displays and collections, you’ll get a glimpse into the life and times of the region’s coal miners. The times may have changed, but Wood and Kurtik remain committed to the touring and educational components of the mine. These two men are not father and son, but clearly they share the kinship that is mining.

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