Saturday, November 14, 2015

Youghiogheny Coke Works, Douglass, Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, PA

The Youghiogheny Coke Works was something I stumbled across while looking for information on something else. This is a pretty obscure plant and not a lot of information is available. Most of the information I have been able to locate is just a casual mention of it in old mining and engineering journals. 


Here's what we do know. The Youghiogheny Coke Works were constructed in 1891 by Carnegie Brothers and Co. Just that alone makes these ovens very relevant because other than the Larimer Coke Works this was the only coke plant started exclusively as a Carnegie interest. They had an annual capacity of 100,000 gross tons of coke and contained only 18 acres of land. Larimer and Youghiogheny had a combined total of 375 ovens. According to the book "Old And New Westmoreland" (1918), Larimer is said to have had had 300 ovens by 1886. If that's true then there were only 75 at Youghiogheny and that fits in with its small acreage. And that is basically all we know. 

Today Youghiogheny Coke Works is basically an archaeological site. No intact ovens remain. There are two banks that are covered in partially buried coke oven brick and stone. This site is located between the Sutersville Bridge and the town of Blythedale along the Youghiogheny River. It is certainly located in the flood plain and I would imagine they have taken quite a beating from the river before the dam was built in 1944. My guess is the ovens do remain but they are buried. The amount of brick and stone that remain tell me these ovens were not removed. 

This 1939 aerial photo shows that remains of the ovens were barely intact even that early.

This is the bank. It looks like absolutely nothing until you get closer.

Then you start sifting through debris.

Lots of old coke oven brick.

A nice example of burned up fire brick.

A single marked brick.

Now we're getting somewhere! BFB Co. Fire Brick. From what I've been able to find about this is it is the Boston Fire Brick Co. That's Boston, Mass. not Boston, PA. If that's really what this is, what is it doing here? I have never come across a BFB Co. fire brick at any other coke oven site.

A piece of coke oven arch.

An old piece of terra cotta pipe laying in the debris.

Part of a coke oven crown.

A look at this bank.

Looking up the bank from on top of it.

Small section between the two banks. It may have been a solid bank at one time. Even as early as the 1939 aerial it was two separate banks so that might have been the way it always was.

The end of the one bank.

This is a hole that looks like it goes deep into the oven. It may be possible to dig these up.

An incredible find! A nice large piece of coke oven arch block.

Another hole surrounded by coke oven brick.

More bricks.

A nice chunk on inner coke oven wall.

And there you have it! It leaves a lot to the imagination but it's another site discovered.

  The photo below is a postcard I acquired. I'm pretty sure it is of the Youghiogheny Coke Works. I am unaware of anything else in the area that it could be. But things pop up! It could be something different.

Unless there were other ovens at Blythedale, this is probably a photo of the Youghiogheny Coke Works.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Smiley Coke Works

The Smiley Coke Works were built around the same time as the Shoaf Coke Works directly across the road. Both date back to 1904 and were built by the H.C. Frick Coke Company. The Smiley Coke Works contained 146 ovens and there is not too much more information that I've been able to find about these ovens. There are mentions of a 1919 Smiley Coal Company opening a mine that year but this seems to be something entirely different. There is a John William Smiley who worked for the H.C. Frick Coke Co. and, according to his obituary, "was well known throughout the coke region". Perhaps the plant was named for him. It is odd how little information there is on the Smiley Coke Works. We do know they were idle in 1909, could that have been it for Smiley? Did they concentrate more on Shoaf and abandon Smiley? We visited this site two weeks ago and I've been searching for information since then.  Any information on these ovens would be greatly appreciated.


There is not too much left of the Smiley ovens.  The ovens that remain are in very poor condition.  There is a large mine dump behind the ovens and a very intact wharf wall but nothing else seems to remain.


These were the condition of all the ovens.


The slightest bit of remaining retaining wall.

Mary Jane looking around outside of the ovens.


The nice and intact coke yard wall.

The large slate dump.

A nice sleeper stone from the larry tracks on top of the ovens.

The remains of a possible old mine building.