An exploratory trip to the abandoned town of Centralia with hopes of good fall foliage turned up little color but interesting images nonetheless. A more detailed essay on my first trip in the summer of 2020 can be found here.
Figure 1 offers a view across the abandoned town toward the charming Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the other side of the valley. Old hardwood trees from house lots still rise, though the houses themselves and most other buildings were razed—coal seams under the city had caught fire in 1962. Today we went to the southern side of Centralia, a ridge looking out from what used to be the western run of South Street.
Looking into the trees we see Troutwine Street, still with no traces of the once fairly thick housing here (figure 2).
There is fill and rubble all around the vantage point I picked. You can see some graffiti on broken concrete chunks (figure 3).
I took a few photos of the massive wind turbines that sit on the ridge north and east of the old town. It was only then that I noticed the long grey exposures just below the turbines, made visible by the fallen leaves of the birch trees. I hadn’t noticed them on my earlier, always summertime, visits.
Birch likes gravelly “soil” and is a first pioneer in recapturing the waste heaps from coal mines called ‘culms.’ What we are looking at in figure 4 is a vast dump far larger than the town itself. And in fact, when I summoned the region up in the terrain view of Google Maps I was at once interested and horrified to see the scarring of the landscape which is by and large covered, or at least camouflaged, by trees and scrub.
You can see what natural terrain looks like by following the ridge that runs horizontally through the image. Aside from some road cuts and Big Mine Run (stream), all of those scooped out and heaped up areas are mines or culms. Our turbines would be on the ridge above the scarred areas in the upper right (northeast) portion of the image. Big Mine Run Road’ indeed!