Volunteers building Staudenmeier Station at Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland

Nov. 5—ASHLAND — A new structure at Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine called Staudenmeier Station will provide a much-needed boarding area for passengers on the steam locomotive rides.

The station is named after the late county commissioner Frank Staudenmeier, a lifelong Ashland resident who served on the Pioneer Tunnel board of directors and was deeply involved in community work.

“The whole initiative is to honor the life, work and efforts of the former county commissioner,” said Pioneer Tunnel board member Tim McGinley, who spearheaded the initiative.

Staudenmeier Station will provide a dedicated seating area for passengers while they wait for their train to pull into the station. There will be room for up to 36 people, with eight benches and handicapped-accessible seating under an enclosed roof.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of March, in time for the opening of Pioneer Tunnel’s spring season. A formal dedication for the station will be held April 1.

McGinley said the structure represents a “very functional” and needed amenity for Pioneer Tunnel, which has not had anything like it since it opened in 1962 as a tourist attraction.

“After (Staudenmeier’s) untimely passing, at a meeting, we decided to build this very necessary addition for our passengers to board the train,” McGinley said.

Staudenmeier Station is a wood-framed structure, constructed in an early-20th century style, and will be modeled after the train stations of that era in Schuylkill County.

McGinley said the station’s colorway will resemble that of a nearby locomotive barn, which has dark brown roofing and cream-colored siding.

Construction on the project started approximately eight weeks ago. Although the basic framework of the structure is complete, McGinley hopes to fill in the roofing and install a padded concrete floor by the start of winter.

Several volunteers have lent their efforts to the project so far, including Ralph Buchspics Jr., a former Pioneer Tunnel board member.

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A large plywood sign constructed by Eric Shade, of Shade’s Signs & Graphics, Valley View, will be affixed to the station’s roof.

Pioneer Tunnel is currently seeking volunteers to help fabricate some of the railings. Any metalworkers or welders interested in assisting can call the office at 570-875-3850.

Staudenmeier connection

McGinley said the project is a tribute to Frank Staudenmeier, who served as a county commissioner from 2002 until his death in 2020.

In addition to his role on the Pioneer Tunnel board of directors, Staudenmeier was employed for 24 years as area manager and community development director in Frackville with Pennsylvania Power & Light Electric Utilities Corp., the predecessor of PPL Corp., before his retirement.

He was active in coaching youth sports, including serving as president and manager of Ashland Teener League and Ashland Area Girls’ Softball Association. He was also a member of Ashland Elks Lodge No. 384.

Staudenmeier had a way of “bringing people together” regardless of background or political beliefs and was known for his strong leadership skills, according to McGinley.

“I wish there were more people in leadership roles who would follow his lead,” McGinley said.

Staudenmeier’s son, Scott, and two of his grandchildren, Ava and Trevor, visited Pioneer Tunnel on Friday to check out the new station.

Scott Staudenmeier said he “couldn’t be more proud” of the initiative, noting that it is a fitting tribute to the Ashland native who spent so many of his years at Pioneer Tunnel.

As a child, Frank Staudenmeier was part of the facility’s first-ever steam locomotive ride in 1962.

“He was playing in a bush, and the train stopped,” Scott Staudenmeier said, “and he was able to jump on it.”

He said Staudenmeier Station will be a welcome addition to the facility.

“Finally, there’s somewhere where you actually have somewhere to sit and wait for the lokie now, instead of just moseying around and waiting for it to come,” Staudenmeier said. “It’s a nice waiting area.”

Contact the writer: hlee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6085

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