Buck Slope - Main Haulage

Abandoned

The Cameron/Glen Burn Colliery, Shamokin, Pa.

The Glen Burn mine, also known as the Cameron Colliery, was an anthracite (hard) coal mine located in Shamokin Pennsylvania. Most or all of the buildings have been torn down and although the mine shafts still exist, they are no longer accessible from their primary entrances. Although i am getting older and less willing to take risks, the Glen Burn is the one mine that keeps calling me back. I would love to explorer it once more, this time with an emphasis on photography.

I believe the Glen Burn was either the largest or second largest deep coal mine in the U.S., having had many levels and tunnels of which we explored two (only one is pictured here). Though i don’t recall for certain, i believe this would have been the the west drift, the entrance of which was gated and located right next to route 61 just north of the Cameron bridge. This tunnel ran under routes 61 and 125, the latter of which is the road from Shamokin to Trevorton, and split into two, one leg of which made its way under Shamokin/Coal Township while the other made its way toward the town of Trevorton, six miles away.

The Glen Burn culm bank, which is the largest man-made mountain in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, stretches about 1.5 miles in length along the north edge of Shamokin. This enormous pile of rock and coal fines is the result of the material that was removed to create the mine tunnels. More recently the bank was in the process of being reclaimed for burning in coal powered electric generating plants, though i do not know if this is still the case.

We ventured primarily along the first mile and a half of the main haulage level going toward Trevorton during our exploration. Main haulage is the level from which all other levels propagate and through which the rock and coal were transported out of the mine. To my knowledge, main haulage runs the full six miles from Shamokin to Trevorton and is nearly perfectly level, sloping imperceptibly toward the entrance to facilitate water drainage. The tunnel is very easily traveled and quite stable since it was bored through solid rock, the only obstacles being large piles of fine coal which trickled down the many chutes onto the floor of the main haulage tunnel. Only when we ventured off of this level into some of the smaller side passages did we experience unstable areas.

While the stories seem to conflict, even among those that worked at the Glen Burn, as to the total number of levels, there are certainly several levels below main haulage on the Shamokin side and several above on the Trevorton side. The lower levels are flooded almost up to the main haulage level. It is difficult to describe the very eerie feeling i had being underground and looking into the utter blackness of the water which consumed the lower levels.

I was told by someone who worked at the Glen Burn after it was briefly reopened on a small scale in the late 1980’s or 1990’s, that there are rooms which were kept hidden from the mining inspectors, one of which was described as being so large you could turn a tractor-trailer around in it without backing up.

Some of the more interesting features we discovered were several sticks of dynamite in a plastic bag, obviously from when the mine was reopened briefly, and large piles of empty water cans, toilet paper, medicine to treat diarrhea and tins of crackers which were being consumed by rodents. The Glen Burn mine was apparently a designated fallout shelter during the cold war and we had discovered a cache of supplies, though this was the only evidence of a fallout shelter we were able to find. I was also told that a rather large dinosaur fossil was found in one of the now flooded lower levels and that Penn State University was involved in the study and preservation of it.

We explored the west drift of the mine several times in 1997. During our last trip, which was probably in 97 or 98, we were disappointed to discover that the tunnel under routes 61 and 125 had collapsed. Though there appeared to be a very small opening through the debris, entering it would have been extremely dangerous. There are likely many other entrances to the Glen Burn mine, though i cannot provide any details as we did not explorer them.

Following are some statistics for the Cameron Colliery/Glen Burn mine:

  • Shamokin’s Lower Gap mining began in 1836 with the first colliery built in 1857
  • Renamed to Cameron Colliery in 1864
  • Renamed to Glen Burn Colliery in 1940
  • Destroyed by fire in 1888, rebuilt in 1890
  • The mine was operated almost continuously for 134 years from 1836-7 to 1970
  • The largest number of people employed was 1,420 in 1899
  • Peak annual production was 627,158 tons in 1942
  • A total of 33,353,000 tons of coal was mined
  • There were 217 fatalities
  • The unusable rock and coal fines created the worlds largest man-made mountain
  • Major mining operations ended in 1970, though it would be briefly reopened on a small scale after this time
  • The buildings were demolished in 2000
  • Owners included the Susquehanna Coal Company and Kerris and Helfrick

 

The Buck Slope Coal Mine

Another deep anthracite coal mine not far from the Glen Burn is the Buck Slope mine, located near Upper Excelsior, Pennsylvania. Apparently, like many small coal towns of the day, Excelsior used to be a rather hopping place, complete with a movie theater and prostitutes, one of which apparently used to walk along the road to attract clients. Today Upper Excelsior is virtually abandoned.

The Buck Slope mine is one of the more unstable mines i had the pleasure to explore and i highly doubt it would still be accessible today. It had some interesting features however which i didn’t expect to find in a coal mine, such as near white rock in one area. It also had a stream running in it which was navigable with an inflatable boat apparently (don’t ask).

 

Saint Nicholas Coal Breaker, Mahanoy City, Pa.

The Saint Nickolas coal breaker, known simply as the St. Nick, was used for processing anthracite coal which was mined in the region. It was an outstanding place to explore and quite popular among urban explorers until recently as it is in the process of being demolished.

37 thoughts on “Abandoned

  1. Lived in Shamokin 1930 birth till 1942, moved to Balto. Md. WAR. Now living Hanover PA. Any info about Shamokin and or mines would be appreciated.

    Hate to stop at this point but don’t want to blow your invite to me.

    Lived at 13 N Anthracite St. Shamokin Pa.

    Dave

    1. Hi Dave – i removed your ph. # to protect your privacy – wasn’t sure if you wanted that to be public.

      I no longer live in Shamokin, but we did do quite a bit of exploring in the area. There are many abandonment’s in the area and many of them are mines. I would like to get back into the Glen Burn, and i did make an inquiry about that recently, but it doesn’t look good. I know the entrance we used is collapsed.

      What kind of information are you looking for?

      1. Good luck, I basically live on those mountains and the one entrance at about the middle of the mountain, behind an old building is collapsed about 20 feet back. I cannot find any entrances to any mines around here, if there are even any left. If so let me know.

        1. Hi Jason

          That whole area is so littered with mines you have to watch where you step when you’re hiking around :)

          While many have been blocked or have collapsed or are flooded, i’m sure many are still accessible. Living to tell about your experience is another story. Finding them shouldn’t be too difficult, though i only remember the locations of about 3 that we entered (one was the Burn). Ask around and i’m sure you’ll turn up results.

  2. Nice pictures. I can’t help you with any information about the middle or southern coal fields having grown up in the Wyoming Valley. I can give you some information about anthracite mines in Plains Twp. I explored a few as recently as April 2013. Safety gear (hard hats, oxygen detector…) are a must. I found many openings that my friends and I would not go in due to unstable top rock.

  3. The Glen Burn Main entrance is blocked with two cave in’s, the first you can get around but the second as far as I could see was a total cave in. Now on top of the mountain on the Rt 125 side where the tunnels extend to is a vent house and that is open but of course very deadly going into a mine in this manor. Also on the shamokin side of the mountain where the giant coal pile is and where the collier was is a very old Mine extrence to this mine in its very early 19th century days, it is filled in but can be entered with some hard work. Also above this is a bootleg mine opening also horribly unsafe for it uses tiny supports of which most are Not touching the roof anymore but if your crazy then this is for sure a way into the oldest part of this mine. Just please be so careful for this mines are deadly to enter after well over 160 years of use, flooding and what have you. My years of being underground are over and for good reason, anyone want to know just ask me why. Take care. David

    1. Hi Dave,
      Great pictures, especially the dynamite. Thank you for sharing. I used to live in Girardville and Centralia; moved south back in ’79. I roamed all around the hills of Girardville, Big Mine Run, Centralia and Mt Carmel when I was a kid but never ventured underground. Glad I’m not living there as an adult, because I’d probably be tempted to explore.

      Jerry

    2. I am curious Dave, I just found this website, I live on Bunker Hill in Shamokin and have explored the Glen Burn numerous times. I know of the entrance in the middle odf the mtn, where some of the old buildings still sit today, right behind one of those buildings it has beams pressed against the roof on an angle, but it collapsed not too far in. It looks like an old dam right over from it, possibly where they washed the coal. No wwhere is this entrance to the old vent house by 125. I want to see this for myself. Last one I went down was up behind the ballfields, you can still acces this one just off from the ple line road, it actually burns on that side of the road now, and it smelled down in that hole years ago, not safe. Where is the old mine entrance on the Shamokin side you are talking about, or is that the one I spoke of that has those beams? I am looking for a good hole to climb down, but the only holes I find are air vents that drop very deep and sudden, you would need to rappel down, something I do not know, give me some ideas cause timwe is running out on almost all the mines around here anymore.

      1. Dont know if your still reading these post but I have not been on these since I posted my last post years ago. There are two tunnels on the Old Shamokin side. the one you mentioned which has the beams and the one right below the beamed tunnel. Also there is a Mom and pop shaft up near the wash bins on the upper road , just past the old wooden water wheel, this one is horribly unsafe with just make shift Small timbers most of which have either fallen or barly touch the roof of the opening.
        The air shift is up on the mountain on the Treverton side Rt 125. There is an old haul road just as you start up the Hill ( Rt 125 ) to the left of the road, take that up and travel for about 2 miles and you come to the vent shaft. Inside it drops 60 Feet and then a floor level is about 20 feet and then a horrible straight drop to hell.
        I also know of one of the Openings to the St clair mines as well just off Rt 61 near Walmart in St Clair, I was in this one with a friend of mine, plenty of air rushing through the mine so its open. But strange. After about 60 Feet it turned into Tiny Rooms made of brick with tiny pitch mine going on on left but short , not long openings. One room after another but we did not get past the first room cause of Top Rock was lose and it was a giant rock, plus none of the supports were touching the roof of the mine anymore so did not risk it. I know of other openings as well, None safe of course but I know where there are more. Just ask me. David

        1. So i’m guessing the opening off 125 is for the Burn, yes? I’d like to hear more about that.

          The St. Clair mine you mention with the brick rooms sounds very interesting. Let me know if you’d be interested in guiding perhaps a small party if you think it’s a worthwhile expedition :)

        2. Hi David. I’m a certified coal miner. I haven’t been inside for about 25 years except two years ago to see if I could get inside of the Glen Burn. I work in there in the late 80’s . I need to get my safety lamp fix but I ready too go exploring. I been threw all the safety classes for mining. Daryl

          1. Daryl…don’t know if you remember me, but I worked the breast along side of you and the weikels ! it was me, mike roseman and jimmy adams..I remember you working that breast all by yourself a few times cuz skip or his brother didn’t show up. last I was in there was in the early 90’s…Nestico had a slope on the Shamokin side in the 7 ft vein? anyway, the slope went right down to the haulage and connected to the 4 foot (that’s where we were mining) we were even using the same motor and cars we used when you and I worked there in 80’s !!!!!….Nestico bought all from Butch Stanchick and Vince Guarna… good to see your still around..Jimmy Adams and Mike Roseman both died 3-4 years ago.

  4. I would be interested in finding more about where to go hiking and exploring. As it gets warmer i would like to start taking hikes and getting to see more before this history disapears from the landscape. I have hiked a bunch before in centralia and am always looking to find more.

    1. for sure, this history is disappearing – i would say that most of the sites are either gone or largely destroyed, however there are some still left

      the St. Nick breaker, which has survived largely untouched until very recently, is apparently being demolished as well – it was a great site to visit and may still be, but you will need to be a bit stealthy as people have occasionally been questioned and possibly charged with trespassing

      as far as other sites, finding them is not difficult – check out these resources…

      http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm
      http://www.undergroundminers.com/
      http://www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/minemaps.html

      and if you’re into urban exploration in general, you will want to visit UER…
      http://www.uer.ca/

      if you find anything interesting, please let me know – maybe we can hook up :)

      stay safe

      1. Hi there my name is Tom I live in Pottsville and I’m a huge mine history buff. I know of many very old locations in my area and have a lot of knowledge. Anyone who reads this please contact me so we can chat and plan a safe adventure tomwhit@verizon.net

        1. In 1872 my great grandfather was recruited out of Poland to work in a coal mine. He lived in Shamokin from 1872 to 1878. Was the Cameron (name later changed to Glenburn) the only mine in the Shamokin area that would have recruited laborers from Europe? Do you know of any source of Cameron history?

          1. hi Ken – this is the first i have heard of “recruits” from Europe being brought to work in the mines so i’m afraid i can’t help you

            i would assume this is something your great grandfather did voluntarily?

            regarding the history of the colliery, it seems to be sparse – you just have to do allot of searching – if you live in the area, Knoebels has a mine museum that may help and certainly a lot can be learned from the older locals

            regarding the spelling, i’m fairly sure it’s “Glen Burn” – 2 words – i mention that only because it may help in your search for information

    2. Hay Patrick, if your still reading these post then Contact me, I know where there are pretty many openings that are still able to be gotten into but of course none are safe but I know where they are and they are still there as of 2016

      1. Hi Dave – i’m the webmaster for the site.
        Due to changes in comment settings over time, i doubt Patrick will be aware of your comment. If you’d like me to send him your email address, let me know and i’ll be happy to do that. There is also a young fella who is a mine engineer in the area that i think might be interested in talking to you. Let me know if you want me to put you in touch. Also see my reply to your other comment, which is very interesting :)

  5. My grandfather spent his childhood in Shamokin, actually up until his time in the Navy. That was right around the time of the Bay of Pigs, which he was involved in. His father worked the mines until his death. We were reminiscing a bit, looking over Shamokin on Google Maps, etc. when we ran across this page. Thanks for capturing a little bit of history for us to look back on.

  6. Thaks for posting the photos and the write up from 97. I live out of state but I had three generations who worked the Shamokin pits from 1865 to 1940’s. Two of the three are buried there. I can’t even begin to imagine the working conditions in the 1860’s/70’s and later. My grandfather started about 1902 or so but by 1912 had had his fill and moved on. Last generation to work in Shamokin worked for I believe Stevens Coal Co. I had a guy take me out there about 1985 or maybe 1987 – there were some old buildings and train tracks left. I’m trying to write down some things about these people but they were so poor and got burned out a couple times there’s nothing left of the family history. My grandmother had an old family Bible but the ink was all faded and after an uncle died it disappeared, as usual. Thanks again !!! If anyone has some recommended reading about mine conditions, history, etc. from these times in Shamokin could you let me know.

  7. I am writing a book and it involves a kidnapper taking a woman into an abandoned coal mine (I was thinking Shamokin, but any mine up there would work). My question to you guys is do you know if there would be any kind of parking area near a mine, or would there be quite a bit of hiking to get to it.

    1. Ellen, thank you for inadvertently giving me a good laugh! My reply to you would have been, “Sure, I can show you around several secluded mines in the region. Can you come alone? I’ll bring the rope.”

  8. I’ve been in a variety of mines in this area, My father and I actually would bootleg mine and process our own coal from old existing workings, I possess a quite a lot of maps from every mine in the area, I’ve filmed the Locust summit breaker and surrounding areas, I’ve been underground in quite a few mines, give me a call for more information! (admin note: phone number removed – if you want to contact William, contact me).

    1. hi Daryl

      i suspect you and i have probably crossed paths at some point or another

      have you ever managed to find a way into the Burn?

      last time i was there the main entrance for the west(?) drift (the tunnel that went under Shamokin and Trevorton) was collapsed

      i feel like there’s got to be a navigable air shaft/escape way leading into the mine, but i no longer live in the area and have therefore not been able to explore

      i believe there’s a number of vertical shafts on top of the ridge next to rt. 225 headed toward Trevorton, but i don’t know if any are open, much less reasonably safe

      also, do you know a ‘Frank’ with a very similar last name as yours (he used to work for Northeast Industrial Services)? just curious, as i wonder if he’s still kicking and, if so, how he’s doing

      please don’t post any personally identifying information (last names, numbers, etc.) in the comments – if you want to contact me personally, go here

      i’d very much like to get back into that mine, so if you know anything, please let me know – i should be back in the area briefly at some point during the summer

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