Musée de la mine Jean-Marie Somet

Useful Information

Location: Rue du Puits Gallois, 42390 Villars.
(45.464278, 4.355426)
Open: SEP to JUN Sat 14:30-17:30.
Fee: free.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: Michel Peroni (2015): Devant la mémoire, une visite au Musée de la mine Jean-Marie Somet de Villars, éditions Presses des Mines, 2015. Français - French
Address: Musée de la mine Jean-Marie Somet, Rue du Puits Gallois, 42390 Villars, Tel: +33-662-44-85-57.
Mairie, Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, 42390 Villars, Tel: +33-477-91-11-20.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


11-OCT-1867 firedamp blast at the Beaunier well left 39 dead.
21-JAN-1942 dust explosion at the Chana well killed 65 miners.
DEC-2017 reopening of the museum.


During the Carboniferous (359 to 299 Ma) coal formed in basins, where forest grew, deposited peat, which was frequently covered by sediment and preserved. The Saint-Etienne Coal Basin gave its name to a stage at the end of the Carboniferous, the Saint-Etienne, from 306 to 299 Ma ago. At this time all the continents were together forming the supercontinent Pangea, and this area was close to the equator. The coal in this region was of superior quality, coal and in places anthracite.


Musée de la mine Jean-Marie Somet (Jean-Marie Somet Mining Museum) is dedicated to the former Villar miner Jean-Marie Somet. He survived the infamous Chana disaster, and was the creator or originator of this museum. The exhibits show the mining past of the town. It has no show mine, not even a replica mine, but the museum explains the mining very detailed. If you want to see a mine gallery, you must go to the Musée de la Mine Couriot a few kilometers to the south.

The museum is very detailed, and also has a very informative website, which is well worth a visit. This is quite refreshing, as modern websites tend to do a lot of reactive wiggles but fall short in terms of content. Beneath the museum, the mining history, the accidents, the arrival of the railway, and numerous historic building in the city are listed.

An interesting detail which is explained on the website and in the museum, is the jeton or taillette, in english token. The miners went to the lamp room before going underground. There they replaced their lamp with a token with the same number. Each miner had three different tokens depending on their working hours, round token for the morning shift from 6 to 14, square token for the evening shift from 14 to 22 and triangular token for the night shift from 22 to 6. When an accident happened, and there was a lot of confusion, it was easy and quick to check which tokens were set, so the rescuers knew who they were searching for. Of course, it was also helpful when someone got lost or was forgotten, became sick underground or whatever.