Abandoned PA 54/61; Centralia

The Borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania is a modern day ghost town.  From a peak of over 1100 residents nearly 30 years ago, Centralia has been whittled down to slightly over a dozen residents within the borough limits.  The cause: An out-of-control 40 year-old underground coal mine fire.  The issue came to a head in 1983 when a segment of the 4-laned PA 54/61 buckled and caved in due to mine subsidence.  After years of attempts to shore up the highway, a detour, PA 61 was finally moved to a 2 lane bypass away from the town.  PA 54 was realigned onto secondary roads to the south and west.

Most of the residences, businesses, and community buildings were bought by the Commonwealth and have since been raised.  There are a few buildings left, and a few townspeople who are still fighting to stay.


(Alex Nitzman/Cary Todd; 1996)

PA 54/61 was a quiet 4-lane divided roadway until the mine fire forced its closure.  In the photo above, you can still make out a 55 mile per hour speed limit sign.  Fast forward five years, graffiti and overgrowth have begun to takeover the highway.  The highway's closure may have kept it in a serene setting, as this photo from Alex and Cary show; however, the feeling from walking down this damaged road and into the modern day ghost town is certainly the opposite.


(Matt Redden)

Many segments of the roadway have been cracked, broken, and in some parts sizable fissures bellowing smoke from the fire have appeared.  One could only imagine the possible additional accidents that could have occurred if the roadway had remained open any longer.


(Matt Redden)

Microsoft Terraserver provides an excellent aerial view of the abandoned PA 54/61 alignment an the two lane highway that now carries PA 61.  Tim Reichard has noted that this is known as PA 2002. Click here to view 'old' and 'new' PA 61.  PA 54 is along its new alignment a few miles to the south.


(Matt Redden)

At the southern end of the realigned PA 61, the old road is blocked by a highway equivalent of a dam.

The two highways had been routed through the heart of Centralia.  To give an idea of how much Centralia has become a ghost town, compare the above image near downtown Centralia from Alex and Cary in 1996 showing PA 42 @ PA 54/61 and the then detour to Tim Reichard's in August 2001 below.

Many of buildings have been torn down; plus the PA 54 designation is gone.

Site Navigation, Contributors, Sources & Links:

  • Return to Tracing the Past....
  • PA 54/61 Multiplex @ Central PA Roads ---Tim Reichard
  • Alex Nitzman/Cary Todd
  • Matt Redden
  • Tim Reichard
  • PA 42 Ends
  • PA 54 Ends
  • PA 61 Ends
  • Centraliapa.com
  • Offroaders.com: Centralia, PA
  • Roadside America: Centralia Mine Fire

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    Page Created: January 3, 2002
    Last Updated: September 17, 2002

    (C) 2002 Adam Prince