This past summer I went on my first real urban exploration to the abandoned coal town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Centralia was a decent sized town right up until the 1980's. In the 1960's, a mine fire was accidentally started, most likely due to ash from burnt garbage being discarded there. Once the fire was ignited, a lot of bureacracy kept it from being put out. Fast forward 20 years later, the town is being slowly abandoned after a young boy is almost swallowed by a sinkhole 4 feet wide and 150 feet deep. In the 1980's, the town of Centralia had around 2,000 residents. According to a census in 2007, there were then 9 residents. The coal fire underground will burn for the next 300 years and may eventually consume neighboring towns in the same way it destroyed Centralia.
We came across the abandoned section of Route 61 first. I was surprised by how easy it could have been to miss. The entrance to this section of the highway is blocked by a mound of dirt that can be easily climbed over or walked around. The first sight I had over the hill was absolutely breath taking. I couldn't believe it was so easy to find. We parked our car and continued on the section of highway.
The actual section of highway is about a half mile in length. It's not very long. Before you begin to see any cracks or smoke pouring out of the ground, you will first notice that the road has literally bubbled up from the heat of the coal fire burning beneath it. If you continue on, you will eventually come across a large crack in the pavement. In some areas of this crack, hot smoke is escaping. While it is extremely difficult to see in the photos, the smoke is very easy to see in person.
Once we finished exploring the section of Route 61, we headed in the the actual town of Centralia. There is not much left of Centralia outside of a few foundations and empty streets anymore. Most of the buildings that were there have been torn down as the residents vacate the town. The town hall, one residence, and a church were visible as the only standing structures in the section we explored. Some street signs and power lines were still standing. In some other areas you can see more smoke creeping out of the ground. According to different sources, one can see smoke coming from the cemetaries in the area as well. The cemetaries are supposedly well kept despite the number of bodies in the cemetary far out numbering that of living residents in Centralia.
All in all, I was not disappointed by this little excursion. Despite the lack of surviving infrastructure, it was really neat to see what gets left behind. It was cool to see roads gradually disappear into the woods and to discover the overgrown foundations of this old town. I'm hoping to be able to go back someday soon to explore the other half.