Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Byesville Scenic Railway’

The Train to Nowhere

The Train to Nowhere

The Train to Nowhere

A beautiful diesel-electric locomotive awaits on the tracks in the small town of Byesville, Ohio. At this point in time, it is called “The Train to Nowhere”, as it remains in place unable to move down the Byesville Scenic Railway due to circumstances beyond their control. But that doesn’t mean the spirit of the railroad isn’t alive here! It continues with a program called “The Coal Miners’ Story.”

Bronze Coal Miner Statue

Bronze Ohio Coal Miner Statue

As soon as you pull into the parking lot, the bronze coal miner statue catches your eye. The Ohio Coal Miner was sculpted by Alan Cottrill at Cottrill Sculpture Studio and Gallery in Zanesville, Ohio, and dedicated in September of 2012. This statue is a tribute to miners and their families in Ohio, as well as across the entire nation. The miner’s brass tag reads 382, the number of coal miners who lost their lives in the deep mines of Guernsey County over the mines’ sixty active years. During the past few years, all contributions given to the Byesville Scenic Railway during their train rides were dedicated to building this memorial statue, which actually cost nearly $40,000 to reach completion.

A portion of the plaque in front of the statue states: May your personal sufferings, sacrifices and the hardships endured by your families, never be forgotten nor taken for granted.

Sadly, the train is not able to chug down the track these days due to some issues over insurance and track ownership, but the volunteers at Byesville Scenic Railway are still sharing a unique presentation of life during the days when coal mines were booming in the early 1900’s. At that time, Byesville had 77 mines, and was considered to be “The Coal Mining Capital of Southeastern Ohio”.

Visitors are invited to take a seat on “The Train to Nowhere”, where they are given information regarding the 1917 train cars and the diesel locomotive. Back in the coal mining heyday, the train ran from Cleveland to Marietta delivering coal from Guernsey County mines. The Byesville Scenic Railway volunteers are optomistic that the train will be running again a few years down the track.

Dave Adair tells coal miners' stories.

Dave Adair tells coal miners’ stories.

In their “old greasy mechanic garage” – sometimes used as a movie theater room, the volunteers have constructed a makeshift mine of black plastic walls. It is here in Entry 7 South that a living history of a local coal miner is portrayed by volunteer, Dave Adair. He describes the harsh life of a miner as well as the poor home conditions. Beans and cabbage were two frequent items on their supper menu, with meat seldom being a part of their food supply. According to Miner Dave, “All were poor but no one realized it because all were the same.”

"I owe my soul to the Company Store."

“I owe my soul to the Company Store.”

Miners were very superstitious and often carried lucky pieces in their pockets. Over the entrance to the mine, a horseshoe was often placed. It had to be placed with the open side up so the luck wouldn’t run out with 100,000 ton of rock above their heads.

Treasures for families of coal miners and train enthusiasts can be found in the Company Store. A variety of gifts for young and old alike range from engineer hats and handkerchiefs to mugs and wine glasses. You won’t want to go home without a memory of those hard working miners.

Steve Stolarik explains Mineres Museum.

Steve Stolarik explains Miners’ Museum.

The Miners’ Museum has been developed in more recent years for the education of the general public. It contains a collection of original coal mining equipment used in the local mines. On the wall are displayed the various bits used to drill into the coal face to insert a stick of dynamite, which the miners had to buy themselves from the company store. Steve Stolarik was on hand to explain how the bits and lanterns functioned when the miners were deep in the mines. Included for display are numerous pictures of the old Guernsey County Coal Mines.

Keep your eye on the track to see when the “Train to Nowhere” will again be on the move. In the meantime, visit the website of Byesville Scenic Railway to see their scheduled events. Local train enthusiasts are singing hopefully, “I hear that train a comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend.” 

Byesville Scenic Railway is located in Byesville, Ohio just off I-77 (Exit 41) south of Cambridge. Turn toward Main Street of Byesville, then left at the traffic light.  The train depot is one block on the right. Free parking is available along Second Street and Seneca Avenue. 


Spirit of Christmas on Byesville Scenic Railway

Spirit of Christmas seems to be a fitting name for a ride on the Byesville Scenic Railway, because after you hear the stories of the miners from long ago, you will definitely appreciate the Christmas of today.

Accompanied on this trip by Miner Dave and Miner Steve, the hour train ride passed by twelve abandoned mines where about five hundred men worked underground.  However, in the area there were seventy seven deep coal mines with approximately five thousand men working.

The train track here was busy back in the early 1900’s with perhaps one hundred fifty trains going down the tracks on a busy day.  Their regular routes went from Marietta to Cleveland, but they went North as far as Canada.

Since it was the Christmas season, Miner Dave asked if there were any teachers on board. Then he selected a lady to read “The Night Before Christmas” as the train went down the track.  Miner Dave did appropriate sound effects as well as scene effects behind her back, which made for an amusing reading.

Young people are remembered in the mines as children often started working at the age of eight, with their parents’ consent, especially if the father had been injured. Someone had to work to pay their $12 a month rent as otherwise their family would have no place to live.

They did indeed, as Tennessee Ernie sang, “Owe my soul to the company’s store.”   They were paid in tokens that could only be spent at the company store.  So if the family needed an item, they would charge it there, then the man of the family would pay for it on payday.

Miner Dave explained that only men worked in the mines as it was thought that women would bring bad luck. They worked about 175 days out of the year. There was no welfare in those days, so they had to use credit…at the company store. For this most dangerous job in the world, there was no insurance and no vacation. There were definitely no atheists working in the mines.  They all believed that someone was watching over them.

How did you know if you were to work each day? At 7:15 each evening, everyone would listen for the whistle at the mine. If it blew once, there would be work tomorrow; twice, maybe and listen again at 4:15 in the morning; three times, no work the next day.

All nationalities headed out to work swinging their dinner pail. The pails could not be set down on the mine floor or the rats would open them and eat their dinner.  So miners always hung their dinner pails high on the mine wall. A sandwich made of West Virginia Ham was quite a treat – that ham, by the way,  was bologna. They always left a little something in their pail, just in case there was a cave in and they might be below ground all night. If they made if safely through the day, the miners would let the children have their pails on the way home and enjoy a little snack.

On Christmas Eve a hundred years ago, the mines would close early for the day at 4:30. Since there was no money for gifts, a stop at the company store might allow them to get an orange or some walnuts for the children. Often they would break a limb off a tree and either stick it in a can or in holes in the handle of a broom. This they would decorate with rags, bittersweet, popcorn, ribbon or berries.

Everyone would go to sleep early that night and be up to go to church on Christmas Day in their cleanest bib overalls. When they arrived back home, there would be one or two gifts under the tree. Gifts were often wrapped in newspaper, and then tied with rags and decorated with sprigs of berries.  Most were gifts made with love, and all Made in America.

Byesville is the coal mining capital of Ohio and their plans are to erect a monument to the coal miner at their station in downtown Byesville. When you give a donation, you are given a badge that explains the mining story.

The colors on the badge are symbolic of life down in the coal mines.

Yellow stands for a beam of sunshine that sheds light on the darkness of the dungeon of a  dark and gray mine.

Gray is for the rock/slate layers that are found above and below the seams of coal.

Black needs little explanation as it is the color of coal, also know as black diamonds, buried sunshine, or rocks that burn.

Red is for the color of blood that was spilled onto the ground from those who either lost their lives or were injured while working about the mines.

Someday soon the Coal Miners’ Memorial Statue Fund will reach its goal and the efforts of all the workers and their families will be recognized.  Coal miners helped make our country what it is today and will never be forgotten.

Now you better understand why the Spirit of Christmas should be alive in your heart today and all through the year. Charles Dickens expressed this in A Christmas Carol when  Scrooge said:

I will honor Christmas in my heart

and try to keep it all the year

May the Spirit of Christmas roll on!

Byesville Scenic Railway is located in Byesville, Ohio just off I-77 (Exit 41) South of Cambridge. Turn toward Main Street of Byesville, then left at the traffic light.  The train depot is one block on the right. Free parking is available along Second Street and Seneca Avenue. The train operates most weekends during the summer months as well as for special holidays throughout the year.

Dickens Victorian Village Generates Christmas Spirit

Catch the Spirit of Christmas! Step back in time and visit the Dickens Victorian Village in downtown Cambridge, Ohio from November thru January 8, 2012. As you walk the streets, you will be greeted by volunteers in Victorian dress, sometimes entertained by strolling musicians, and on the weekends can see the lighted carriages giving visitors a relaxing ride.  It is a friendly town where you feel welcome and hear ” Merry Christmas” quite often.

Nearly two hundred life sized mannequins can be found either on the main street, Wheeling Avenue, or in close by businesses and towns. Let’s meet a few of the mannequins, so you can hear their stories of how they came to be part of the Dickens experience.

“Father Christmas” was one of the first characters assembled back in 2005 when local businessman, Bob Ley and his wife Sue were inspired on a trip to Oglebay Park to bring visitors to their town for a winter vacation.  Bob and Sue discussed several ideas but the decision was finally made when Sue suggested an English Christmas theme would be a good choice. Since they lived in Cambridge with Victorian architecture, street lamps, and even benches along the street, English roots ran deep. Thus blossomed the idea of using a theme developed from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Today Father Christmas stands on the courthouse square greeting cars and buses from three directions. In his bright green cloak of Victorian times, Father Christmas typifies the spirit of good cheer at Christmastime… and you will definitely find lots of good cheer at Dickens Victorian Village.

“Glass Blower at Work” symbolizes the rich heritage in the Cambridge area of artisans who produced quality hand made glass and is a special favorite since my father was a glass blower at Cambridge Glass Co. This was a major employer in the area from 1902-1958 and their glassware is a collector’s item today. A frequent bus stop during tours of the city includes the National Museum of Cambridge Glass where you can still see samples of the beautiful etchings and unique designs, which made these glass creations very fashionable to use for a special occasion. Today descendants of former Cambridge Glass workers still have a few small shops in the area. Boyd Crystal Art Glass, Mosser Glass, and Variety Glass all continue to produce handmade pieces today.

The ShopkeeperYe Olde Curiosity Shoppe is headquarters of Dickens Welcome Center and here you are greeted by “The Shopkeeper,” and quite often beside her you will find the lady who it was created to resemble after she won the first Picture Your Face Raffle. Visitors sometimes say, “Is she real, or is she a mannequin?” Raffle tickets are sold each year and the winners become mannequins in the future.   The Welcome Center’s Imagination Station provides an opportunity for visitors to try on Victorian wear. Then they can have their pictures taken with the beautiful Christmas tree, Charles Dickens, or the new addition this year of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge mannequins, which resemble Prince William and Kate. This is fun for young and old alike. Here you will also find many unusual Christmas gifts and ideas.

Not all of the mannequins are downtown. In neighboring Byesville, the “Coal Miners” can be found under the station roof of the Byesville Scenic Railway. This is another popular destination with its “Spirit of Christmas” train, which follows a trail over abandoned mines. While on board, men dressed as miners tell stories of days when coal mining was king in this area.  To remember all those who worked in the mines, a statue, “Coal Miners Memorial”, is in the planning stages and will be the only statue to honor coal miners in the state of Ohio. The mines are out of sight, the tipples gone, but the miners are still in the minds and hearts of families and friends.

When evening falls, everyone heads to the Cambridge Courthouse for a spectacular light show. Christmas music and the movement of the lights on the courthouse are synchronized perfectly and enjoyed by all. The display is computer controlled with 60,000 lights and 364 electrical circuits. Four different light shows entertain the packed courthouse square with traditional Christmas songs as well as children’s and contemporary. Add a little snow and it’s a perfect evening!

Introductions have been made to a few mannequins just to get your curiosity aroused, but you need to tour the area to see which one might be your favorite. Dickens Victorian Village welcomes individuals and tour buses to experience the special feeling of Christmas that lives in downtown Cambridge, Ohio.

As one recent visitor remarked, “If you don’t have the Spirit of Christmas when you come here, you certainly should have it when you leave.”

Dickens Victorian Village is located in downtown Cambridge, Ohio, which is just northwest of the intersection of I-70 and I-77. Come spend the day or stay the night, and catch the Spirit of Christmas.

Ride the Rails in Ohio’s Coal Country

All Aboard! Stepping on the old passenger car, guests on the Byesville Scenic Railway are immediately handed a paper fan since the day is sweltering hot and there is no air conditioning. But the coal miners using this car many years ago would not have had AC anyplace. Their cool spot will be discovered later in the trip.

The whistle blows and the steam engine of the Byesville Scenic Railway begins its journey down the Marietta Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad that originally ran from Marietta to Dover back in 1872. The 1918 passenger car being used today can hold 60 people and originally was part of the Illinois Rail.

The train rails lead through the Wills Creek area from Byesville to near Pleasant City. Along the way you can see the remains of many old coal mines, bridge abutments, flowering fields, plus homes of today in the countryside of Southeastern Ohio. The Inter-Urban street car had lines running right along side the railway. These street cars were used as transportation for the miners to and from work at the mines.

The train excursion lasts approximately an hour with lots of information, history, and even some music. Water and soft drinks are available throughout the trip for a donation.

But the highlight of the trip is the interesting narrative supplied by family and friends of those coal miners of bygone days. First we hear about the history of mining in the area. The most dangerous job in the world is said to be coal mining. Coal is older than the dinosaurs and has a wide variety of uses. About the time of WWI there were nearly 3,000 mines in this area. They were all closed by 1928.

Since the miners worked an eleven hour day most often, there was little time for fun when the day ended. If perhaps there was no work that day, the miners would get together and play cards, reminisce about their life in the European countries, or tell stories of their adventures in the mines. But they didn’t want a day off as they only got paid when they worked and according to the number of tons they mined that day.

Arriving at the half way point of the trip near Pleasant City, we were told about the former Ohio Valley Glass Company that was located nearby. One of the main things produced there were the insulators for the railroad.

Next we were told the life of a coal miner by Coal Miner Dave dressed in clothes which appeared to be covered with coal dust. Even his face looked like he had just come out of the mines. As he picked his way down the aisles squatting like the miners had to do in the low mines, the passengers joined in singing “16 Tons.”

Passengers were led to imagine going down into a deep, dark coal mine with just the small light on their hat guiding the way. This was the cool spot for the miners as it was always around 54 degrees deep in the mine. But it was also damp from the underground water so clothes got wet in a hurry. Here the miners picked coal out of the sides, used explosives, and loaded the coal by hand into carts that were pulled away by donkeys. You will be surprised at the things the miners had to furnish for themselves!

The Coal Miner showed us interesting things used by the miners. Have you ever heard of Universal Toilet Paper or West Virginia Cole Slaw? Join the next excursion from Byesville to learn more about the interesting life of a coal miner.

The future of the Byesville Scenic Railway seems bright right now. With the help of local patrons and businesses, plans are to extend the rails all the way to Cumberland, OH where the WILDS is located. When there, you will be able to enjoy an excursion through the WILDS Safari and see animals not native to this part of the world.

Plans are also underway for a Coal Miner Statue to honor all the men who worked long and hard hours in the mines. Many of them came here from European countries in the late 1800s for a better way of life. The cost of the statue is approximately $38,000 and over half has already been raised. It will be a lasting memory of all coal miners who struggled to make a better life for their families.

This isn’t a one time adventure. There are special events throughout the year. Cost for adults is $12 while children (ages 3-9) are $9. Those under 3 are free. The Spirit of Halloween and Spirit of Christmas rides are favorites of young and old alike. Even Santa enjoys riding on the Byesville Scenic Railway .

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