Few know the story of bustling coal mining town turned ghost town. This town didn’t dry up from a lack of coal, but an abundance. Prior to 1962 Centralia was a bustling coal mining town with over 1000 residents. However in 1962 the town’s volunteer fire department set the town landfill on fire as they did every year in its previous location to minimize the size of the pile. Little did they know that the burning trash, now in an abandoned strip mine, was sitting on top of a exposed coal vein. The town attempted to put the burning coal out numerous times and thought they were successful, however the fire continued to rage and moved underground into the coal deposits and abandoned mines under the town. As the fire raged under the town toxic fumes leaked into homes and a 4ft wide by 150ft deep sink hole opened up in one residents backyard almost swallowing a young child. The Pennsylvanian and US government spent $40 million unsuccessfully trying to flush out, excavate, suffocate, or contain the fire. Eventually residents were forced to relocate and were assisted through government funds and buy-outs. Today only a handful of about 9 residents refused to give up their homes and continue to live there.
I recently visited Centralia while I was traveling through Pennsylvania as I had seen a show about it on tv. It was really cool to see, however there wasn’t much visible smoke due to the absence of water (snow or rain) to make steam. There was quite a bit of non-visible smoke that smelled of sulfur coming out of cracks in the abandoned section of Route 61. This gas was REALLY hot I wasn’t able to even put my hand over it a few inches from the ground without burning it in less than a second. The roadway was also much hotter than normal and my shoes even became softer and sticky on the bottom as they heated up. It was also very cool to see the remnants of the town with the numerous abandoned streets that lead to now demolished homes.
Here are some pictures of the town as of 6/24/09:
This is the sign as you leave Ashland.
On the bypass for the damaged section of Route 61.
The church on the hill coming into town.
An abandoned Main Street.
Abandoned residential streets.
The hill behind the cemetery.
Behind this sign is the now abandoned section of Route 61 that is heavily damaged by the fire raging under it.
A picture of modern day Ashland, similar to what Centalia used to look like.
The abandoned section of Route 61:
Abandoned section of route 61, now “Graffiti Highway.”
The road buckling as the fire rages under it. The road has sunk about 3ft but the camera tends to flatten the image.
The extensive damage the road has sustained from the fire.
A 700ft long and 1-2ft wide crack in the middle of the lane. This is also where the smoke was coming out.
The pile of dirt separating the bypass from the old route 61.Discussion, Off-Topic • RSS 2.0 feed • leave a response or trackback