Follow along the old cobblestone streets of downtown Phillipsburg to see steam locomotive number 142, a historic passenger train that connects the past and the present at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine, established in 1858.
There, visitors can board the train at a private station, settle into cushy leather seats and ride through the forest along the Delaware River in Warren County as a trail leader tells tales of the mine’s origins.
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The guide introduces passengers to the story of miner Sylas Smith, whose death helped uncover the mine. “This is as much fun for me as it is for him,” says Brian Hodgrin, father of 6-year-old Elliot, visiting from New London, Ohio.
A 15-minute ride brings passengers to the Susie Q mine, where the first attraction is an exhibit featuring the stones of the Susquehanna Mine, including rough rubies and fossilized sharks’ teeth left behind by rising and falling sea levels in the Silurian era, when the northern part of New Jersey was still under the sea.
Once at the mine site, a guest is invited to simulate a mine explosion by pushing down on a fake detonator, causing steam to erupt from an old mining shed. Next, guests begin their own mining adventure. Each visitor receives a bag of about 11 ounces of small gemstones, including amethysts, rubies and rose quartz. The stones are placed into silt within a long, silo-shaped device; visitors pan through the sediment to secure gemstones that they can keep as souvenirs.
After mining, refuel with snacks at the concession stand, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at tables overlooking Snyder Farm, which is home to archaeological digs sponsored by Temple University.
With a bag of their own gemstones, make-believe miners head back to the train as the fall sun begins to set over Phillipsburg. The return ride allows you to recount all the things you didn’t know before taking this Delaware River RailRoad Excursion.
Ol’ Susquehanna Mine trips run from April 30 to October 30 at 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm and 3:30 pm. Prices are $16 for children, $23 for adults.
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