Sunday, April 7, 2019

Along the Redbank Trail

With the 2018/19 coke oven season approaching a rapid end, we now have an opportunity to get on the bike and hit some of our regional rail trails. This is turning out to be the perfect Spring for riding. I have been wanting to ride on this trail for years now, but couldn't get to the sections I wanted to see until they reopened the Climax railroad tunnel. I started at New Bethlehem and headed west. A roughly 25 mile round trip on your bike gets you access to one coke plant, two brickyards, and two railroad tunnels. 



This historic rail bed was first opened by the Allegheny Valley Railroad in March 1873. On November 5, 2007, the last train rolled through New Bethlehem.  The railroad would also be operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Pittsburg and Shawmut Railroad, and the Mountain Laurel Railroad. It was a low grade road and the grades are almost entirely perfect. There was no coasting going in either direction. The engineering used to create this railroad was amazing.



Here are the photo's from the trip:



Long Run Coke Works



Finding much of anything on the history of these ovens is proving to be difficult. The little bit I did find is from the 1887 History Of Clarion County book. These ovens were developed in the circa 1881 by Messrs, Jones and Brinker.  The works were sold to the Northwestern Coal and Iron Company and it is unclear how long they operated. 


The following history is taken from the October 28, 1885 Coal Trade Journal.





The trail developers did and excellent job of supplying historical informational signs at every feature on the trail.This sign got me thinking of copperheads though. I didn't see any, but I did see a porcupine!

All 30 ovens are still relatively intact. These are some old ovens. None of the bricks that I could find were stamped, but I would assume they were manufactured at one of the nearby brickyards.

The partially intact coke yard is in the center, and the railroad siding would be on the right.

According to the trade journal, the mine would have been somewhere up on this hill.





Climax Tunnel





Eastern portal of the recently restored Climax Tunnel. The western portal is a few photos down.



Climax Brick Works




These signs save me from doing a whole lot of research.

 Looking across the creek at the former company town of Climax.

 There are still two intact brick kilns.

 This building was most likely related to the refractory.

A more modern looking house with two older company houses in the background.






St. Charles/Clarion Fire Brick Company






 Once again, the sign tells you the story.

 Approaching the brick works.

 Railroad depot at the refractory.

 There are still 6 or 7 kilns remaining here.

 Large gears in one of the depot buildings.






Long Point Tunnel





Here we have no sign, but we do have a date stamp on the tunnel itself. The stamp reads 1898. This tunnel may have replaced an existing tunnel or the alignment of the railroad might have been changed.



 East portal of Long Point Tunnel.

 West portal.

 The portals are both brick lined at the beginning. After that, the tunnel is cut through solid rock.

 Date stamp on the west portal.

 These photos show the end of the brick lined section on the eastern portal.

 As promised, here is the western portal of the Climax Tunnel.