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Author Topic: Centralia, PA  (Read 10299 times)

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Offline WoodenBirdOfPrey

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Centralia, PA
« on: August 11, 2012, 07:20:31 PM »
Nothing extreme, but cool, I think.  Found a way to get onto the old abandoned stretch of Rt. 61 in Centralia, PA.  They closed this stretch of road down in the late 80's or early 90's (I think) due to constant sinkholes from the mine fires that have burned under this town since the early 60's.  Centralia is sort of the real life Silent Hill, and the opening scenes of the movie were actually filmed here.

Most of these pictures are next to/on top of the biggest sinkhole.  Smoke can still be seen rising from it, and the ground temperature where the smoke rises through the tunnels is 400*F at some places.  It's much more impressive in the winter, with the snow all melted around it, and the visible steam rising up.






















And we hit a couple old mining roads while we were there.  Virginia decided to take a Captain Morgan pose on this rock, so I had to take a pic of it.


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Offline whiteandbronze4

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2012, 09:11:50 PM »
Wow. This is incredibly cool. How do fires burn in unused mines?
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Offline WoodenBirdOfPrey

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2012, 12:22:27 AM »
The coal runs through the ground in vanes.  Much of this area was strip mined, where they basically strip the surface a little at a time and collect the coal as they go.  Eventually you end up with pits, sort of like you see in a quarry.  

Well, the town of Centralia used one of the old pits as a landfill, and when the pit would get full, the local FD would burn the trash.  Apparently the pit wasn't completely void of coal, and when they burned the trash, it set fire to the vane of coal.  Once that vane gets set, it's like watching a slow fuse burning.  They will just keep going slow and steady until they run out of fuel, oxygen, or get drowned in water.  The problem with putting them out, is the vanes go hundreds, even thousands of feet in the ground, and can span miles in length, so getting to where the fires burn is nearly impossible.  

The locals didn't take immediate action, and never really thought of it as a problem when it started.  I guess they thought it would go out on it's own when they got a good rainfall or something.  That never happened, and the fires started tracking under the town, and close to the surface where the houses were.  I think the turning point when they realized they had a real problem was a few years later.  The local gas station owner/operated stuck a stick in an underground tank to check fuel level, and when he pulled it out, noticed it felt really warm, when normally it would be ground temperature, about 50 degrees.  He dropped a thermometer down, and the temperature of the fuel was something like 200 degrees, due to fires burning near the tanks.  By this point, the problem had gone beyond the point of correcting it easily.

Eventually the gases and smoke started rising out of the ground, through the storm drains, basements, and everywhere else.  Basements and foundations started caving in as the fires burned under the houses, toxic gases rose up through the basements, and one by one many of the residents were forced out of their homes.  The government had thrown millions at trying to put the fires out, but in the end, nothing worked and they decided it would be cheaper to relocate the people than continue efforts to stop the fire.  by the mid 80's the population was around 100 people, and the few residents that remained stayed there because they didn't want to give up their homes, regardless of the risks.  

Sometime around 2005 the postal service revoked the zip code, officially making it a ghost town.  I think at the last census, there were 11 people claiming Centralia as residence, and one of the houses has cleared out since then, so I'd say probably 7 or 8 people live there now.

You can still go to the town and see all the streets and driveways.  If you didn't know what you were looking for, you could drive straight through the town square, and never realize that a thriving town with a population of over 3,000 had once been there.  The sidewalks are overgrown with weeds, most of the roads are overgrown, and most of the structures have been demolished and the foundations filled in.  3 cemeteries stand throughout the town, but no churches to be seen.  Just a couple houses still stand, and the municipal building which contains the fire department and ambulance are still there and being maintaned by one of the die hard residents.
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Offline TheWraith

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2012, 12:34:37 AM »
Crazy.  Never heard that story before.
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Offline maddog

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2012, 12:53:26 AM »
Crazy.  Never heard that story before.
i've heard of the place and have even seen pics of the town and the road and he's right about it being more impressive in the winter.
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Offline jim

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2012, 01:10:24 PM »
There is a huge area in India with a similar problem.  Their underground coal fires have been burning for about 100 years.
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Offline whiteandbronze4

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2012, 02:53:11 PM »
Wow excellent story. Thats a little nugget of history i'll be holding onto.
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Offline macdude443

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2012, 12:08:23 AM »
Centralia is about an hour north of where I grew up.  I've been on 61 many times, but never went that far.  From what I understand, they altered 61 to bypass the old town entirely.  If you know where to look, I guess it's not too hard to find it.
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Offline TheWraith

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2012, 07:20:57 AM »
Hmmm, no 'street view' in gooogle maps, how odd.

The sat view does look like a 'town that disappeared'.

Sounds like something interesting to see should I ever get up that way again.
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Offline WoodenBirdOfPrey

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2012, 07:33:22 AM »
Centralia is about an hour north of where I grew up.  I've been on 61 many times, but never went that far.  From what I understand, they altered 61 to bypass the old town entirely.  If you know where to look, I guess it's not too hard to find it.

Nope,  61 still goes straight through the old town square.   The abandoned stretch is easy to spot,  there are big mounds of dirt coming from both directions on 61 right before corners.   If you get to the 4 lane section before ashland you went too far.
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Offline Ohio AMX

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2012, 04:19:18 PM »
This is really interesting, I wish I had known about this place when I was out that way earlier this year. I read the wikipedia page and it says the fires could burn for the next 1,000 years. I'm wondering, do the few residents still have utilities or is it like primitive camping? Are the roads still being maintained?
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Offline WoodenBirdOfPrey

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2012, 04:38:55 PM »
I'm pretty sure the remaining residents still have the usual utilities,  I'm not sure though.   If you search Youtube there is an interview with one of the remaining residents explaining their way of life and why they didn't leave. 

The main roads going through the town square are generally maintained due to the through traffic from other nearby towns,  except for the sidewalks which are slowly being taken back by mother nature.  However, most of the side streets are rough,  overgrown,  and no signs except for an occasional stop sign so faded they are almost white.   Some of the side streets,  which were one time wide enough for on street parking plus a sidewalk on each side,  are so overgrown I couldn't get my Eagle through without brush hitting my mirrors on both sides.   
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Offline WoodenBirdOfPrey

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2012, 01:05:33 AM »
Since there's some interest in the town, here are some more pics taken that day by my friend Scot.  He has a DSLR cam with a telephoto lens, so these will be much better than the ones I took with my phone.

South on abandoned 61


A great shot of the sunk in area.










A few more tourists showed up.


This is a view from one of the hilltops overlooking the town.  To the left side, one of the roads can be seen, and the building off in the distance to the right side is the municipal building.


Another view from the same hill, looking out towards the wind farm.  We rode down the access road to the wind farm once, it stretched for miles with one of the wind generators ever couple hundred yards. 



One of the wider side streets, looking towards the active section of 61.  Very little remains of the sidewalks but it can be seen on the left side.  At one time houses lined both sides of this road.


A more overgrown road, barely enough room for cars to pass through.  If it wasn't for people visiting the town on a regular basis, this probably wouldn't be recognizable as a road.  Again, this was a fully developed neighborhood before the fires tore the town apart.


This used to be downtown Centralia.  Go to any small town in PA and look around.  The exact same view used to be here.  Houses, apartments, store fronts, etc.


Another shot of former downtown Centralia.


And another of the burnt down downtown.


In town, looking towards the intersection of 54 and 61


I think this was the town square.


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Offline shaggimo

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2012, 11:37:16 AM »
Very cool photos,  :occasion14: neat to see old remains like that.
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Offline MudPuppy

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Re: Centralia, PA
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2012, 12:31:33 PM »
Nice pics. Love seeing ghost towns like that. Always reminds me of those "Aftermath: Population Zero" & "Life After People" shows on tv. Wish we had some around here.
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