Wednesday, July 17, 2019

James A Kell Visitor Center/Keystone State Park

Hello everybody! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and surviving this heat. It's been awhile since my last post. I've been outside working, swimming, or on the river somewhere. I haven't come across anything that I haven't already written about, but there are definitely some plans in the works. Once Coke Oven Season rolls around again, it should be back to business as usual. Hopefully busier. 



Today I happened to be working out at Keystone State Park and finally got an opportunity to get into the Kell Visitor Center and check out their nice mining museum. It's small, but there are certainly some unique items and photos from this neck of the woods. The collection mainly contains items from the Salem 1 & 2 Mines, and the Huron Mine and Coke Works. The center doesn't seem to have regular hours and is manned by one employee, she also does hikes and other activities. I was fortunate enough that she unlocked the door for me today. 



The stone building was originally built by the Keystone Coal & Coke Company, and was used as a meeting place to conduct business, and also as a hunting and recreational lodge for its executives and management. Like I said, it's hard to get in there, but aside from the mining collection, there are other exhibits related to the park as well as the foliage and animals located within its boundaries. It's a very nice mixture of history and nature. 



One thing I didn't do was get a photo of the outside. This is the building and the photo was borrowed from


This is probably the most interesting piece in the collection. It is a piece of wooden pipe that was used to transport the water from the Keystone reservoir to the coke plant at Salemville.

Keystone No. 1 Mine and Coke Works, from a postcard I own. This mine and coke works operated from 1900-1960. A much more detailed history can be found here.

Some photos showing the Salem No. 2 Mine which was located at the state park.

A collection of miners tags from the Salem Mines.

A very blurry photo of a squib holder.

Safety Lamps.

More mining artifacts.

A photo of women standing at the Belgian style coke ovens that used to be at the Huron Coke Works near the Salem No. 1 Mine.

A couple photos of the Huron Works. I had these on my computer and I don't know where they originated. This one falsely labels them as beehive ovens.

This one, I'm assuming, meant to say "Push Coke Ovens".

"Tipple Sheet" and other papers from the Salem No. 2 Mine.

Another sheet showing photos from the three mines.

The women on the Huron ovens.

Salem No. 1 ovens.

Salem No. 1 Mine. Same photo as the postcard I have.

Salemville 1947.

Salem No. 1 coke ovens.

Some more mining tools on display.

Coal wagon located outside.

Signage located next to the coal wagon.


Mine map showing the Salem No. 1 and Huron Mines. Both sites have been completely reclaimed, and nothing significant of the mines or ovens remains. There is one foundation at the Huron works, but the company houses are all gone and have been replaced by newer houses. Salemville still has some company houses, as well as the company store and a couple other buildings. Nothing remains of the mine or coke works. 

A very detailed history of the Huron Mine and Coke Works, written by Ray Washlaski can be downloaded here.  

The following are a few photos from Ray's paper:

This photo appears to have the ovens under construction. The Huron Mine and Coke Works operated roughly through 1895 into the late 1920's. By 1927 the ovens were cold, but the coal was still being coked at the Salem No. 1 Coke Works. If you're interested in learning more about the the Huron Mine and Coke Works, I highly recommend downloading Ray's paper. There are many more photos.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Along the Redbank Trail

With the 2018/19 coke oven season approaching a rapid end, we now have an opportunity to get on the bike and hit some of our regional rail trails. This is turning out to be the perfect Spring for riding. I have been wanting to ride on this trail for years now, but couldn't get to the sections I wanted to see until they reopened the Climax railroad tunnel. I started at New Bethlehem and headed west. A roughly 25 mile round trip on your bike gets you access to one coke plant, two brickyards, and two railroad tunnels. 



This historic rail bed was first opened by the Allegheny Valley Railroad in March 1873. On November 5, 2007, the last train rolled through New Bethlehem.  The railroad would also be operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Pittsburg and Shawmut Railroad, and the Mountain Laurel Railroad. It was a low grade road and the grades are almost entirely perfect. There was no coasting going in either direction. The engineering used to create this railroad was amazing.



Here are the photo's from the trip:



Long Run Coke Works



Finding much of anything on the history of these ovens is proving to be difficult. The little bit I did find is from the 1887 History Of Clarion County book. These ovens were developed in the circa 1881 by Messrs, Jones and Brinker.  The works were sold to the Northwestern Coal and Iron Company and it is unclear how long they operated. 


The following history is taken from the October 28, 1885 Coal Trade Journal.





The trail developers did and excellent job of supplying historical informational signs at every feature on the trail.This sign got me thinking of copperheads though. I didn't see any, but I did see a porcupine!

All 30 ovens are still relatively intact. These are some old ovens. None of the bricks that I could find were stamped, but I would assume they were manufactured at one of the nearby brickyards.

The partially intact coke yard is in the center, and the railroad siding would be on the right.

According to the trade journal, the mine would have been somewhere up on this hill.





Climax Tunnel





Eastern portal of the recently restored Climax Tunnel. The western portal is a few photos down.



Climax Brick Works




These signs save me from doing a whole lot of research.

 Looking across the creek at the former company town of Climax.

 There are still two intact brick kilns.

 This building was most likely related to the refractory.

A more modern looking house with two older company houses in the background.






St. Charles/Clarion Fire Brick Company






 Once again, the sign tells you the story.

 Approaching the brick works.

 Railroad depot at the refractory.

 There are still 6 or 7 kilns remaining here.

 Large gears in one of the depot buildings.






Long Point Tunnel





Here we have no sign, but we do have a date stamp on the tunnel itself. The stamp reads 1898. This tunnel may have replaced an existing tunnel or the alignment of the railroad might have been changed.



 East portal of Long Point Tunnel.

 West portal.

 The portals are both brick lined at the beginning. After that, the tunnel is cut through solid rock.

 Date stamp on the west portal.

 These photos show the end of the brick lined section on the eastern portal.

 As promised, here is the western portal of the Climax Tunnel.