Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Up And Down Frozen Rivers

This was a short trip starting upriver from Pittsburgh on the Allegheny and heading down river on the Ohio and up the Beaver River. It was meant to get photographs of the frozen rivers but I came across some old and current industry.

Frozen Allegheny River at Herrs Island (Washington's Landing).

Herrs Island Railroad Bridge. Built in 1903 by the Pennsylvania Railroad (West Penn Railroad) on the back channel of the Allegheny River.

31'st St. Bridge from Herrs Island. 1927-1928.

Ohio River at Avalon, looking across at the Shenango Coke Plant on Neville Island.

Emsworth Lock and Dam on the Ohio River.

The I-79 bridge is in the background.

Ohio River at Baden. Looking across at the former J&L Steel Aliquippa Plant site.

Single track at Baden.

Beaver River at Bridgewater. Beaver-Rochester Bridge and current Norfolk Southern bridge.

Near the mouth of the Beaver River. Beaver-Rochester Bridge.

This is the Beaver (railroad) Bridge. It was built between March 1908 and May 1910 by the Pittsburgh And Lake Erie Railroad.

It is still in use today and owned by CSX. The entire length of the bridge is 1,779 feet.

The Rochester-Monaca Bridge. 1986.

A couple more of the P&LE Bridge.


This is the frozen Buttermilk Falls in Homewood, north of Beaver Falls. It is located at the former site of the Homewood Stone Quarry.

The Homewood Stone Quarry began operations in 1852 and was famous for its Homewood Sandstone.

The sandstone was used for the construction of roads, canals and bridge abutments. The most famous use of the sandstone was in the construction of Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh.

Back side of the frozen Buttermilk Falls.

Further up the Beaver River. This railroad bridge crosses the river between Ellwood City and Koppel.

Short video I shot at Buttermilk Falls.

These next photos are of an ice jam on the Allegheny River at Parker, PA. Taken 3/1/14



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some cool old videos

Nothing new. Stuff that's out there already but all in one convenient location.


Coke ovens burning at Shoaf. Somewhere there has to be more of this. It certainly looks like outtakes of something. Probably late 1960's.





People living in coke ovens during the Great Depression. The winter of 1935, filmed by Universal Newsreels. Once again, there has to be more footage.




1904 Westinghouse film. Wilmerding to Trafford. There are many more of these available on the Library Of Congress website but this is just one. I like this one. It's nice railroad footage.




Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jimtown (Sterling Coke Works) and Spring Grove Coke Works

These ovens represent two of the earliest successes in the Connellsville coke district, as well as two of the earliest coke works. The first reliably recorded ovens were built during the summer of 1841 when two local carpenters, Provance McCormick and James Campbell, decided to build a coke plant. With William Turner and John Taylor, a local farmer and stone mason, they built two small ovens on Taylor's land.

By spring of 1842, they had made enough coke to load close to 10.5 tons onto two boats and travel by river to Cincinnati to try to unload their product. The product was unfavorably received. They eventually unloaded it to a Cincinnati foundryman but the trip was hardly successful. 

Later, in autumn 1842, the ovens were fired again. This time by the Cochran brothers, Mordecai, James, and Sample. The brothers made the Cincinnati trip again. They sold again to  the foundryman, who by this time had recognized its value in foundry work. 

By the mid 1840's, Stewart Strickler, long experienced in boating agricultural produce down river to Pittsburgh, built six ovens at Jimtown (named after James Cochran). The output of these ovens were marketed by the Cochran brothers. 

In 1855, at a time when there were only 25 ovens in the region, a rail connector was constructed between Connellsville and West Newton. Strickler bought eighty acres of coal land near his Jimtown ovens and two years later opened the Sterling coke works, which would total 303 ovens by 1882. This plant was operated by the J. M. Schoonmaker Company. 

By 1860, with railroad and coke plant expansion, there were still only about 70 ovens in the region. Ten years later would see at least 550, and by 1873 there were more than 3,600 ovens.  

In 1864, the Cochran and Keister Company opened the 100 oven plant at Spring Grove.

Both of these coke plants are located along Hickman Run on the Hickman Run Branch of the B&O Railroad.


The ovens circled in red are the Jimtown/Sterling coke works. The ones in blue are the Spring Grove.




This is the first section you come across coming up Jimtown Road.

Not a whole lot left in this area.

 Bits and pieces here and there.

This is looking south along the completely deteriorated bank.

When you get up the road a bit they start getting a little better in spots.

Still in pretty bad shape though.

Completely visible from the road but, you would never see these in the summer.

A little better.

From the road.

This is either a pile of railroad ties or a collapsed structure of some sort.

Then further up the road you come across this. I wasn't expecting it. They are very small ovens though.

Doorways are thinner than normal.

Spring Grove

These ovens definitely show their age.

1864. These ovens were going during the Civil War.


They're big ovens.

Tile floor tiles are still partially intact in this one.

It might not look like it, but this hill was a nasty climb after a rainy night and morning.

From the road.

This one kept it's wall.

Probably the best preserved of the bank.

A lot of rubble but the oven itself is in pretty good shape.

A brick I couldn't get to. Sometimes an object can be just four feet away but completely impossible to get to.

The upper end is in better condition.

This one's pretty nice.