This archived article was written by: Lindsie Damron
eing a local, I have had 20 years to explore and find the best places to visit in and around Carbon County. One of the best places to visit, and an ultimate must-see, is Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum, located on Helper Main Street, in Helper, Utah. The three-story building commemorates the interesting history of Helper, Utah.
Jason Huntzinger, USU Eastern’s’ photography professor, is the director. He strives to use the museum’s photographic archives to tell the stories of this area’s history.
According to Huntzinger, Western Mining & Railroad Museum has been a part of the community since 1964. It is dedicated to the railroad and coal industries and the immigrants who came to work in those industries.
It was originally housed on the main floor of the Helper Civic Auditorium, where Big John stands watch. The museum was relocated to the current location in 1984, which was originally the Helper Hotel.
The Helper Hotel, built in 1914, was an immigrant hotel for the new arrivals who came to the United Stated to work in the coal mines. These immigrants represented a large number of ethnic origins and by 1920, there were 27 different languages that could be heard on Helper’s Main Street.
The Museum is a three-story history exhibit full of railroad rooms, a disaster room, a simulated coal mine, a blacksmith and machine shop, and they are getting the G-scale train town cleaned up and ready to run. There is also a simulation of an old jail cell exhibit showing early police history and equipment used during the early days of prohibition in Carbon County.
Lifestyles of immigrants are the main focus for the second-floor exhibit. Children’s toys, an old school room, early communication devices, a beauty shop, community organizations and the baseball room are memorable treasures found here. Along the walls are paintings created by Utah artists done during the “Great Depression.”
On the third-floor, an amazing view of Helper main street, railroad yards, and Helper’s proudly acclaimed Balance Rock are visible here. The exhibit on this floor consists of artifacts from the steam engine days. The “Charlie Steen” room shows the story of uranium mining and pictures of mining camps and the Castle Gate and Wilberg Mine disasters.
The new exhibit consists of two separate rooms, telling the stories of these immigrants. The first room ventures into the Cretaceous Swamps and Coal Mines. This room will send you back in time to understand the geology behind the formation of coal that set the backbone for our coal industry that began in the 1880s.