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January 22, 2010

A Coal Miner!

At the Museum of Science and Industry we learned what it was like to be a coal miner! We did have to wait at the stairs for our guide, the coal miner, to come and lead the way through the mine. Thankfully it wasn't a long wait!

When our guide came we climbed the rest of the stairs and waited for the elevator to take us down into the mine. As we got off the elevator we seen coal bins full of coal. The bins were dumping the coal onto a conveyor belt that took the coal up to the surface. 

We  learned about how they use to use canaries to detect methane. Today  they use a davy lamps (which have a flame) or computerized monitors to detect methane. Most of the world still use davy lamps because it's cheaper then the computerized monitors.

Using a device such as a davy lamp increase the chances of a fire starting. If you catch on fire while IN a coal mine you MUST NOT stop, drop, and roll. Doing so will start the whole place on fire, because it's a coal mine. The coal miner explained that if a miner does catch on fire that they have to "take it like a man" and walk up to 2 miles or more to the nearest water pit and jump in!

After this discussion we got to ride the coal train. The coal train took us on a 2 minute ride through the coal mine tunnels. It was neat to be in the coal train and ride through the tunnels. I tried to take pictures while inside the coal train.

You can see the coal miner driving the train. I was disappointed the many of the pictures while in the coal train didn't turn out. It was just to dark. After our train ride we were taken to the active mining area. In the active mining area we got to see some of the machines that are use to remove the coal such as the drill and the conveyor belt that dumped the coal into the bins we seen earlier.

After the coal miner explained how these things worked he told us to plug our ears! After our ears were plugged the machines were turned on! They were loud!! The coal miner explained that because of the noise levels of these machines many miner end up deaf in a few short years. I believe it after hearing those machines go!

There was a door way that said Miner Only! We wanted to go back in there and see what the miners where up too, because we could hear them talking. However we were not allowed in because we were not miners!

However we were lead down on foot through another tunnel in the opposite direction. While in this tunnel we could hear the water and other things in the mine. It was really cool. At the other end of the tunnel we were shown another machine that is used for mining. This machine is used only once, because it buries itself.

The coal miner explained how this machine works before turning it on. It was NOT as loud as the previous machines, but I don't think it is healthy to be near that much noise all the time. I was amazed to learn that once it got to the end they would just leave it and go get a new machine. New machines are not cheap! They cost MILLIONS of dollars!

Then we were lead out of the coal mine. On the way out we learn that Illinois is a big mining state. Most of the state has coal under it! We learned that Illinois has about 300 years of coal mining left and that sweet-in-low and tooth paste are just some of the by-products of coal!


  1. My grandfather was a coal miner in West Virginia for 41 years back before a lot of safety measures were in place. I have a great deal of respect for coal miners to say the least.

  2. We were just there last week, too! I love their free days. We have yet to visit the coal mine, though. I think my boys would really get a kick out of it...


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