Sunday, March 6, 2016

Burchinal Coke Works - Outcrop, PA

The Burchinal Coke Works at Outcrop dates back to the early 1900's. The earliest concrete mention I can find for the coke works dates to 1904 but I have seen other sources saying both 1896 and 1898. Burchinal was named for R.S. Burchinal who was superintendent of the Smithfield Coal and Coke Company who constructed the mine and coke works. Burchinal Works was a smaller operation and never seemed to exceed 35 ovens. By 1907 there were 17 ovens.  Smithfield Coal and Coke Company ran the plant until 1918. In 1919 The Clark Coal Company is listed as owning the plant. In 1920 there is an Old Connellsville Coke Company listed as operating the Liberty Works, with 34 ovens at Outcrop. Old Connellsville Coke Company has on its board R.S. Burchinal as SCO and Homer L. Burchinal as Chief Executive. The coincidence is only strengthened by the fact that I can find no mention of Burchinal Coke Works after 1920. 


In 1905 there was a train wreck at the coke plant. Burchinal was located on the Fairmont, Morgantown, and Pittsburg Branch of the B&O Railroad. 


"A heavily laden freight train, proceeding from the south and drawn by engine 1686, crashed into a half dozen cars that were left standing on the main track by a shifting crew at the coke works. The debris was piled high into the air and the locomotive was almost completely demolished. It, together with a caboose, a car of pit-posts, a car of lumber, and a car of sand, was piled up in a shapeless mass. Several other cars were derailed and it is not thought that the wreckage will be cleared away by late this afternoon. The wrecking crew from here is at work clearing the tracks" (Wednesday, August 30, 1905- Evening Times- Cumberland, MD)


Nobody was seriously injured. Engineer Ed Leckenby and Fireman E.S. Gross, both of Connellsville were able to jump free after seeing that an accident was inevitable.  


Today, there are probably most of he 34 ovens left at Outcrop. The area is a little tough to get into in and it's pretty swampy around the ovens. South of here, between Outcrop and Crystal Works is an old railroad tunnel with two date stamps on its keystone. 1893 and 1916 are both engraved in the tunnel. Since the branch came through as early as 1893 there might be some credibility to the reports of Burchinal operating in 1896 or 1898.



After a nice walk through the jagger capital of the world we finally approach the ovens.

All I had to do was get across this swamp.

Most of the ovens remained. I really need to start counting these.

1 Key block.

A good mixture of different types of bricks here too.

The ovens are in decent condition. The area behind them was strip mined in the past.

The bottom of the oven is missing. It made it stand out.

Inside the oven.

There was this big pile of rubble and railroad ties behind the ovens.

Hard to figure this out.

On top of the ovens.

They're starting to collapse.

An old piece of track laying on its side.

South of the ovens. Heading toward the old railroad tunnel.

Inside the tunnel. The walls are starting to fall down.

A nice intact manhole. This is what you would jump into if you were walking through and a train came into the tunnel. For such a small tunnel there were a lot of these manholes.

The southern portal of the tunnel. This is the side with the date stamp.

The double dated stamp.

A couple more shots inside the tunnel. Notice all the manholes.

This is the old Outcrop company store. It's now a pizza shop. The pizza is really, really good. Especially after running up and down this old railroad all day. The owner told me that there was a plan in place for the past 6 years to turn the abandoned railroad into a trail but the money was never available. The plan was to connect Connellsville to West Virginia. There are apparently a number of bridges along the line that need replaced or rebuilt and the money involved prevents it from happening. Maybe someday. For now they've gotten as far as Dunbar from Connellsville on what is called the Sheepskin Trail.


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