Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum Showcases History and Culture


Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum has been directed by Jason Huntzinger for nearly three years, but it has been a staple for the city of Helper for much longer.

Huntzinger stated that the museum is a great representation of what Helper was and it has a wide appeal for a variety of audiences. The museum highlights mining and railroad, but it is a lot more than that.

“It’s kind of a cultural museum and it’s a fun museum,” Huntzinger said.

Featuring a plethora of interesting artifacts, stories and photographs, a patron that walks in may be surprised at the volume of material and the wide range of topics that are covered. The museum is located in the old Hotel Helper, utilizing the old boarding rooms to break down the museum into different topics by both room and floor.

Huntzinger explained that they have been working a lot of the third floor, which is essentially the cultural floor. New rooms that are in the works include the press room, which will explore the role and importance of local newspapers. This will highlight the history of local journalists, including Bob Mullins, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Helper.

The Hiawatha Room is another new room in progress. It will tell the unique story of local artist Thomas Elmo Williams and his transition from miner to artist. “Williams is known for his definitive depictions of miners and mining life,” shared Huntzinger.

One of the things that Huntzinger believes really makes the museum feel personable is that his assistant Isabel has a great knowledge of mining. Her husband was a longwall miner for a large part of his career and Isabel also has deep cultural ties to Carbon County. This helps give visitors a very personal experience when they visit the museum.

“As a small staff, we try to be very relatable and we try to personalize the experience for our visitors,” stated Huntzinger.

Huntzinger continued by stating that he believes that each member of his staff brings a unique knowledge to the museum. His other assistant, Roman, was in the military for over 25 years and has overseen the veteran rooms, also helping with a lot of the design of the rooms.

On the other hand, Huntzinger’s background is in photography and exhibition design. The museum works to bring the story alive through photographs. To Huntzinger, the photos do a great job of creating that small town feeling as patrons are looking into the lives of the people that lived here.

Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum gathers visitors from throughout the world. From locals, to visitors from cities such as Boston and New York, all the way to Germany and England. Huntzinger stated that while the overseas visitors have halted due to COVID-19, they are eager to begin welcoming them back.

Recently, the museum experienced a large change as the name shifted from the Western Mining and Railroad Museum to Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum. Huntzinger said he has been wanting to do that for a while as he felt that “western” was too generic and he thought the museum should boast the name of the town. He stated that he liked the possessive title for Helper as it gives the community a sense of pride and ownership in the museum.

Recently, a fundraiser entitled the Bluegrass Rambler was hosted for the museum and Huntzinger credited it as a success, stating that they are hoping to do more events in the future. These fundraising events are another great incentive for patrons to become museum members as the events are free for them.

Helper’s Mining and Railroad Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. There is a suggested donation of $8 per person or $20 for a family. Member options are $20 for an individual for the year, $35 for a couple and $50 for a family. The museum is located at 294 South on Helper’s Main Street.

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