Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train is an attraction in Central Pennsylvania’s coal mine region. The tunnel sits above the town of Ashland, Pennsylvania. It was mined in the early 1900’s for about 20 years. Later, it opened as a tourist attraction, educating future generations about the coal mines.
There are two major activities at the Pioneer Tunnel. The coal mine tour and the steam train ride. When we visited, the steam train was not operational yet for the season, so we will focus on the mine tour.
Coal Mine Tour
You can reserve a specific time for your tour and train ride online or get tickets when you arrive. Since we didn’t know the exact time we would arrive, we decided not to reserve in advance.
The drive to the Pioneer tunnel goes through Ashland and then up the hill to the top of the town. There is a gravel parking lot beside the building, or there is parking along the street in front of the building. Enter through the first door on the right, which is the gift shop. Purchase tickets for the train ride and coal mine tour at the gift shop.
Once it’s time for the tour, they meet on the left side of the building on the red benches. The benches are under a roof, so it’s nice to be out of the sun or rain. Then, when they announce the tour, you’ll board the coal mine train to enter the mine.
The ride into the mine takes a few minutes and is very bumpy! I put my arm around my 4 year old, but she seemed fine. The ride is not in total darkness, as there are some lights at the top of the tunnel.
After the bumpy ride, you’ll come to a spot where you can see the main coal vein. The train will then park a bit further up, so you can get out and walk around. You can explore the coal mine as your tour guide talks about the mine and the history of coal mining in the region.
Be sure to look at the ladder that leads to the top of the mine (at this point you’re very far underground). The guide talks for about 20 minutes. At one point will show you how dark it can be in the mine. They turn off the lights for about 20 seconds, so you may want to prepare small children.
After the tour, you’ll get back on the train and head back outside of the mine. The entire tour takes about an hour. You can bring your own food for a picnic or purchase food from their Jelly Bucket Cafe (open seasonally, check their website for hours).
Tips for Visiting Pioneer Tunnel
- It’s a great rainy day activity. The coal mine tour is not affected by the rain. There’s a covered area to wait for the tour, and then it enters the coal mine. The steam train will run in the rain and the cars are covered. The only issue may be a stoppage for a thunderstorm.
- The mine is a bit chilly. It feels great in the heat of the summer, but you may want to bring sweatshirts.
- Make reservations on their website before visiting.
- Bring a picnic lunch and spend some time at the community park across the road from the Pioneer Tunnel. There’s plenty of cool, old school playground equipment mixed with new play structures. Of course, there’s a large wooden train play set, too.
- Pioneer Tunnel is located close to Knoebel’s Amusement Resort, so it’s a great add-on to your Knoebels vacation. Find more reasons to visit Knoebels here.