Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marianna Mine and Coke Works

The coke ovens at Marianna in Washington County are a great example of a later era coke plant. There are two banks of at least 150 ovens and most are in great condition. The ovens in Marianna are "waste heat" beehive coke ovens. The gases from the ovens were recycled to power four Stirling boilers (possibly more later as additional ovens were added), each having a capacity of 500 horsepower.

The coke works originally consisted of 75 ovens and began operations in 1907. The mine, coke works and town were considered state of the art and were constructed by the Pittsburgh-Buffalo Company. Organized on January 4, 1904, the Pittsburgh-Buffalo Company was incorporated from a number of smaller coal companies in the area. The village of Marianna was part of West Bethlehem Township until it was incorporated in 1910.

The 282 new "model" company houses were constructed of yellow brick and included indoor plumbing and electric. Yellow brick was also used to construct the ovens which makes them unusual in that sense alone. A second bank of ovens was added at some point later.

Even with the state of the art mine, which at the time was considered "the finest mine in the world", this was the site of the worst mining disaster in Washington County history. Shortly before 11:00 AM on November 28, 1908 the mine exploded. 154 miners were killed in the explosion. 

The population at Marianna was over two thousand in 1910. In 1970 it was down to 872. During the 1920's the mine was acquired by the Bethlehem Steel Company who operated it until 1988 when an underground conveyor belt fire permanently closed the mine.


Some of the track leading into the mine site.

The loading wharf is fully intact through almost all of this area.

Closeup of the wharf wall.

Some of the yellow brick ovens.

A perfect seam between the ovens. I am unsure what the smaller arch below the brick seam is. I've seen these other places but have never been able to figure out what they are.

Most of the ovens are numbered.

Looking down the bank.

See, we're already at oven 138.

Great ovens.

In this area a power grid is passing over the ovens. The fronts are all missing here.

This tree is growing perfectly in the middle on the top of the oven.

A small section of nothing.

After that are some typical looking stone retaining walls.

I'm not sure what the "nooks" in this section of ovens are.

Dissected oven.

The end of the high numbered bank.

The start of the low numbered bank.

A piece of larry track on top of the ovens.

Did they run out of yellow brick here?

This is inside of the oven. The chute for the recycled gas is below the trunnel hole and now just appears to go back into the ground.

Looking out.

Oven 55 already!!

This oven still is partially bricked up.

Oven 50.

Slowly nature is taking them back.

This oven has some steel on its door frame.

Oven 34.


Back to all yellow brick.

Oven 23.

Oven 23 has a nice steel plate on the front.

Time to make it through this tangled mess.

A big pile of coke.

Some red brick mixed in with the yellow.

I'm not sure what this piece of hardware is....

But it fits snuggly over the bracket.

This lower section has piles on coke sitting in front of all the ovens.

Oven number 2.

Oven number 1 is a mess of vines.

The end of the bank.

Some piers for the larry track.

Standing on one of the piers with my souvenir coke. Coke is great for landscaping.

This large structure is at the end of the bank.

The slots in the side line up perfectly with the larry piers.

The other side of the structure.

The front.

The front again. The fenced in square is the location of Rachel Shaft.

One of the old mine buildings.

Another mine building. These buildings are being used.

On the way out I came across this drain using old mine track for the grate.

More abandoned track.

Looking back at the ovens from the track.

This is a link to a great page with many old photos of Marianna. 

A diagram of the waste heat beehive coke ovens at Marianna.

An early newspaper account of the 1908 explosion. It is best to download this photo so you can zoom in on it and read it.

A nice video of the Marianna Coke Works can be found here.

Here is a link to a recent newspaper article describing the decline of the town of Marianna as well as other towns in the area.


  1. Great set of photos mike, keep it up.

  2. Nice set of pics and write up Mike. The railroad is still owned by Norfolk Southern and the tracks are still extant (but heavily brush covered) from Marianna north to Cokeburg Jct. Much of the track is welded rail. Last time I was in Marianna there was a Bethlehem Steel Mine #58 sign, did you happen to notice it? The last thing identifying the property of the old mine.
    If you were north of town, did you notice the abandoned right of way of the old Chartiers Southern RR? Another item for investigation!
    Eric Johnson

    1. Hey Eric! That sign is still there. I saw it when I was looking for a way in but forgot to go back and photograph it. I didn't get north of town but am definitely interested in that right of way. Certainly another item for investigation. I'll have to look into that. Thanks!!

  3. I photographed the sign from the highway, across the creek. The Chartiers Southern right of way is quite visible from just north of Marianna north through Eighty-Four, PA area. Also some of right of way is visible in (I think) in North or South Strabane Townships. Most of the line was graded, some track laid, never really saw any traffic. Also, old bridge piers of the line are visible in Clarksville, PA.
    Eric Johnson

  4. One other interesting railroad item, now gone, was Conrail's block limit or station sign Mary that was at the north end of the railroad yard at Mine 58. It was still there in the mid-1990's after the Marianna Branch was shut down since the late 1980's.
    Eric Johnson

  5. I grew up in Marianna, born there in 1952. my father and all my uncles and all my neighbors all worked in mine #58. we played all over and all around the mine and in those coke ovens. and if you ever go back there again and if it is still safe to get in some of those ovens, look for melted candle residue on the walls. Me and my pals use to investigate and hang out in them every summer when school was out back in the later 1950's. we would place the candles on the wall edges and space them out all lit in the tunnels so we could see and walk up to about 200 yards before we would come to a caved in section. sometimes we would crawl on our bellies over the cave in and continue on .The mine didn't work 7 days a week then and with no one around to deter us, we investigated just about every place we could get to around the buildings and tipple and main shaft. I am 63 yrs. old now and long since moved away from Marianna due to the lack of work there, but I always think of those years growing up there. People now would think I am crazy for thinking it, but those lean years of being part of a coal miners family were the best years of my life. A whole different life style for sure. I know my parents didn't think so because of the lean times but I look back and think it was the greatest.

    1. Great story. Thank you. If I do go back there I will look for that wax.

    2. I was born in Marianna and still here but I never worked in the mine. My father and brother did. Only last week I took a couple of people to see the 2 sets of different ovens. The tunnel showing in your drawing is still there that was used for the hot exhaust gases. When I was young we also used to play in these tunnels. There was only one cave in then but now there are 2 and you can still go inside and that's where I took the couple. Next time your in Marianna I would be glad to show you.

    3. I lived at 517 3rd street from 1952 thru oct 1962. I am part of the fetsko coal miner family.

    4. Hi! Thank you. Yes, I would be interested in seeing that. I was planning on coming down for the community festival on July 9. Maybe I can catch up with you then? Thanks for commenting!

  6. The train tracks are not abandoned, their in out of serviced status. And if all goes well, they might be back in service some day soon.

  7. The train tracks are not abandoned, their in out of serviced status. And if all goes well, they might be back in service some day soon.

    1. Great! I didn't realize that. What's the plan that they may be in service soon?

  8. Who is still using those buildings? I thought they were abandoned?

    1. I'm not sure who's using them. There were vehicles parked at them the last time I was down there.