Ashland Community Enterprises (ACE) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in 1962 to preserve the lore, traditions, and artifacts of the underground coal mining history. At the time of its founding, funding consisted of monies contributed by its board members, a federal government loan, and donations from the local community. The history of the Pioneer Tunnel, the steam locomotives and the ACE organization is detailed in "The Story of Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train" authored by its founding member, Emil R. Ermert.
ACE emerged as an organization during the early 1960's through the efforts of Ashland Borough council members seeking a way to generate the local economy and tourism. Through discussions, it was realized that, although the area had several abandoned mines, not one of the mines was open to the public. The decision to place focus on the rediscovery and preservation of a local abandoned underground coal mine was supported by the fact that the borough was founded upon the anthracite coal mining industry. The group of borough council members selected the Pioneer Tunnel as the focus of the revitalization and restoration project. Pioneer Tunnel was the title given to an underground anthracite coal mine located in Ashland; Pioneer Tunnel ceased operations in 1931. The underground mine portal, which is a tunnel through solid rock. was reopened and timbered. Through the leadership of borough council and community members, the portal to the underground mine was uncovered, rehabilitated and was prepared for exploration by tourists. Adjacent lands were cleared, and a steam locomotive was also incorporated into the attraction. At one point during the development of the attraction, two coal veins, the Primrose Vein, and Mammoth Vein were penetrated in order to open the tunnel and surrounding areas. The actual creation of the tunnel entry and multiple gangways was a major milestone in the creation of the historical attraction. Originally tourists traveled into the mine by foot. Tours are currently conducted using passenger cars. Two steam locomotives or "lokies" were purchased and restored for use at the Pioneer tunnel. A contest among local school children was held and the lokie was named the "Henry Clay". Since 1962, the lokie operates at the tunnel pulling eight passenger cars alongside the mountainside. the tour includes a view of the Bancroft Mammoth Vein Stripping area. The Pioneer Tunnel has been in operation as historic attraction since 1962.