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Lowellville Physics Class Visits Tour-Ed Coal Mine and Museum

(Left to right) Seniors Alyssa Anderson, Elia Basista, Matthew Hynes, and Juliana Rotz hop in the train cart to enter the mine tour.

Mandy Pachner

(Left to right) Seniors Alyssa Anderson, Elia Basista, Matthew Hynes, and Juliana Rotz hop in the train cart to enter the mine tour.

Nathan Williams, Contributor

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On Thursday, May 4th, Lowellville’s Physics class of six seniors took a field trip to the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum in Tarentum, Pennsylvania along with their teacher Mrs. Pachner. During the hour and a half van drive there, the class also stopped at Grove City, PA for lunch and to visit Wendell August Forge. At both the forge and the mine, the class was given history lessons on each location and their histories by the faculty.

The first location of the trip was Wendell August Forge, one of America’s oldest forge founded in 1923. The facility visited by the students was considerably new, constructed just after the 2010 fire at the original Grove City forge.

After glancing around the shop at a huge variety of forged metal ornaments and crafts, the class and Mrs. Pachner made their way into the forge and workshop itself, finding a faculty member who knew the history of the Forge. Touring a room of history, the Physics class learned about the founder and coal mine owner, Wendell August, and the path of the Forge in reaching national fame. After the lesson, the seven used rubber mallets, a metal mold, and a foil metal sheet to take home an imprint of a deer.

After a brief stop in the Grove City Outlets for lunch, bubble tea, and chocolate, the Physics class departed to the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum, a long-closed coal mine used as a museum for now over a million visitors.

Upon reaching the mine, the class briefly toured the gift shop and museum while waiting for their scheduled noon tour. Through the museum and gift shop building, countless tools, hard hats, lamps, signs, and more from the past two centuries of mines adorned the walls. Just outside the gift shop and museum building was also a furnished log house from 1785 for guests to enter.

Elia Basista
(Left to right) Seniors Nathan Williams, Matthew Hynes, Elia Basista, Alyssa Anderson, David Durban, Juliana Rotz, and their teacher Mrs. Pachner pose while their guide takes a picture.

For the first part of the tour, the students were brought beneath the museum to a room of log benches and pictures of modern and old mining equipment. There, the class met the fifth generation coal miner, Larry who told them the brief history of coal mining and why coal is so valuable. The lesson included a showcase of hard hats throughout history, going from a cloth cap and candle to a plastic, ear-muffed modern helmet. Larry also explained the safety procedures of the mines and that any modern mine could be evacuated in ten minutes if necessary.

After receiving their own hardhats and taking a picture, the students and Mrs. Pachner were escorted to a metal, yellow train cart about four and a half feet tall. Taking their seats, the class was taken half a mile into the mine over wet tracks, without gaining or losing altitude, to a spot designed for the tour. Their guide was Nick, who guided visitors into the mine and also inspected the mine’s safety for legal reasons.

Inside the mine, Nick showed the class methods used throughout the mine’s history, from mine picks to large continuous miner machines. The students were even shown all the machines in action, showcasing the need for ear muffs on modern hard hats. Along the way, the tourists were invited to ask questions and took advantage of it. Mrs. Pachner after the event commented that some questions even made her think. One student’s question regarded the chalk dates all over the mine, which were markings made by the guide about his safety inspections. Another had Nick explain that the mine was a subsurface drift mine and not a branch or surface mine.

After leaving on the train cart they came in on, the class paid for their tour and said goodbye to the guides, heading out on the road again.

The trip to the coal mine was Mrs. Pachner’s first with a Physics class. In previous years, Pachner and the Physics class would attend the Penguin Regatta event at Youngstown State University, constructing boats out of duct tape. At around $150 per team for the event along with material costs, Pachner said the coal mine trip was much less expensive at around $12 a student. She also said that the Regatta would have taken up more valuable class time with its preparation. The Physics class had considered other locations to visit, but different obstacles kept appearing for each, such as travel distance and amount of other guests.

After the event, the Rocketeer staff asked Mrs. Pachner and senior David Durban about their thoughts. Pachner enjoyed both Wendell August Forge and the mine. “I was really impressed by the bank tables made at the Forge. I mean those are the same tables you see so often in our banks.” She was also impressed by the mining machines and method of ceiling support used in the mines, wherein a resin prevents support rods from rusting. As for David Durban, he said he most enjoyed the mine, despite his impressive height contrasting the low ceilings. “I liked the history and the machinery and experiencing a little bit of what the miner had to endure everyday.”

Mrs. Pachner said she would try to do the trip to the Tour-Ed Mine again in the future, especially since scheduling was made simple. However, the next year’s class would likely need a school bus for travel instead of this year’s convenient van.
For more information on the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum and Wendell August Forge, visit their resourceful websites: http://tour-edmine.com/ and https://www.wendellaugust.com/

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Lowellville Physics Class Visits Tour-Ed Coal Mine and Museum