Thursday, October 21, 2010

PITTSBURGH - Day 3 and 4

A little frustrated and pissed off right now about the Ensley Mixer project - I made two vacuum formed sides but I didn't like how I cut down the one side so I went to make a new one and my master is gone - MIA.  Now either I put it somewhere for safekeeping and I forgot where in one day's time or, more likely, one of my dogs ate it.  The two retards probably thought it was a cookie or something.  So I will be back at it when I get the energy to do all that work over again - sucks because I will have to make two so they match.    Anyhow, in line with thinking happy thoughts - part 3 of the Pittsburgh trip installment.
Woke to another lovely day on Neville Island.  After breakfast at the hotel we left for our 8:30am scheduled tour of Carrie furnaces at 7am.   Sticking to the area highways and all their screwed up construction messes, we actually headed south a few miles on 79 to pick up the main road into the city, I forget the road number.   This road presents one of the most dramatic entrances to any city I have ever been too - you approach from the south through a wooded/suburban area and pass under an old Norfolk and Western RR Bridge (Formerly Pittsburgh and West Virginia I think) at a pretty high elevation above the valley floor.  I read somewhere that all the river bed routes were taken when this line was built and as a result they had to stick high using lots of bridges and a tunnel or two.    Just past the bridge you enter a tunnel through Mt. Washington, and then when you emerge the other side - wham - there is the entire city and the three rivers in front of you.  You cross over the end of the Mon River (or the start of the Ohio) over to the center city area.    Once I had taken in the vista and got us on the right road along the northern bank of the Mon, reality set in and we hit a traffic jamb - yes - at 7:30 on a saturday morning.  Eventually, we got through this jamb just to hit another one (yes two different construction sites on the same road)  We finally made our exit with just 15 min to spare, but then we engaged the GPS to navigate the city streets and unfortunately it didn't know where Braddock, PA was.  Not only is this city the poorest in the state, our Tom Tom didn't even have it in the database - thinking maybe it was covered under Pittsburgh - it took us to the address, but I soon realized we were far from the river and it made no sense to start the tour there.   Finally, using an old fashioned map we made it to the tour start point in downtown Braddock.  
The gathering place was an old Convent turned into a hostel.  Quickly signing the waiver we boarded a small bus that took us to the Carrie Furnace Site.  Our tour guide was a retired USS Exec - I'm sorry I've forgotten his full name, but he did a first rate job despite some annoying questions from mostly me (When you model things from a prototype some of the things that concern you are very mundane and I guess very very detailed in light of the bigger picture)  Most of the  folks in our tour group were from the area and a lot had limited basic knowledge of how steel was made, but our guide did a nice job explaining it in a very understandable way (while I'm asking about drainage systems in the ore yard, and the procedure for changing out a tuyre)   There was one annoying retired couple, obviously tree huggers, that kept asking loaded questions about pollution from the mill,...etc.   They really pissed me off but I held my tongue and again our guide very intelligently answered them.   I guess they think we should build our bridges out of hemp or cornstalks, same goes for cars, like the one they pulled up in, too.  
Oh, before I continue on, the Carrie Furnace Site has I think just been designated a national historic landmark - it contains part of the ore yard, a ore bridge, two blast furnaces with three stoves each (they are in two overlapping rows which is sort of different)  - one cast house is gone but the other is mostly intact.  The furnaces have the older style uptakes (pre-McKee).  Most of the dust collection apparatus is still in place - two dust catchers, gas washers, and precipitators.  Also the boiler house and blowing engine house are standing, but empty.  Finally, there is a modern torpedo type hot metal car on the property, and an older Kling type.  A note on the Kling Type - these were used at this facility until 1969.  This was according to our other tour guide, Jim, another ex-USS employee - he started operating one of the scale cars at this facility and ended his career in the very cast house we were touring.    This site originally had four additional blast furnaces, along with many ancillary buildings, and produced iron for the USS Homestead Works on the south side of the Mon - the hot metal bridge that connected the plants is still there.  
The tour started in the ore yard, went under the highline, then through the stoves and into the casthouse.  We then walked to the modern torpedo hot metal car, where the tour ended.  I of course was disappointed that I didn't see more of the higher stuff but it is understandable.  Again the lighting was against me - early morning light this time so lots of shadows once again - I can't win - I alway end up at these mills at the crack of dawn or the end of the day.  
Once the tour ended we stopped back at the meeting point and I bought a book, Steel: The Diary of a Furnace Worker,  and a Rivers of Steel T-Shirt.   Without even having to get back in our car we were able to walk along the fence line of the USS Edgar Thompson Plant.  Of course the blast furnaces are far away from this public street, but the BOF and caster are right along it.   They also have a few artifacts on display - ingot molds and slag car just inside the fence .  This made our third operating steel mill in one weekend, not bad seeing how there are only 7 or 8 in the US.    
From Braddock, we hopped back in the trusty Saturn and headed west again, back to West Virginia.  The day before we had stopped at a pottery factory on the Ohio River with an attached factory store, but it had just closed - my wife wanted to check it out and I wanted to go back to Weirton for some more photos.  The factory store, for Fiesta Ware, had some very nice stuff, but not nearly at the discounts my wife expected.  From there, a dozen or so miles south and we were back in Weirton.  My main purpose for this trip was to walk across (on the sidewalk), the very long road bridge that bisects the plant - the day before it looked like a great place for taking photos from but light was fading so I skipped it knowing we would be back.  Unfortunately they were now filming "World War Z" in this area and the bridge was closed.  A very friendly Weirton police officer took the time to map out some good spots to take photos of the BOF from and other parts of the mill.   It's amazing how many Hollywood location scouts pick steel mills as back drops for their films - and I'm not talking about movies like the Deer Hunter, and All the Right Moves that are meant to take place in steel towns, but, Transformers 2, The Story of Pittsburgh, Robo Cop, ,...etc.    After taking another few dozen photos of the BOF,..etc.  we headed back to Pittsburgh. 
 We got into a massive traffic jamb on the way back into the city and eventually made it back to our home base - Neville Island - In the three days we had been on the island I still hadn't the opportunity to take some photos of the various industries there.  The coke works was inaccessible mostly for photos although I could see the quench tower venting steam from a distance.  I spent a fair amount of time photographing the former portland cement plant just at the Rt 51 bridge back to the mainland.  I was able to get some great shots by parking on the mainland side of the bridge and walking over the sidewalk on the bridge.  When I get back to Pittsburgh I plan on spending an morning at this very spot - Ill bring a folding chair - and just sit there watching the river and the industries on Neville Island, with the very busy former P&LE Main Line running under my feet.  
From the bridge we continued back into the city - we both wanted to stop again at Station Square - I to take photos of the Bessemer Converter in the daylight and my wife spotted a scarf or blouse or something on thursday that she now wanted to buy.  She also wanted to check out the shops at the shopping mecca built on the site of the former USS Homestead Works.   We walked around a bit at this the latest in shopping mall design - back to the downtown type shopping experience with the stores arranged on nice little cross streets and squares but no roof - I've seen a few of these lately - it's interesting that they built one from scratch when there is a perfectly viable existing "downtown" with many vacant stores just across the tracks.   Of course my wife found some shoes and a few other trinkets - the only store I was interested in was the bookstore which I browsed while my wife roamed the outdoor shops.   It was getting late and we still hadn't eaten so we decided to head back to the hotel for dinner.  On the way back my wife tells me - "oh by the way, there was some train locomotive or something" in one of the squares by the stores she had walked to - "but it didn't look like a real locomotive, it was smaller, maybe a model?"  I retort, "MAYBE A F-----N NARROW GAUGE LOCOMOTIVE?"  And seeing how Homestead had a 30" gauge  narrow gauge railroad, this would have interested me.    With hungry stomachs we headed back to the hotel but we took the wrong bridge and ended up on the north side of the Ohio river and not Neville Island.  Every place to turn around was closed due to construction so we ended up paralleling the river until Rt79 which we figured on taking across to the island and getting off right at our hotel - not - ramp closed - so we had to drive six or seven miles south to turn around and head north as only the northbound off ramp was open on the island - as soon as we turned around we drove right into a traffic jamb that extended all the way to our exit - UGH!!!!!   And then the special fish dinner that I had seen on the menu earlier - they were all out of the fish - double UGH!!!!!   Outstanding customer service though - they gave me my dinner for free since they were out of what I had wanted.   
We had a nice breakfast and then unfortunately had to say our goodbyes to Pittsburgh - driving back through the city there was a warehouse district in the Southside Neighborhood that I wanted to photograph - besides the warehouses there was a neat crane unloading facility on the river - gravel or sand now, but might have been coal at one time.   And then of course I wasn't leaving without investigating this locomotive issue from the night before - sure enough - a former USS 30" gauge plant locomotive.   We drove through Duquesne on the way out, and the Union Railroad yards looked enticing, but I'll save that for the next time.   

No comments: