Sunday, April 3, 2016

Marion/West Penn Coke Works - Udell, Westmoreland County

The Marion Coke Works was listed as a new plant with 20 ovens in April 1909. The Marion Coke Company was operated by Holmes Andrew Davis. Davis was a local coke operator who operated a handful of plants in the area including the Belle Vernon Coke Works. Marion predates Belle Vernon by a couple years but this was probably not his first venture in the coke industry. We can tell by his obituary that he operated companies under a series of names:



Connellsville Courier - October 22, 1949


Of interest is his involvement in the Hester Coal & Coke Company. The Hester Coke Works are right down the road. When I was researching Hester I did not come across a Hester Coal & Coke Company operating the plant. I did find that the Sunshine Coal and Coke Company did operate the plant in 1909. As we can see from Davis's obituary he began his career with this company. 



The Marion Coke Works would only operate under this name for about four years. In 1913, another Davis operation, the West Penn Coke Company, would operate the plant as the West Penn Coke Works. 



Connellsville Courier - December 5, 1912



In 1913 the West Penn Coke Works is listed as having 33 ovens. By 1918 the plant would have 57 ovens and after that we find no more mention of West Penn Coke Works. It's possible the coal was worked out and Davis left to concentrate on his other operations. This was a very heavily mined area.



Today there are a lot of ovens remaining along Boyer Run off of Udell Road. There is a tremendous amount of litter and it looks like people have been dumping here for decades. Other than the ovens, two abutments from the Boyer Run Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad remain along the creek.



The first oven off Udell Road.

Looking down the bank. A lot of debris.

Some nice intact walls remain throughout the site.

Spring is definitely here.

Collapsed oven.

Three ovens in the bank and the field of garbage.

This one's nice and intact.

Another intact oven.

The bridge abutments along Boyer Run. The creek is definitely picking up some acid mine drainage.

A closer look at one of the abutments.

Once again it's Geno (Mr. Standard) Kowalewski with the baby doll head we found. It's always a good day with Mr. Standard.

The pier wall at the edge of the coke yard is all in very good condition.

This is a little north of the Marion/West Penn site. This bridge is the start of the Boyer Run Branch. It comes down off the Sewickley Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the edge of Wilkinson Nursery in Armbrust.

On the 1936 USGS topographic map. The red circle shows the location of the bridge and the beginning of the Boyer Run Branch. The blue circle shows the location of Marion/West Penn Coke Works.


Looking at Wilkinson Nursery and the rail bed of the former Sewickley Branch.

Looking at the bridge and a very polluted Sewickley Creek.


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