Sunday, March 30, 2014

Donohoe Coke Works/Alexandria Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad

On January 20, 1884 the Alexandria Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was opened between  Georges Station (Donohoe) and the Alexandria Coal Company's mines at Crabtree.  Most of this can still be seen today and a lower portion is part of a proposed trail at Twin Lakes Park.  In 1901 the branch was extended from Crabtree to New Alexandria. Later the branch was extended to the mines at Andrico, north of New Alexandria. Many parts of this can still be seen as well. The entire length from Donohoe to Andrico was 9.7 miles. The section from Georges Station to Crabtree was 4.55 miles. I'm not able to find when it was abandoned but passenger service between Donohoe and Andrico was discontinued on 1/1/1926 and the areas near Loyalhanna Creek were being lost around 1942 for the Conemaugh Dam flood control project. The branch itself is still shown on the 1960 county map.

The Donohoe Mine and Coke Works at Greenwald, east of Crabtree opened around 1900 by the Donohoe Coal and Coke Company and operated until September 1923 when the mine was sealed by striking miners and never reopened. The coke works contained 180 ovens circa 1909 and produced a high grade foundry coke. There are nowhere near that many remaining out here today.  I did find a small bank separated from the main bank. This was the only place I found an intact oven. I wouldn't have even found this if I didn't come across a huge puddle on the old railway that I needed to bypass. The rest of the ovens are in pretty bad shape with none of the fronts left.


 Here's a couple photos I found from 1909 of the coke plant.


Donohoe Coke Plant

Storage Bin and Washery

The area highlighted in red on this map is the area covered in this post. It stretches from Kiley Drive east of Crabtree to Police Road. I couldn't go any further because of a house that was built on the old railway on the other side of Police Road.


And here are the photos.



 The main set of coke ovens.

 They're not in very good shape.

Heading down the old railway.


 This is an interesting little arch thing sitting in front of the ovens.

 The massive puddle in the middle of the railway. I cut to the right to get around it and found this other set of ovens.

 This is the only intact oven I found. It's strange that it's even here.

 This is inside of it. Some kind of strange barrel contraption with an exhaust. No idea what it is.

 Another nice puddle I had to get around. Thankfully this was the last one.

 Headed down the line.

 These were to the left of the railway on the other side of a flooded area. They look like they could be piers or abutments for possibly a tipple.

 This looks like it could have been a siding at one time. It goes down to where I saw the possible tipple piers.

 This is a bridge from an old road. The road can be seen on the old map of the area. Now it serves as a farm bridge. The cows came across it later.

 The cows hanging out at the farm.

 Another view of the bridge.

 Another puddle but easy to cross. There is some sort of piping system running along this small area.

 And on down the line.

 This is as far as I could go. The house on the other side of Police Road.

The cows came across the bridge and were staring at me on my way back.



The following was sent to me by Bill Noel of Fairfax County, VA about his family history surrounding the Donohoe Mine and Coke Works. 



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Youngstown Coke Works, Youngstown, PA- Fayette County

The Youngstown Mine and Coke Works were founded in 1880 by The Youngstown Coke Company. Based in Youngstown, Ohio, this company consisted of four partners who were managers at different iron works and blast furnaces in their home town. That same year they founded the town of Youngstown, PA to house the workers for the mine and coke plant. 

Containing 240 ovens, this plant was operated by the Youngstown Coke Company until 1903 when it was acquired by the H.C. Frick Coke Company. They operated this plant until probably the early 1920's at which time it was closed. World War II and the demand for coke caused the reactivation of the plant and mine in 1943 until it closed for good in 1948.

On October 27, 1884 an explosion at the mine killed 14 workers. 

90 years later, the Percy Mine, which closed in the 1950's and was built above the Youngstown Mine caught fire underground.  It wasn't until 2005 that this fire was actually brought under control. I'm not sure what the condition of it is now.

There is one bank and two blocks of ovens here. These are the bank ovens.

It's the opposite of what you usually find. Here the fronts are relatively intact and the ovens themselves are falling down.

Still nice brickwork.

Inside one of the bank ovens.

This is the condition of a lot of these ovens.

A bit of hardware left on this one.

What happened here?

These all appear to have original construction.

I'm not sure what the thing on top of these bank ovens is. We'll get back into that later.

Looking over at the block ovens.

A nice Yough brick.

Looking straight down the bank. This is a very long intact bank of ovens.

Garfield block.

This is the split between the block ovens. The end is very intact on the block to the right. The one on the left not so much.

A big tree laying on the ovens.

Another stamped brick.

A pile of Garfield bricks.

Coke oven block makes a nice fire ring.

These pier blocks are very nicely intact.

The end of the bank ovens.

End of the ovens and what looks like a pier for a bridge onto the ovens. Probably for the larry cars that loaded coal into the ovens.

Looking over at the blocks from the side of the bank.

The block ovens. The daylight inside the ovens was coming in through the fronts where they detached from the ovens.

The end of the block.

Very nicely intact. It's very rare to find them this nice.

Looking down the line. The banks are on the right and the blocks are on the left.

Block ovens and the pier wall.

Very nice. The cups on the ground look like somebody dragged a keg back here last night.

This is the back of the block ovens. Not in very good condition at all.

Further down the back ovens get better.

The patch town of Youngstown.

This is strange. I thought it was a room but it does have a trunnel hole at the top for loading coal.  It's a coke oven but different. Also, I've never been in a coke oven that reeked of stale beer like this one. There was a big party here last night.

Inside of it. The floor was wet with beer.

This sat right next to the room/oven. A small looking oven that is still bricked up.

This is on top of the block.

Looking from the room towards the end of the block.

The other end of the block.

I like the course of brick under the block on this oven.

This is the thing that was on top of the bank ovens.

The hoops must have supported something.

The hardware runs the whole way through it.

On top of the bank of ovens.

A piece of railroad tie from the larry track.

Old photo of Youngstown coke drawers (The Engineering Magazine 1901)