Saturday, July 19, 2014

Glen White Coke Works

The Glen White Coke Works were operated by the Glen White Coal and Lumber Company. The earliest mention I have found comes from the 1880-1881 Bureau Of Industrial Statistics Report. This early report places the number of ovens at 80 and the production of coke for the year at 32,402 tons. The company was based in Baltimore and by 1919 employed 138 men as well as 25 boys under the age of 16. The company also built housing and created the town of Glen White. The town reached its peak in the 1920's with nearly 200 residents. The coke ovens were abandoned by the 1930's but the mines remained in operation through the early 1940's.

Today the town of Glen White is long gone but the coke ovens remain. The site is located about one mile west of the famous Horseshoe Curve. The ovens are in better condition than a lot I have found. The fronts of the ovens are almost all intact and the woods in the area are pretty easy to walk through. There is also some old stone walls along Glenwhite Run.

Approaching the coke ovens.

The fronts of some of these were in really great condition.

Largely intact stonework.

A couple of them were collapsed.

This one is struggling to stay up.

This big tree claimed this oven a long time ago.

My friend Stevie D. on his first coke oven expedition.

Looking up through the trunnel hole.

Inside one of the ovens.

Apparently there's not enough room in the woods for this tree.

More intact stonework.

Really nice door.

Very nice front.

Bennington Shaft and Coke Works

I've been having a tough time finding a whole lot of information about these coke ovens. The earliest mention I have found states that in 1870's, Cambria Iron acquired the holdings of the Blair Iron and Coal Company and it's works at Bennington. A coke-fired iron furnace had been in blast here as early as 1846. Throughout the 1870's and 1880's Cambria Iron operated 100 coke ovens, employed 300 men and built 95 houses at Bennington. 

A bit of confusion arises from another coking operation that was located near here. The Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company operated two batteries of 200 ovens. After looking at an old mine map and reading up on the Bennington coke ovens, this area is looking more clearly as Bennington Shaft.

An 1878 report by the Bureau Of Industrial Statistics Of Pennsylvania describes this coke plant as having a set of 100 ovens. It gives its location as a short distance east of the eastern portal of the Pennsylvania Railroads' Allegheny Tunnel. It further describes them as being in a double row. All these points, along with the mine map convince me that these are the Bennington Ovens. 

Today there is a single block of pretty deteriorated ovens located here and that's about it. I also don't know how long ago these ovens went cold. They are pretty easy to access and the property wasn't posted so that's a plus.

This is the overall condition of most of these ovens.

It's a nice site though.

This one kept a little bit of it's stone front.

A view from on top of the block.

Looking down through the trunnel hole.

Besides trees, most of the foliage was ferns. Lots and lots of ferns.

This is one of the ends of the block.

When we left we went through Gallitzin to check out the tunnel. This is the western portal. The eastern portal was back by the coke ovens.

Some of the stuff sitting at the museum in Gallitzin.

I tried to get closeups of the plaques on the tunnel.

I zoomed into them with the computer and they came out pretty good.

William H. Brown is a very familiar name to me. He was also responsible for, among other things, the Brilliant Branch Viaduct. The huge bridge in Homewood, Pittsburgh that can be seen while driving on Washington Boulevard.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mammoth No. 2 and Standard Shaft

This is a quick post of these two sites. There's not a lot left at either of them, but what is left is noteworthy. None of the coke ovens related to either of these sites are extent but we do have a couple buildings and a restored (though sealed) slope portal.  

Both of these locations are historically significant in different ways. The Mammoth Mine was the site of a huge mine explosion in 1891 which claimed the lives of 116 miners. This was the largest mine disaster in Westmoreland County until the 1907 Darr Mine explosion claimed 239 miners.

Standard Shaft once boasted the largest coke works in the United States, and according to some accounts I've seen, the world. At its heyday it contained over 900 ovens. 


Mammoth No. 2

In 1879, 2,000 acres of coal property in Mount Pleasant Township were purchased by Col. J.W. Moore of Greensburg. In 1885 his company opened the slope mine. The following year saw the opening of a shaft mine just west of the slope. Both mines had their own coke works and totaled 377 ovens at this time. 

In August 1889, the Mammoth property was purchased by the H.C. Frick Coke Company. Frick operated the mines for a little over a year before the 1891 explosion. About one year after the explosion, the company repaired the underground works and reopened the slope mine. 

By 1910, the slope mine (No. 2) had 199 ovens and the shaft (No. 1) had 311. Although the slope mine was the first of the two, it was named Mammoth No. 2 by Frick. Frick operated the mine and coke works until 1927 but leased the coke works in the 1930's to a Greensburg operation. The ovens near No. 1 remained in use until around 1946.

Nothing remains of the coke works and the only remaining building (besides the former company houses), is the former Boiler and Lamp House Building. This building currently houses the offices for Mount Pleasant Township.

The slope entry for the No. 2 mine.

Inside the sealed slope entry is an old mine cart.

Inside the cart.

A closer look in the portal.

I'm guessing this is a brake lever.

It's attached to the brakes.

A dedication to the miners who died in the explosion.

The area of the portal and the monument.

The current municipal offices and former Lamp/Boiler House.

 Standard Shaft

Standard Shaft No. 2 was opened by the H.C. Frick Coke Company in 1886. It was one of the largest mines and coke works in the United States. The village of Standard Shaft was built after the original coal patch of Standard, which straddles Rt. 819 just north of Mt. Pleasant. Both of these communities are largely intact today. The greatest year of production at Standard Shaft was 1918. That year saw 790,000 tons of coal removed from its mine. 

Coal production wavered throughout the rest of the mines life. In 1925 the mine produced more than 630,000 tons of coal and the coke works produced over 253,000 tons of coke. In 1930 the mine produced over 500,000 tons of coal. In 1931 the mine and coke works were closed.

Other than the houses and the two mine buildings, nothing remains of this enormous operation.

For the record, I think Standard Shaft looks like a really nice, quiet place to live. Everybody I met who lives there has been very polite and seem to look out for each other. The houses are well kept, the neighborhood is spotless and there are many gardens to be jealous of.

This is just a very brief history of standard shaft. A much more in depth history can be found here:


This is an old postcard I own of the Standard Shaft coke works.

A nice historical sign as you enter Standard Shaft.

This is the Standard Shaft Boiler House. This is an original building from the opening of the mine.

One of the patch houses is visible behind the Boiler House.

These small sections of railroad track are all I could find out of what must have been a huge amount of track.

They are located outside of the Compressor House.

This is the Compressor House. I'm sure the garage doors were added later.

One of the windows.

It must be privately owned. Somebody is taking care of it.

There were four of these "hooks" running down the side of the building. I'm not sure what they were used for.

This was sticking out of the ground. Two pieces of track.

This was hanging out of the side.

An overall view of the two buildings. There are other foundation remains also visible. Again, these buildings must be privately owned. I would think when the area was reclaimed, these buildings would have went too.


Old photo of Mammoth Coke Works (The Engineering Magazine, October 1901)

Old photo of Standard Shaft (The Engineering Magazine 1901)

Coke drawers at the Mammoth Works (Engineering Magazine 1901)