Kentucky Town Transforms Coal Mine Into Robot-Filled Tourist Attraction
Among the many problems with forcibly peeling resources out of the earth is that, once they're gone, all you've got left is a gigantic hole in the ground (cf. the Mirny diamond mine, which functionally has its own weather patterns). For dozens of poverty-stricken towns across Appalachia, the old coal mines that used to provide economic livelihood have long since been tapped out.
One town in Kentucky, though, is determined to turn their old mine into an economically viable tourist attraction. It's not as chichi as Sweden's luxury silver mine boutique hotel, but in fairness to the Kentucky folks they haven't had since the Middle Ages to dig it out.
The renovated coal mine in Lynch, Kentucky takes passengers on a railcar tour that begins by plunging tourists into the darkness of the mine shaft. From there they go through each of eight different stops with narrations throughout. Each stop is supposed to represent some significant era of the mine's development and the exhibits are populated by animatronic robots of old Italian workers speaking broken, accent-laced English.
Thereby confirming Jaunted tourist attraction rule #72 - if you're going to go for kitsch, go big. There's even a mule involved:
Joseph Marzelli... explains the ins and outs of coal mining as it was done in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, when miners used canaries as air monitors. Marzelli is one of a crew of animatronic miners who greet visitors inside Portal 31, an underground coal mine that folks here have transformed into a tourist attraction. In broken English, Marzelli, flanked by an animatronic coal-mining mule, shares his appreciation for his new home in America and a job that, at the time, was done primarily with picks and shovels and dynamite. "Life is bellissimo," he says. A Welshman yells from the darkness: "Fire in the hole." Then, the rumble of an explosion. It unnerves the mule. "Easy, calmare," Marzelli says in a calming voice. "Aren't you used to that noise yet?"
Marzelli's Life, of course, was anything but bellissimo. The article quotes one Lynch resident whose father was killed in a coal mine explosion, one of many miners who died that way. The town is hoping that, in addition to bringing in badly needed tourist dollars, these kinds of exhibits serve as small reminders of what their fathers and grandfathers had to go through.
[Photo: U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (Marion Post Wolcott) / Wiki Commons]
· Subterranean Sojourns: Coal Mine Opens to Tourists [AP]
· Kentucky Travel [Jaunted]
· Robots [Jaunted]