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Watts Museum sponsors Huntington highway historical marker

An image of the historical highway marker sponsored by the Watts

West Virginia University's Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum has sponsored a West Virginia highway historical marker designating the former location of a mine rescue train car. The car was one of seven original Pullman Company train cars purchased by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910, and was retrofitted for use in mine safety and rescue operations throughout Appalachia's coalfields.


Danielle Petrak, curator of WVU's Watts Museum in Morgantown, submitted a proposal to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for installation of a historical marker to commemorate the significance of the train car's mine rescue and training work in West Virginia.

"Given the remote locations of many coal mines, train cars were an effective method of bringing safety and rescue training to miners across the country," said Petrak. "The cars' speed and size meant that rescue personnel could swiftly travel to mine disaster sites with all the equipment and supplies they needed for rescue and investigative work."

The Bureau of Mines divided the United States into nine districts, placing rescue cars, rescue stations and district headquarters near the larger coalfields where mine disasters were most likely to occur. The mine rescue car for the Huntington district served Virginia, West Virginia and eastern Kentucky and was in operation from 1911 through 1933. During that time, it responded to mine disasters in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Tennessee.

When not participating in rescue efforts at mining disasters, the train cars-equipped with mine rescue supplies and a staff of five to six men-became mobile classrooms for mine-rescue and first-aid training. The rescue cars moved from one mining camp to another, stopping at each to conduct field studies, equipment tests, rescue and first-aid demonstrations, training and lectures. When a disaster occurred, mine owners would contact the nearest mine rescue car. The car was then attached to the first available locomotive, which would proceed to the accident scene.

The historical marker for the Huntington Mine Rescue Car has been installed at the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Depot on Seventh Avenue, in Huntington, where the train car was stationed during its service.

The West Virginia Highway Historical Marker Program was initiated in 1937 as part of the New Deal as a way to encourage tourism during the Great Depression. Since the late 1960s, the program has been managed by West Virginia Archives and History, which is part of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Housed in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the social, cultural and technological history of the coal, oil and natural gas industries of the state of West Virginia through the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of objects relevant to these industries. For more information, please contact the museum at (304) 293-4609 or



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