By Jamie Leary

GEORGETOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – The Georgetown Loop Historic Railroad has been a popular attraction since the 1980s. The train ride along with other pieces of tangible history drive most, but what many don’t realize, a beyond-dedicated staff makes it all work.

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“It’s really hard. Working 10 to 12 hours a day in here, I have the utmost respect for the miners working back in the day because we do it all by wheelbarrows pics and shovels. Just like the old timers did it back in the 1800s.” said Tina Fleming, the Mine Manager at the Georgetown Loop Historic Railroad.

For the last four years, Fleming has been working to clear a mine collapse in the Everett Tunnel from the 1970s. At the time, there were not enough resources to find a solution.

The land was eventually taken over by History Colorado, and it quickly grew to be a popular tourist attraction.

Tina Fleming (credit: CBS)

When Fleming took on her role as Mine Manager, she made it her goal to get to the other side of the collapse.

“I got the money, and I knew it was going to be hard work to get this done but you know what? It was really worth every bit of it.”

She first had to prove to a representative of History Colorado another side still existed.

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“He said if you can prove that there’s another side, I will get you the money for the grant. I had a little pocket that I was able to get through safely, and I brought him in and I shined the flashlight down and you can see the tracks on the other side.”

She got her grant and got to work.

“So far we’ve pulled out probably close to 300,000 lbs. of rock out of here, by wheelbarrows.”

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As of Friday, there was just 10 feet left to go.

“I actually drove different size pipe inside the muck pile and as I get there, I mark it so I know how much is left. We threw a little tiny endoscope camera inside there, threw it inside the pipe, and I was able to see the other side.”

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What Fleming saw was a lot of empty black space, which to her, means there are no more muck piles to dig through.

The goal for Fleming isn’t mine for resources. She is mining for tourism.

She knows she is close to an old easement between the mines, and if she can get through the last 10 feet, she will be able to connect the Everett and Lebanon Tunnels for tours.

Fleming and her crew of mostly women, have done what not many people could. It wasn’t long ago it was considered bad luck to have women in the mines.

“I think I’m bringing good luck to the mines!” laughed Fleming.

(credit: CBS)

It’s part of what drives her to keep pushing through to the other side.

“For me, as a woman, to open this up and to go down in history with my crew and to show that women can be strong. They can conquer anything.”

Once she is finished with this collapse, she plans to go even further.

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She hopes to have an easement cleared between the two mines as soon as November and hopes to see full tours start tours start in April of 2020.

Jamie Leary