Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trip to Centralia, PA


My friend Stefan and I took a trip to Centralia, PA, a town that has been largely abandoned since the early 80’s because of a coal mine fire that has been burning underneath the town since the late 70’s.

We read about the town online and got mixed accounts so we didn’t really know what to expect.

We saw pictures of craters and steam rising up out of them online. (Here is one of our own pics).


I pictured a post apocalyptic looking town with various abandoned building and craters thoughout the town. I also thought that all the roads into the town had been blocked off, so I though we’d have to hike in and out. I thought the only people we’d see would be the 5 residents that Wikipedia said still lived in the town.

Wikipedia also said that a boy had fallen into a sinkhole and had to be rescued by a quick acting uncle. I was skeptical about this account, but we decided to be cautious and bring a full pack with water, food and rope.

The coolest part of the day was walking on a mile long stretch of Highway 61 which has been blocked off due to massive cratering. Walking this road felt like being in Mad Max or the Postman (The novel, I didn’t care for the movie).


However we quickly realized we were over prepared for the day as it was a popular spot for parents to bring their whole family and there was even ample parking in various spots. The reworked stretch of Highway 61 still goes through Centralia.

Also disappointing was that there are no buildings left abandoned except for one right off of Route 61 and the 4 or 5 houses that people still live in. Everything else had been demolished and the remains cleared away. It was hard to tell that a town had every actually been there.

Stefan and I wandered around for most of the afternoon thinking that around every curve we’d hit a clearing and find blocks of abandoned building. Instead the day turned out to be mostly a nature hike.

There are also huge hills of coal in one part of town.


Don’t get me wrong it was still a lot of fun. For instance we were goofing off at the end of the day and I told Stefan to pretend he could repel into the biggest crater.


There are a lot more pictures on photobucket, just click on one of the pictures here and you can click through everything.


  1. That's too bad about all the buildings being demolished. It looks like an interesting place but no doubt would have been much more interesting with the abandoned buildings still being intact.

    Too bad about all the graffiti. I've never understood people's need to write all over stuff. It would look much more interesting without all the signs that people are all over the place.

  2. Yeah, the graffiti really takes away some of the magic.

  3. There was a ghost town in NE Nebraska, about 20 miles from where we lived when I was a kid. There were only a few buildings, though one of them was a small bank, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I always thought it was neat.

    We stopped there a few times when we were going to Ponca Park. It was NOT a tourist attraction. I never saw any other sign of visitors, except for the cropland on all sides.

    Re. your trip, yeah, I would certainly start imagining an end of the world scenario. I guess I've read too much science fiction, huh? :)

  4. It seems like the western United States doesn't have the same tourist phenomenon. My uncle works on oil rigs in the midwest and he sends me pictures all the time of beautiful views in general as well as seemingly untouched ghost towns. Maybe it's because in the midwest these towns are miles from anything else?