Centralia, Day One

March 8. 2000 (later)

(this entry may take a while to load. I apologize to those with slower connections.)

We started out later than I intended, because Paul got lost on the way to my house and I had to buy black and white film and a couple of videotapes. So by the time we got on the road it was three o'clock.

To my surprise, it only took about an hour to get to Centralia. We arrived, loaded film, loaded videotape, and set off. I'm going to go easy on the words here, because the entire experience of Centralia is going to be documented in words and pictures on an entirely separate website called the Centralia Project, to be put up within a few weeks' time. So consider this a sneak preview.


cracks on route 61cracks on route 61

These are cracks on Route 61 created by the steam rising from the burning mine beneath it. As you can see, it made the road unpassable, so about a mile of the highway was permanently closed off, and a new road was diverted around it. You can see steam rising out of the cracks, which in some cases were three feet deep.

cracks on route 61


On left, trees that have been bleached and poisoned by the sulfuric gases rising out of the earth. I picked a branch up, it was dry and papery and the bark flaked off. On right, the new section of route 61 diverted around the damaged part. Beyond that little pile of dirt is the part of the highway pictured above.

dead treesroute 61 diverted


Once we got into town, it was eerily quiet. The only sound were cars going down route 61 and 54. No birds. No animals of any kind. The town was comprised of maybe ten buildings scattered at random intervals in an otherwise empty field. Of the few houses left, all of them had four or five chimneys built on the side of the house (see above right). We surmised that this was to vent the gases out of the earth. It was a really strange sight.

main street?mulitple chimneys


There was a small war veterans memorial, and a time capsule right near it. The time capsule made me kind of sad...who would have known in 1966 that in 50 years Centralia wouldn't exist?

vetrans' memorialtime capsule we love centralia...seems kinda moot at this point...

This sign was pinned to a tree in an empty field near where routes 61 and 54 intersect, which I suppose was once the center of town. This somewhat garish sign, which I guess was meant to be some sort of cheery memorial, just ended up being sad considering the circumstances. There isn't much of Centralia left to love.