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Danny Sorrells (center), Human Resources director for James River Coal subsidiaries Blue Diamond Coal and Leeco, Inc., describes the operation of the Success Xpress' continuous mining machine simulator while David J. Howard, a mining instructor for H&H Training, and others watch.

Bo Joseph, of Leslie County, still black with coal dust from his mining job, tries out a continuous mining machine simulator onboard the Success Xpress mobile miner training unit.

EKCEP Coal Coordinator David Ruth (left), demonstrates some of the features of the Success Xpress mobile mining training unit to Tonya Wagers (center), of Busy, and Jeffrey Combs (right), of Bulan.

L.K.L.P. Community Action Council Case Manager Allison Brown (right) hands out Success Xpress key chains to Black Gold Festival-goers Thelma Ritchie (left), of Talcum, and Inis T. Reedy (center), of Whitesburg.

Danny Sorrells (left), Human Resources director for James River Coal subsidiaries Blue Diamond Coal and Leeco, Inc., shows Black Gold Festival-goer William J. Harrison (right), of Bowling Green, an advanced console used to train miners to diagnose and repair problems with continuous mining machines.

The Success Xpress mobile mining training facility was set up as one element of a large display of various pieces of mining equipment in downtown Hazard during this year's Black Gold Festival.

Shelly Bailey (right) of Bonnyman visited the Success Xpress mobile mining training facility with her son Wyatt (in her arms) and daughter Kennedy (on left).

Nearly 300 People Tour EKCEP's Success Xpress During Appearance at 2008 Black Gold Festival

Hundreds of visitors who came to Hazard’s 2008 Black Gold Festival to eat carnival food, listen to music, and celebrate eastern Kentucky coal mining also got a chance to get an up-close-and-personal look at cutting-edge new training technology for miners.

During the festival, nearly 300 people climbed aboard and toured Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc.’s (EKCEP) Success Xpress, a specially modified mobile mining training facility built into a 53-foot truck trailer.

Success Xpress was nestled among an impressive festival display of heavy mining equipment that many people might otherwise never view in person.

Success Xpress offered visitors an opportunity to see state-of-the-art equipment and interactive computer programs used to train miners and mine electricians. They could even try their hands at operating Success Xpress’ high-tech computerized continuous mining machine simulator.

Visitors from all walks of life—ranging from young people with no knowledge of mining to experienced miners—were greeted by staff from EKCEP, the Perry County JobSight workforce center, and L.K.L.P. Community Action Council. EKCEP Coal Coordinator David Ruth and others led tours of the mobile classroom throughout the festival.

Those tours also included watching interactive mining education videos, and viewing a large orange panel covered in switches, wires, motors, and lights used to train miners to diagnose and repair electrical problems on actual continuous mining machines.

“It’s mind blowing,” said Tonya Wagers of Busy after the tour. She said she had always been interested in underground mining, and using the simulator to mine “virtual” coal gave her a chance to experience it.

Bo Joseph of Leslie County is an underground coal miner who operates a real continuous mining machine for Blue Diamond Coal. In fact, Joseph showed up at the Success Xpress fresh off a shift still covered with black coal dust. Nevertheless, he was entranced by the simulator.

“It’s basically the same thing,” Joseph said when asked how the simulator compared to the operation of the actual machine.

He said he feels it is a good idea to train new miners on such a simulator before putting them on the real thing.

“If I had one at home I’d probably play with it all day,” Joseph said.

Danny Sorrells, Human Resources director for James River Coal subsidiaries Blue Diamond Coal and Leeco, Inc., visited the trailer during the festival. He said mining simulators are useful to help miners get some initial experience.

Sorrells said Success Xpress has been delivered several times to James River Coal’s subsidiary mines in Perry County. While there, miners trained on the facility’s onboard equipment either before or following their shifts without having to leave the mine site.

Sorrells said he suggested the truck be part of the Black Gold Festival so the public-at-large could see it.

“This is an excellent training tool,” he said.

Sorrells said giving new miners a chance to practice on the facility’s electrical training panels or simulator controls gives them an early familiarity with those aspects of their jobs. Doing so can prove better than expecting them to learn those tasks “on the fly” while on the job, he added.

David Ruth said he and other EKCEP officials are glad hundreds of people got to experience Success Xpress in person.

“The event went really well,” Ruth said. “I think everybody enjoyed seeing Success Xpress and appreciated it being there.”

EKCEP administers government employment and training programs and employer services in 23 rural mountain counties, including the entire eastern Kentucky coalfields region.

Success Xpress is also a key component in EKCEP’s national award-winning Coal Services Program, which employs a variety of services to help address the workforce needs of eastern Kentucky’s coal industry.

EKCEP’s Coal Services Program was the nationwide winner of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2007 Recognition of Excellence Award for “Leveraging the Power of e3 Partnerships.” That award recognizes the value of projects that demonstrate sustained collaborations among employers, educators, and economic development.

For additional information about Success Xpress or EKCEP’s employer services, call EKCEP Coal Coordinator David Ruth at 606-436-5751.

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