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   Pocahontas Exhibition Mine
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Pocahontas Exhibition Mine

If you are visiting Coalwood in person, and you have never been inside a coal mine, we'd like to suggest a visit to the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine in Pocahontas, Virginia.   The mine is just a few minutes drive south from U.S. 52 between Bluefield and Welch.  The Pocahontas Mine is one of the largest in the world covering over 30 square miles underground.  Several tunnels have been preserved as an educational exhibit, and a knowledgeable guide will take you through and explain how coal mining works.  (The part of the mine open to tourists is a drift mine.)


Appears to be open only from April to September:

Hours of the tours vary by day and by season.  Please call
276-945-2134 or 276-945-9522
to verify the current schedule.


Watch Video on the town of Pocahontas on YouTube

August 13, 2007 – DanTraveling’s website and video traveling site announces the release of its latest project. The Video, Visiting Pocahontas Virginia – Coal Town Disaster, is about an entire town in the Southwestern corner of the state of Virginia. Once home to the world famous Pocahontas Fuel Company, it has suffered both loss of population and loss of historic structures over the years. The population of the town and area was about 5,000 at one time, it now stands at 441. “A week before our visit, the town’s most prized possession, the 1883 Company Store, collapsed. The structure was listed on the State’s most endangered Historic sites in 2005 and the town really thought that distinction would bring some much needed help, but it never came and it collapsed under its own weight and neglect,” said Dan McCoig, owner of DanTraveling.com.

The video chronicles the National Historic Registered Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, The Historic District, the 1895 Opera House, and the amazing diversity in the more than 10 churches and the Old Jewish Synagogue in the town. Pocahontas was and still is the first and most architecturally unique of all Virginia coal towns. It also played a major part in fueling the Industrial Revolution in America and Pocahontas Coal was the preferred coal of the United States Navy in WWI and WWII.

The video was produced and is being released with the simple intent of creating as much interest in the town, its people and the preservation of the most unique sites in all of the Southeast as possible.

The video was released on YouTube, Gather.com and DanTraveling.com on August 15, 2007. The website, DanTraveling.com will contain many photos not seen in the video. It will also display contact information, and links .

DanTraveling.com is a personal travel recommendation website that focuses primarily on the Southeast. The site does not accept sponsorships or advertising links. www.dantraveling.com  All Inquiries about the town should contact,

Amy Flick
Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum.
PO Box 128
Pocahontas, VA 24635
Phone 276-945-2134 or 276-945-9522


A hopper of coal is on display outside the mine.


Bituminous Coal

The coal at the Pocahontas mine is bituminous coal.  During World War I, the United States Navy and the Royal (British) Navy, insisted on Pocahontas Coal to fuel their ships. 

The coal from the Coalwood Mine is also bituminous coal and is considered Pocahontas Coal.

Most of the coal extracted from the Pocahontas mine and the Coalwood mine was sent via rail to Norfolk, Virginia, where it was loaded onto ships.

From www.wikipedia.org:

Bituminous coal is a dense coal, usually black, sometimes dark brown, often with well-defined bands of bright and dull material, used primarily as fuel in steam-electric power generation, with substantial quantities also used for heat and power applications in manufacturing and to make coke.

Coke is a solid carbonaceous residue derived from low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. The volatile constituents of the coal (including water, coal-gas and coal-tar) are driven off by baking in an airless oven at temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius so that the fixed carbon and residual ash are fused together.

Since the smoke-producing constituents are driven off during the coking of the coal, coke forms a desirable fuel for stoves and furnaces in which conditions are not suitable for the complete burning of bituminous coal itself. Coke may be burned with little or no smoke under combustion conditions which would result in a large amount of smoke if bituminous coal were the fuel.

Bituminous coal must meet a set of criteria for use as coking coal, determined by particular coal assay techniques. These include moisture content, ash content, sulphur content, volatile content, tar and plasticity.

Coke is used as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore in a blast furnace.


The entrance to the mine.



For those of you who have read Homer Hickam's third book in the Coalwood series Sky of Stone, you may recognize this.  Sitting on the floor of the mine just inside the entrance is a kettle bottom, a petrified tree stump that has worked its way down through the soil over the centuries.  Unfortunately, kettle bottoms sometimes work their way down to the roof of a mine, and then they crash through the ceiling.  Many miners have lost their lives to falling kettle bottoms.



Actual coal-mining equipment from different eras in inside the mine.  Your guide will explain how each piece works.



A loaded hopper car inside the mine.



Here is a kettle bottom in the roof of the mine.  Fortunately, this one has an 8-foot bolt through it holding it up.  Without the bolt, this kettle bottom could fall at any minute, killing anyone underneath.


A bench inside the mine could be used for lunch.  (The rats shown here are fake; there would
have been live rats in the mine when mining was in process.)


The small mountain just across the street from the mine entrance used to be a slate dump in the1950s.  In the picture above, you'll notice that all the trees going up the mountain are a different color from the trees at the very top.  That's how high the slate was piled!  In later years, the government made the mine remove the slate dump and plant new trees. 


The museum is located in this building just to the left of the mine entrance.
This building used to house the power plant and bathhouse.
Inside the building, you can also watch a 15-minute video about the mine.

The museum is full of coal memorabilia.
These are chargers where miners recharged the batteries for their lamps.


A map showing Coalwood and Caretta.





The kind of lunch bucket you saw in October Sky.


A model of a shaft coal mine. 


Notice how much coal was left underground to hold up the roof.


A model of a coal-preparation plant.


The bathhouse where miners showered after their shift.


Outside, you can see an outcropping of coal. 
This is how early settlers first discovered that there was coal here.



From the Pocahontas Mine & Museum Brochure

Designated as a national historic landmark.
Virginia's official coal heritage museum.
First mine in the Pocahontas coalfield.
Opened in 1882.
Spectacular 13 foot tall coal seam.
Produced more than 44 million tons of coal.
Coal produced would fill a train 6,000 miles long.
World famous Pocahontas coal heated homes across America.
Chosen fuel of the American Navy

11 Centre Street
P.O. Box 128
Pocahontas, VA 24635
276-945-2134 or 276-945-9522
Fax: 276-945-9904

The Pocahontas Exhibition Mine is a twenty minute drive from Bluefield, Virginia over Route 102.  In 1938, the "show" mine was opened.  Visitors walk through the mine with a tour guide to view the coal formed 400,000,000 years ago and see the methods of mining used in the 1880s to the present day.  The Exhibition Coal Mine site is part of the original Pocahontas Mine, which was the first mine opened in the world - the renowned Pocahontas Coal Field.

The original mine opened in 1882 and was worked out in 1955.  During the seventy-three years of operation, 44,000,000 tons of coal were mined.  The mine is the only one of its kind.  It is the only exhibition coal mine designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The mine and the adjacent Coal Heritage Museum, Gift Shop and Learning Center, are open April through September.

The town on Pocahontas is a reflection of its mining history.  Immigrants of Hungarian, Welsh, Russian, Polish, German, French, English and Irish decent and more came to work in the coal industry.  This cultural diversity is evident in the Pocahontas Cemetery, Saint Elizabeth's Catholic Church, Opera House and other sites and structures.  Visit the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine and Museum and discover our rich coal mining history.

Night tours of the Exhibition Mine and Museum are available to groups of 12 or more and may be taken with prior arrangements.


Hours of the tours vary by day and by season.  Please call
276-945-2134 or 276-945-9522
to verify the current schedule.


Virginia Coal Heritage Trail