Kentucky’s First Exhibition Coal Mine
A trip to the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum would be incomplete without a visit to Portal 31. Only a couple miles drive away, visitors can travel into the early days of coal mining and experience the evolution of the industry in a series of vignettes staged throughout a ride in Portal 31.
Like neighboring Benham, Lynch was a company town. The location for Lynch was acquired by a subsidary of U.S. Steel and developed for their workers. The town was named after Thomas Lynch, head of U.S. Coal and Coke Company. In the 40s, Lynch boasted a hospital, a movie theater, and a population of 10,000. Today, the population is closer to 720.
The tour spans the history of Mine Portal 31, from its origins with individual men using picks and mules to the age of mechanization and the continuous miner. Animatronic miners talk about the concerns of miners in different eras: an Italian immigrant looking for a steady job, a team of miners questioning union strikes during WWII, and mechanics servicing a new generation of mechanical drilling machines. In conclusion, visitors are treated to a projection show discussion the origins and development of coal—from the early flora and fauna that died, the geology of coal veins, and the energy that coal provided, propelling humanity to newer and greater accomplishments.
When visitors leave Portal 31, it is with a greater appreciation for coal’s role in the lives of thousands of people and the opportunities they were afforded in those golden days in coal-rich Kentucky.