Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Walk Through Morgan Valley

Morgan Valley is a section of railroad running between Everson and Broadford. This roughly three mile stretch was part of the Mt. Pleasant Branch of the B&O Railroad and contained eight coke plants and ca. 1907 had 901 ovens burning. This valley literally had to be bright 24 hours a day. I was going off the law of averages and figured there had to be at least something left down here. It turned out decent, but for the amount of ovens that were here it should have been a lot more.


A portion of a 1907 Connellsville Coke Region map. Today we went from Tip Top to Frick. Valley was covered in a previous post, as was Sterling and Tyrone. The problem with this map is the scale is horrendous. Fortunately the mine maps are highly detailed as to the location of the ovens as well as labeling which is which. Also, the number of ovens at each of these plants are going off the 1907 map. It would be safe to assume that 1907 would be the peak for this area and after this there were probably no more ovens added at these plants. These were some early coke plants, many dating back to the 1870's.


Starting off at Tip Top. I did this section before and only found the smallest remains of any ovens. The ovens would be to the left.

Looking up where the Tip Top ovens should be. I think they simply got buried over time. This plant dates back to 1878 and were originally operated by the Charles Armstrong Company. Frick purchased them in 1879 and probably operated them into the 1910's.

The whole side of the railroad is lined with old beehive coke in this whole stretch through the Tip Top area.

The curve in the track to the left indicates the end of the Tip Top plant. I was looking to the left the entire time and came across some remaining ovens from Tip Top.

This is the furthest I walked and honestly just assumed that there was nothing left. This was a very welcome surprise.

Tip Top still has some ovens left!

There is a house nearby and somebody is obviously taking care of what is left.

Heading up, they do start to disappear.

Looking up the Tip Top siding.

Back on the tracks. Next up Franklin Coke Works.

The old branch that led up to the Franklin Coke Works.

You could see a few of the remaining ovens on the hillside from the railroad.

The remaining ovens are in somebody's yard. I knocked on the door and nobody answered. I took a couple pictures and got out of Dodge.

Believe it or not, B.F. Keister ad Co. built these ovens the whole way back in 1862. We're lucky to have anything left at all. These ovens probably burned until the 1910's as well.


Moving along. This is heading into Owensdale. The next set of ovens we are looking for are the Summit Coke Works.

We are keeping to the left and heading toward Broadford. If we go right, we would end up crossing the Youghiogheny near Van Meter, crossing the Monongahela near Belle Vernon and heading up through the South Hills into Pittsburgh. That's way too long of a walk.

Cruising through Owensdale.

This where Summit Coke Works should be. I couldn't find anything at all from these ovens. These ovens (or lack thereof) date back to 1874 and were a Cochran & Keister plant but were taken over by Frick around 1879-80. They probably lasted until the early 1900's.

Leaves are growing on the vegetation already. It's going to be a short coke oven season this year.

Heading down again. We are looking for the Eagle Coke Works on the right and the White Coke Works on the left. Spoiler alert, the junkyard claimed them all.

The White Coke Works date back to 1873 and were also started by the Charles Armstrong Co. Frick took these over as well on February 28, 1882. The plant was permanently closed and abandoned in February 1919. Eagle Coke Works date back to 1868 and were a Markle, Sherrick and Co. operation. Frick scooped these up as well in 1879. They were closed by 1920.

Back on the road. Next we are looking for Foundry Coke Works.

There were some suspicious looking banks...

....and then ovens started appearing!


An old wall along Galley Run, protecting the spur that heads up to the Foundry Coke Works from erosion.

Where the Foundry spur leaves the tracks.

Heading back to look at these ovens.

The Foundry Coke Works date back to 1870 and were a Strickler & Lane operation. That is until Frick moved in and took these over as well around 1881. I can find no information on how long these were active.

It's nice to see ovens though.

Looking up the spur. Probably about where it ended. There is nothing else past here.

This is a very old coke oven brick. It was later when they started stamping them with the manufacturer.

Almost entirely buried. I met a guy back here, I thought he was going to throw me out and he thought I was a code enforcement officer. We both ended up relieved. I told him what I was up to and he told me the rest of the ovens from there to Broadford had been torn out several years ago. So Foundry ended up being the last ovens I found today.

This is the location where the Morgan Coke Works used to be. Morgan dates back to 1869 and were operated by the Sidney & James Morgan Co. until Frick swooped in around 1877. Morgan lasted until at least 1913.

Heading further down toward Broadford. This is the location of the Frick Coke Works. Frick Works dates back to 1871 and were one of the first plants built by a young Henry Clay Frick. The mine and coke works were exhausted by 1889.

There is still some interesting stonework on the hillside next to the railroad. Perhaps the location of an old tipple.

Pulling down into Broadford.


Old railroad ties sticking out of the hillside above Broadford Road.

Old buildings belonging to the long abandoned Old Overholt Distillery. Marybeth and me explored this about five years ago and I've been meaning to get back. Here's what we did then.

Walking back to Everson.

This is really cool. Across from Tip Top and down over the hill is this old stone bridge crossing Jacobs Creek. I was too busy looking up toward the coke ovens on the way down that I completely missed this.

This 1939 aerial shows the bridge. Following it, it seems like it was just a shortcut to Scottdale that connected again with the rest of the railroad just outside of town. I'll definitely be looking into it more.

Back where I parked at. This old brick house just amazes me for some reason. It's horrible to see it decaying. The roof was intact two years ago.

That's it for the Morgan Valley!