Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Dedication of Staudenmeier Station at Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train Honors Ashland Native's Legacy

In a heartfelt ceremony held on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train in Ashland paid tribute to the memory of Frank Staudenmeier, a beloved Ashland native and former Schuylkill County Commissioner. The event marked the dedication of the newly constructed Staudenmeier Station, a fitting honor for a man deeply intertwined with the history and legacy of the Pioneer Tunnel.
Frank Staudenmeier, who passed away in 2020, left an indelible mark on Schuylkill County and its community. A devoted public servant, Staudenmeier's legacy was celebrated by friends, family, and Schuylkill County dignitaries who gathered to commemorate the dedication of the new station bearing his name.

Staudenmeier's affection for his hometown was captured in his favorite quote, "It's a beautiful day in Schuylkill County," which resonated with his fellow residents. His son, Scott Staudenmeier, recounted Frank's early connection to the Pioneer Tunnel, noting that he was one of the first children to ride the Loki Train over 60 years ago. This early introduction sparked a lifelong love for the historic attraction, culminating in Frank's service on the Pioneer Tunnel board.

For an impressive span of 63 years, a member of the Staudenmeier family has held a position on the board of the Pioneer Tunnel, starting with Frank's uncle. George and Larry Staudenmeier followed suit, paving the way for Frank to join their ranks. After Frank's passing, his son Scott assumed his father's seat, continuing the family's enduring commitment to the preservation of this historic site.

The dedication ceremony was graced by influential figures including Pioneer Tunnel Board President Joe Cataldo, Board Member Tim McGinley, Pennsylvania Senator David Argall, Schuylkill County Commissioner Baron "Boots" Hetherington, Frank's brother John Staudenmeier, and Robert Carl Jr., a close friend of Frank's and a former Schuylkill County Commissioner who currently serves as the President of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.

During the dedication, Joe Cataldo, the President of the Pioneer Tunnel Board, highlighted the significance of the Staudenmeier name to the organization. He praised the generosity and hard work of Frank and his collaborators, which had contributed to the construction of the new station, designed to enhance visitor comfort.

John Staudenmeier, Frank's brother, shared poignant memories from Frank's childhood, including his early experiences riding the Loki Train. He recounted a touching anecdote where Frank turned a piece of an old clock into a whistle that replicated the Loki's sound, now available as a memento at the Pioneer Tunnel's Gift Shop.

Robert Carl Jr. delivered a moving tribute to Frank's deep connection to the region's coal-mining heritage. He emphasized the enduring importance of understanding and commemorating this legacy, which was embodied by the Pioneer Tunnel. Carl lauded Frank's character, describing him as an "unbelievably awesome person" and expressing gratitude for their profound friendship.

The dedication of the Staudenmeier Station at the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train stands as a testament to Frank Staudenmeier's enduring impact on his community and his commitment to preserving its history. As visitors and locals alike pass through the newly dedicated station, they will be reminded of the man who held Schuylkill County dear and the mark he left on the region's historical landscape.

Story and Photos by J. Reed / Skook News