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Exploring the Heritage Area -Trains & Trolleys

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A CSX train approaches Station Square, August 2020.

By Brianna Horan, Manager of Tourism & Visitor Experience

Brianna HoranExploring the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Trains & Trolleys!

Transforming Travel & Industry

Railroads and streetcars were once vital to the movement of people, natural resources and manufactured goods throughout southwestern Pennsylvania to power the Big Steel industry. The first tracks were laid here in the 1840s, but it was in the 1870s that railroad networks spread throughout the region, crisscrossing what is today the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. To get people to their jobs, streetcar lines reached into every neighborhood in major towns, and Interurban lines connected mine patches and market towns with each other and with Pittsburgh. Long-distance mainlines—like the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, the Norfolk & Western, the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, and the Bessemer & Lake Erie—carried raw materials, products, produce, and people between southwestern Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation. Steel companies built rail spurs to carry coke fuel from their mines to riverfront barge landings, and workers from one plant or patch to another. And that’s not even counting the hundreds of miles of train tracks on mill sites themselves to move materials and molten iron between shops—there were more than 150 miles of track within U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works alone.

Many physical remnants of tracks and rails exist to visit throughout the region today, whether preserved as a museum or historic site, repurposed into a new dining or entertainment venue, or still moving people and things from one place to another. But as time passes, memories of the height of train travel dwindle and become even more valuable. This 2009 article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review captures recollections of former KDKA-TV reporter Harold Hayes and the late Harvey Adams Jr., a prominent civil rights leader who helped integrate the Pittsburgh police force, both of whom were grandsons of Pullman porters. This 2002 article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shares more locals’ memories of the pride that porters took in their work, and the racist treatment they endured from passengers and their employers.

7 Pullman Porters (black men) stand with a steward and a conductor (white men).

Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Pullman porters, steward and conductor standing in front of a New York Central Railroad car, September 8, 1950. Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh via Historic Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company Records Collection.

The Complicated (and Even Subversive) Legacy of Pullman Porters

The legacy of Pullman porters has ties in cities across the United States. To bring luxury and convenience to the rising railroad industry after the Civil War, industrialist George Pullman furnished plush sleeper cars that included the service of a porter. Pullman hired only African-American men—often former slaves—for this role, who were expected to be at the beck and call of the passengers they served. Common duties included carrying luggage, shining shoes, ironing clothing, minding children, tidying the train car, and serving food—some passengers even expected porters to entertain them with song and dance. “When Lincoln freed the slaves, George Pullman hired them,” is a saying often associated with Pullman porters.

Harvey Adams Jr. told the Tribune-Review that with all of the work to be done, his grandfather, Wister Adams, “walked” to California and back on the cross-country trains that he worked on for decades. With trains traveling across the country at all hours of the day, porters also had grueling schedules. They generally worked 400 hours each month, and usually were allowed only three or four hours of sleep between their 20-hour daily shifts. Porters had to pay for their own meals, and the purchase and care of their uniforms was also their responsibility.

Margaret Tardy, a Cincinnati resident, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2002 that she remembered her father, Harold T. Tardy Sr. of East Liberty, proudly wearing a black uniform and white shirt with a starched collar, topped by a black cap with a small bill. She said her father, who passed away in 1964, liked to go to baseball games in New York City when he had time off, and that he avoided traveling below the Mason-Dixon line to the Jim Crow South. For generations, porters were all addressed by passengers as “George”—after George Pullman, just as slaves were called by their master’s name before emancipation. Margaret remembered that her father, who was a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, rejected that treatment. She told the Post-Gazette, “Dad would point to his name tag, greet the passenger with a smile and respond that he had a name, and his name was Harold.”

A single porter stand in a unpopulated dining car with dressed table settings.

View of a porter posing in a new side-door Pullman dining car, May 22, 1935. Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh via Historic Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company Records Collection.

Life as a Pullman porter was demanding and often demeaning, while also allowing Black men to bring decent wages home to their families and information from other parts of the country to their communities. Harold Hayes told the Tribune-Review that his grandfather, Thomas Burrell, earned $3,200 in wages and $700 in tips in 1950, an income that allowed him to build a house in Beltzhoover and send his daughter to Howard University. Burrell worked on the Pittsburgh to Detroit run on the Pennsylvania Railroad for 13 years.

In 2002, a 77-year old James Austin of Homewood reminisced to the Post-Gazette about visits uncle, Spurgeon “Sonny” Austin, would make to his childhood home, preferring to stay with family instead of at a boarding home in the Strip District like many Pullman porters did. James remembered his uncle sharing dozens of stories from his travels, and that he “could make a bed faster than anyone in the house.”

Pullman porters were key in expanding the reach of the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most widely circulated and well-respected Black newspaper in the country in the 1930s and ’40s. At that time, sheriffs in the Jim Crow South banned the publication and frequently burned those that made it into their towns. To get the paper into the South, the Courier launched a clandestine distribution campaign in 1936 that lasted until the mid-1940s. The Post-Gazette reported that porters helped to deliver 100,000 papers a week into the south.

The elaborate operation started when the Courier camouflaged its trucks and smuggled bundles of papers to the railroad station in Pittsburgh, wrapped in special weather-proof paper. Porters hid them aboard or under the trains, and then dropped the bundles off about two miles outside major cities like Chattanooga, TN; Mobile, AL; and Jacksonville, FL. A network of Black ministers would then secretly retrieve the papers and distribute them to their congregations.

Porters distributed the papers for free, but sometimes received as tip from the Courier. The success of these secret deliveries led other Black newspapers to turn to the porter network to distribute their papers in the South, as well. Frank Bolden, a former city editor and foreign correspondent for the Courier, told the Post-Gazette in 2002, “They were the guys on the front lines. They were foot soldiers.”

A contemporary image of the front facade of the Wilkinsburg train station. Courtesy of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation.

Rail-related Destinations in the Heritage Area

If you’re planning to hit the road on these itineraries during the global pandemic, please be mindful of the health and safety guidelines in place from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be sure to contact the sites, restaurants and attractions directly to confirm their operating statues and the safety protocols they have in place. We encourage you to bookmark these itineraries as travel inspiration to return to when things are less uncertain.

Carnegie Science Center Miniature Railroad, courtesy of the Carnegie Science Center.

Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad & Village

One Allegheny Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212 | 412-237-3400 | carnegiesciencecenter.org

For more than 100 years, this miniature replica of regional landmarks has captivated visitors with scenes of the way people in the Pittsburgh area lived in an era spanning the 1880s to the 1940s. This detailed, animated display started in the home of Charles Bowdish of Brookville, PA, in 1919; it was moved to the Buhl Planetarium in 1954, and then opened at the Carnegie Science Center in 1992. The 83-foot by 30-foot platform usually has about five trains and one trolley operating on a landscape that includes key historic and cultural sites like Kaufmann’s Grand Depot, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood House, Fallingwater, Punxsutawney Phil, and many more.

DiSalvos Station, Latrobe by Deborah Stofko.

DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant

325 McKinley Ave., Latrobe, PA 15650 | 724-539-0500 | disalvosrestaurant.com

This restored 1903 train depot of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Latrobe serves classic Italian fare that has earned numerous accolades. Guests enter the restaurant by walking through a tunnel that leads to a spacious, cobblestone atrium. A full-sized dining car sits inside the restaurant, and the former luggage and ticketing area is now a tap room. The lower level of the restaurant is a cavernous, speakeasy-style cigar bar.

Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington with Duquesne Incline Station. Photo by Richard Nowitz.

Duquesne Incline

Lower station parking lot 1197 W. Carson St., Pittsburgh, PA 15219 | 412-381-1665 | DuquesneIncline.org

The 794-foot long double tracks of the Duquesne Incline have been lifting passengers in twin cars a height of 400 feet up and down the face of Mount Washington since 1877, closely following the path of an earlier coal hoist. At one time there were nearly 20 funiculars servicing Pittsburgh’s bluffs, carrying cargo, livestock, and people. But today the Duquesne Incline is one of the few remaining in the country—along with the Monongahela Incline further east on the face of Mount Washington. Be sure to take a tour below the operator’s room at the Duquesne Incline’s upper station to see the hoisting equipment in action!

Grand Concourse Restaurant and Station Square

100 W Station Square Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15219 | 412-261-1717 | GrandConcourseRestaurant.com

At the base of Mount Washington lies a dining and entertainment complex along the Monongahela River called Station Square. This area is where passengers once arrived on the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, first chartered in 1877. It soon became known as the Little Giant for the amount of tonnage that it moved through the region. Shops, restaurants and nightlife now make their homes in the terminal and freight station; the historic Pittsburgh Terminal Train Station has been preserved as a multi-purpose building. The ground floor houses Grand Concourse restaurant, a local favorite for more than 40 years, resplendent with stained glass, intricate woodworking, a grand staircase, and many reminders of the building’s past life.

Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley Railroad Model Railroad at Connellsville Canteen

131 West Crawford Ave., Connellsville, PA 15425 | 724-603-2093 | connellsvillecanteen.org/harry-clark

All aboard to the Connellsville Canteen, home to a local World War II museum, a charming café, and a world-renowned model railroad display. After returning from World War II, Connellsville native Harry Clark started to build train cars by hand at the kitchen table as a way of relaxing. Clark came from a long line of B&O Railroad employees, and was a carpenter by trade. Over fifty years, he built what became a world-renowned display that he called the Indian Creek Valley Railroad, depicting Connellsville, Meyersdale, and other mountain towns in western Pennsylvania from the 1940s and ’50s in loving detail. Nearly all of the buildings, train cars, stations, saw mills, patch towns, coal mines and coke ovens were made by hand. In 2012, about a year after Clark’s death at age 91, the display was moved in one 28,000-pound piece on a tractor trailer from Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, where it was formerly showcased, to its new home. A crane lifted the 25-foot by 50-foot model railroad in place, and the Connellsville Canteen was built around it, modeled after the town’s old B&O station. Clark’s display was featured in Model Railroader Magazine with a centerfold, and Model Railroad Academy produced a nine-part video series about the Indian Creek Valley Railroad display and Clark’s passion and talent – a great way to enjoy the display virtually!

Thomas Town at Kennywood, courtesy of Kennywood.

Kennywood Park

4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, PA 15122 | 412-461-0500 | kennywood.com

This historic, beloved amusement park in West Mifflin has tracks galore – on rickety wooden coasters, adrenaline-packed steel coasters, and retro favorites like The Turtles or the Auto Race. Younger railroad enthusiasts will delight with a visit to the park’s Thomas Town, with a number of kiddie rides and a Thomas-themed train ride that guests of all ages will enjoy.

­Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association

3032 Idlewild Hill Lane, Ligonier, PA 15658 | 724-238-7819 | lvrra.org

The Ligonier Valley Rail Road’s 10.3-mile long main line connected Ligonier and Latrobe—a relatively short amount of track that was a long time coming. It took about 25 years of planning, surveying, and legislating before Judge Thomas Mellon finally stepped in and agreed to complete and operate the railroad line in 1877. His main goal for the venture was to give his sons, Andrew and Richard, business experience. Idle Park, or Idlewild, was a venture established by the Mellons to increase passengers on their train, but the real boon for business was hauling freight – coal, coke, stone, and lumber. The “Liggie” made its last run in 1952 after 75 years of operation, but today the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum keeps the line’s history alive in an original station that was built around 1896.

Open car at Museum Road, courtesy of Trolley Museum.

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

1 Museum Rd., Washington, PA 15301 | 724-228-9256 | pa-trolley.org

Step back to the dawn of the Electric Age when in 1918 the Pittsburgh Railways Company operated some 2,000 trolley cars, 65 different lines, and more than 600 miles of track. A nickel would take you where you wanted to go! After enduring hard times during the Great Depression, streetcars were returned to service during World War II when fuel and rubber were rationed. But after the war, the rise of the suburbs and the auto culture spelled out the end of the trolley’s heyday. Lucky for us, staff and volunteers at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington have been preserving the nostalgia, history, and streetcars of this era since 1949. Visitors can step aboard and see the restoration in progress of more nearly 50 cars including the original “Streetcar Named Desire,” take a roundtrip ride on a vintage trolley, and engage with hands-on exhibits that even put them behind the controls of a street car.

A restored streetcar is in the History Center’s Great Hall. Courtesy of Senator John Heinz History Center.

Senator John Heinz History Center

1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222 | 412-454-6000 | heinzhistorycenter.org

There are a number of transportation-themed exhibits to explore at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Pittsburgh Streetcar #1724 greets you upon arrival into the museum’s Great Hall, where you can step onboard and imagine what it would have been like to travel through the South Hills communities on this streetcar – as it did until 1988. Visit the History Center’s Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation exhibit to see pieces of the extensive Westinghouse Collection. George Westinghouse’s influence on the world was wide ranging, including the invention of the air brake, automobile shock absorbers, the development of railroad signaling, and much more. After your visit, you can also take a ride by the nearby Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters on Liberty Ave. between 24th and 25th Sts., which was built in 1869 as Westinghouse’s original air brake factory.

Youngwood Railroad Museum and Station Cafe

1 Depot St., Youngwood, PA 15697 | 724-925-7355 | facebook.com/YoungwoodRRMuseum/

Home to an assortment of locomotive paraphernalia, photographs, uniforms, equipment, and miniature train collections, this museum opened in Youngwood’s depot building the same year it was set to be demolished, 1982. Concerned citizens and railroad enthusiasts couldn’t let the legacy of their town’s rich railroad industry be forgotten. The original train crossing was established in the 1870s at the junction of John Young’s and James Woods’ properties, and by 1902 the newly chartered borough of Youngwood boasted a 15-bay roundhouse, a switch tower, miles of mainline and spur tracks, and the depot building, home to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s baggage and passenger station. Twenty years later, one-seventh of the nation’s supply of coal and coke ran through the Youngwood yard, which sometimes saw as many as 700 train cars per day.

Wilkinsburg Train Station 1916, courtesy of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation.

Coming Soon: The Wilkinsburg Train Station Restoration Project

Across the street from Wilkinsburg Public Library, 605 Ross Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15221

After sitting vacant for more than 50 years, this beaux-arts beauty is being lovingly restored to its original glory and is set to once again become a hub of community activity in the revitalizing town of Wilkinsburg. Originally built in 1915, the opulent station earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. When the $6.5 million renovation is complete, it is intended to be a center for indoor and outdoor dining, shopping, and community gatherings.

Holiday Displays

A number of local model railroad collectors open only during the holiday season to showcase the miniature scenes and tracks that their members lovingly preserve and create. Visit their websites for more information:

  • Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum in Gibsonia | wpmrm.org
  • Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad in Ambridge | ohiovalleylines.org
  • McKeesport Model Railroad | mckeesportmodelrr.com
  • Allegheny West Toy Train Museum in Pittsburgh’s North Side| tinyurl.com/yc7cyaac
  • Beaver County Model Railroad and Historical Society in Monaca | bcmrr.railfan.net

If you missed it check out the Automobiles and Roadways itineraries, part one and part two.

Stay tuned for more itineraries through the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, as we continue to explore the region through the lens of transportation. 

B/W images of train tracks and buildings in WV

Mill Marks: A Legacy Stamped in Steel

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Photos and Essay by Kevin Scanlon, Rivers of Steel Volunteer

Mill Marks

The latter part of the 1800s was the era that made Western Pennsylvania a leader in steel production. Several events added up to enable that growth. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed. This spurred growth of all railroads. 1872 saw the invention of George Westinghouse’s automatic air brake. In 1873 the automatic coupler was patented. This all meant that trains would be longer, heavier, faster and with bigger locomotives. The existing railroad bridges would have to be replaced with stronger ones, and the iron rails themselves needed to be replaced with steel rails to withstand the pounding. 

Andrew Carnegie saw opportunity during the time he spent working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroads were going to need lots of steel to improve their right of way and he would be their primary supplier. His Keystone Bridge Works took on spectacular projects such as spanning the Mississippi River. Carnegie Steel built the Edgar Thomson Works in 1875 to provide steel rails for the PRR. It was his first steel mill and is still in operation, though no longer producing rail. It can be argued that Pittsburgh would not have become what it was without the era of railroad growth.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years walking along railroad tracks. Anyone who does so will notice that all of the rails have mill marks: cast-in “labels” identifying who made the rail, the size, when it was rolled and other specialized details. The marks are repeated every few feet along the side of the rail. Not only are the rails identified this way, but often bridge girders, tie plates and equipment have mill marks or builders’ plates. All of the rail infrastructure was made for heavy use and made to endure. Railroads can’t repave their tracks every 7-10 years like we do with roads. It is not unusual to see rails on secondary routes and yards that are still doing their job 80-100 years after being rolled in the mills. 

Often I find myself daydreaming about what was going on when a particular rail was being made. It’s kind of like looking at an autograph and thinking about the person who signed it and what was going on in their life when their hand held that pen.

Here are a few examples:

Thurmond, West Virginia

Carnegie Steel, Edgar Thompson, 1899

B/W images of train tracks and buildings in WV

This rail was rolled at the Edgar Thomson Works in November 1899 when the works were still owned by Andrew Carnegie and just 24 years into the mill’s life. Also in 1899 the Pittsburgh Zoo and Kennywood Park were only one year old. Iron City Beer maker Pittsburgh Brewing Company and the Duquesne Brewing Company were newly established. This rail was in a yard of the CSX Railroad in Thurmond, WV.

Lackawanna Steel, 1956

Steel plate reading Lackawanna Steel Construction Corp'n 1956"

The Lackawanna 1956 plate was on the cantilever signal bridge at the town of Thurmond. By 1956 Lackawanna Steel was a part of Bethlehem Steel. They specialized in plate and structural steel although they did roll rail at Lackawanna and their former Pennsylvania Steel plant in Steelton, PA. The Lackawanna fabrication shop made a lot of these distinctive cantilever signal bridges for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.

Spruce, West Virginia

Lackawanna Steel, 1904

Green valley and hills with a stream running through it

Rail stamped "LSC Buffalo 900 10 1904"

This section of rail was rolled by the Lackawanna Steel Company in Buffalo, NY at their brand new steel mill on the shore of Lake Erie. The mill was built in 1902 to compete with Carnegie Steel for the railroad business. The rail in the photo was still in service at Spruce, West Virginia when the photo was taken. Spruce was an isolated mountain town which had no road access. A lumber mill opened there in 1902 and the railroad was the highest elevation of any mainline east of the Mississippi at 4033 feet a few miles from Spruce. Nothing is left of the town except a concrete pad where the railroad engine house stood and some crumbling foundations of the old lumber mill. The photo of Spruce shows the Shavers Fork River flowing through the townsite, the railroad is on an embankment on the left.

Tobin, California

Fort Pitt Bridge Works, 1909

A deep canyon with a steel truss train bridge crossing close to the canyon floor, and a high steel arch bridge passes above it.

This is a builder’s plate on a Western Pacific Railway bridge in Feather River Canyon at Tobin, CA. The famed California Zephyr streamliner crossed this bridge on its run between Oakland, CA and Denver, CO. The bridge was constructed in 1909 during the 20 year span when Pittsburgh lost its “h”. The Fort Pitt Bridge Works was Pittsburgh based and specialized in bridges, steel structures, and blast furnace topworks. They supplied the steel for the Sewickley, Smithfield, McKees Rocks, 16th Street, and 31st Street bridges as well as bridges for the Parkway East and the PA Turnpike. When this bridge was being built, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their first World Series at the brand new Forbes Field. Honus Wagner led the Buccos in seven games, outplaying the Detroit Tigers with Ty Cobb.

Buffalo, New York

Lackawanna Steel, 1917

Lackawanna Steel Company rail from 1917. This was in service in Buffalo, NY at a grain elevator on the Buffalo River. In 1917, Buffalo was the hub for grain shipments coming out of the midwest through the great lakes. The big news for Buffalo at that time was the opening of the Glenn Curtiss Aeroplane manufacturing plant, the largest plane factory in the world. Just in time, too, since the US entered WWI that same year.

Coopers, West Virginia

Carnegie Steel, Edgar Thompson, 1926

Train tracks crisscross through a green valley with homes and industrial buildings.

Rail stamped "Carnegie ET USA 1926"

A lesson in reading mill marks: this rail was rolled by the CARNEGIE Steel Edgar Thomson Plant USA in 1926. The slash marks are for the month rolled, so this one is a September baby. 13031 indicates the rail weight, 130 lbs per yard. PS is Pennsylvania Section, the profile spec of the rail and OH indicates that it is Open Hearth steel. It must have been good quality because it was still carrying coal trains in Coopers, WV on the Norfolk and Western Railway. Coopers and the branchline this rail was on is near where a blacksmith named Jordan Nelson used coal from a nearby seam to fuel his forge. A representative from the railroad stopped by in 1881 as they were surveying their line. Jordan showed him where he got his coal, a 13 foot thick seam on a hillside. This was the start of the billion dollar Pocahontas coal field in the southern border of West Virginia. 

Johnstown, PA

Carnegie (US Steel), 1949

Johnstown was built around steel. This photo shows the Gautier Steel mill on the left and the Little Conemaugh River with a Norfolk Southern eastbound train starting the climb up to Altoona. The tracks of the Johnstown Inclined Plane climb Yoder Hill in the background.

This rail type is pretty unique. It was rolled by Carnegie (US Steel) in 1949 specifically for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The PRR was rebuilding after WWII and specified the largest rail profile ever produced, 155 lbs per yard. This heavy duty rail was like everything the Pennsy bought for their railroad: built to last. They were called the Standard Railroad of the World because they set the goal that other railroads hoped to achieve. A four track mainline, stone bridges that are still rock steady over 100 years later, the most tonnage moved and the largest employer in the US at one time. It’s no coincidence that the mill where this rail was made was named by Andrew Carnegie after the president of the PRR, J. Edgar Thomson.

Nellie Bly—A Pioneering Traveler

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A lifelike figure of groundbreaking journalist Nellie Bly will join Franco Harris and George Washington at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Courtesy of Senator John Heinz History Center.

By Brianna Horan, Manager of Tourism & Visitor Experience

Brianna HoranNellie Bly: Investigative Journalist, International Celebrity & Inspiring Traveler!

Elizabeth Jane Cochran, better known by her nom de plume Nellie Bly, was a pioneering investigative reporter. Her journalism career began in her teens at the former Pittsburgh Dispatch. At age 24 while working for The New York World, Bly set out to circle the globe faster than Phineas Fogg, the fictional hero of Jules Verne’s novel, “Around the World in 80 Days.” She set a world record by completing the journey in just 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds, travelling by  steamship, railroad, rickshaw, and sampan boat, horse and donkey. Her trip spanned November 1889 to January 1890, and Bly travelled solo with just one small piece of luggage—though she did purchase a pet monkey while in Singapore who made the rest of the journey with her.

Bly’s editors initially doubted that a woman could successfully undertake such a voyage, but upon her return The World’s publisher Joseph Pulitzer heralded her as a heroine on the paper’s front page, declaring her as, “personifying the independent American girl, the fascination of travel and the excitement of journalism.” Crowds awaited to cheer her on at each train station as she made the homestretch across the country from San Francisco, and when she arrived at her final destination, Jersey City, thousands were waiting to celebrate and welcome her home. The January 25, 1890, cover of The World’s Evening Edition proclaims tales of “The Little Lady’s Triumphal Journey Through Her Native State” with “Ovations at Pittsburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster and Philadelphia,” and also marks her arrival time in Pittsburg (as it was spelled in 1890) as 3:10 a.m. One has to admire the tenacity of those who flocked to the train station in the middle of a winter’s night!

Bly gained international celebrity for her race around the globe, but her investigative reporting often spoke for people who were forgotten. She pioneered undercover reporting to expose the abuses of a New York mental asylum, the conditions of working women in various industries, the environment in women’s prisons, and became one of America’s first female war correspondents during World War I.

With her tenacity, wide-ranging knowledge, and sense of adventure, one can imagine that Bly would be the ultimate travel companion! Soon, passengers arriving and departing at Pittsburgh International Airport will be able to tip their hat to her when a lifelike statue of Bly is added to the iconic figures of George Washington and Franco Harris, made possible by a collaboration between the Senator John Heinz History Center and the Allegheny County Airport Authority. One likes to imagine that Bly is keeping an eye out for anyone who might try to upstage her record-breaking race around the world on a new-fangled airplane! Be sure to check out the Heinz History Center’s article about Bly’s big trip – and don’t miss the photo of a “Round the World” boardgame that was inspired by her globetrotting!

Portrait of Nellie Bly, c. 1890. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This story is part of a series of transportation-themed articles highlighting modes of travel throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.  Click through to read about Pittsburgh’s early automobile industry or to discover driving itineraries showcasing automobiles and roadways—both part one and part two. Stay tuned for more stories and itineraries through the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, as we continue to explore the region through the lens of transportation. 

Exploring the Heritage Area – Automobiles & Roadways Part Two!

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Model Ts on the National Road’s Turkeynest Curve, heading down from the historic Summit Hotel. Courtesy of the National Road Heritage Corridor.

By Brianna Horan, Manager of Tourism & Visitor Experience

Brianna HoranExploring the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Automobiles & Roadways, Part Two!

In part one of our Automobiles & Roadways itinerary, we explored Allegheny, Beaver, and Butler Counties. Today we’ll follow the National Road Heritage Corridor through Somerset, Fayette, and Washington Counties before hopping on the a historic stretch of the Lincoln Highway through Westmoreland County! Then we’ll close out this virtual journey with a trip through time at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter.  But first, let’s take some inspiration from the “Four Vagabonds.”

The Summit Inn Resort, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

The Four Vagabonds

There’s a lot of talk lately about forming a “quarantine pod” with a few friends or family members—a small group of people who share similar interests and risk tolerances who get together to keep cabin fever at bay during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare to have squad envy:  Back in the early 1900s, a foursome of recognizable men established an annual camping trip filled with escapades, innovations, and adventure. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs gathered each summer from 1915 to 1924, and called themselves the “Four Vagabonds.”

The summer of 1918 brought the group together in Pittsburgh, before they set off to Hempfield and Connellsville as they travelled the National Road by car and camped in tents along their way to Maryland and West Virginia on a mountainous route. These titans of industry were legends of their day, and the press loved to follow their exploits every year. Local headlines included, “Electricity Wizard Edison Arrives in the City,” and “Ford Chops Wood; Edison Lights Camp,” according to 2018 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about a 100th anniversary commemorative Model T tour that retraced the original route through what today is known as Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands.

The group—along with a cook and photographer—spent their first night after leaving Pittsburgh in Miller’s Woods, which is now the Westmoreland Mall. The next day on the road, a fan blade went through the radiator of one of the group’s Model T’s in Connellsville. Who better than Henry Ford himself to have around when there are car troubles? He fixed the issue, but the delay and poor weather prevented the group from making it to their campsite that night. Instead, they spent a memorable evening at the Summit Hotel in Farmington, known today as The Historic Summit Inn Resort—where you, too, can enjoy an enjoyable stay with friends. The six-foot tall mantel that the Vagabonds took turns kicking cigars off of is still there, and so are the steps where they had a stair jumping contest! (Ford won, bounding the ten steps in two leaps.)

The Summit Inn is so named because it rests at the top of Summit Mountain of the Chestnut Ridge, its grand porch offering views for miles. The grueling climb was a perfect opportunity to test how Firestone’s tires worked on Ford’s cars. You and your road-tripping companions will also delight in the winding roads and scenic vistas throughout the southern stretch of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area that lead to historic roadways. And if you’re waiting a while to hit the road, you can live vicariously through photos and recollections recorded by Vagabond John Burroughs in Harvard’s Library Collection blog, The Shelf. A sure sign that the trip ahead is going to be a good one: “It often seemed to me that we were a luxuriously equipped expedition going forth to seek discomfort.”

If you’re planning to hit the road on these itineraries during the global pandemic, please be mindful of the health and safety guidelines in place from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be sure to contact the sites, restaurants and attractions directly to confirm their operating status and the safety protocols they have in place before you go. We encourage you to bookmark these itineraries as travel inspiration to return to when things are less uncertain.

National Road Wagon Train entering Addison, PA by Charlotte Pletcher, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

The National Road Heritage Corridor

Driving through the National Road Heritage Corridor as it tears across the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania means following a patchwork of trails first worn by Native Americans and migrating buffalo, tracing a chronicle of historic events that were integral to the founding of the nation, and traveling an eye-opening journey through the shaping of American culture. Today it’s marked on maps as Route 40 amidst a tangle of other highways and traffic arteries, but when President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation to construct what was then the Cumberland Road, it was the singular–and first–federally-funded highway to link multiple states. Originally named for its eastern terminus, the National Road begins in Cumberland, MD, and then crosses six states to end in Vandalia, IN. The first segment of the road, between Cumberland and Wheeling, WV, is known as the Eastern Legacy, and was completed from 1811 and 1820. But the highway’s history and influence reach much wider than that timespan. The National Road Heritage Corridor has a detailed timeline of important events and list of sites to visit on its website, but below are a few of the Pennsylvania highlights that put the National Road on the map!

 

Fort Necessity Visitors Center, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

George Washington Carves a Path and Starts a War

George Washington spent a lot of time in southwestern Pennsylvania as a young officer of the British army. In 1753, he was sent into the Ohio Country (present-day western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio) with orders to deliver a diplomatic message to the French ordering them to evacuate the area. The French had already begun to erect forts in what the British viewed as their territory, and 21-year-old Washington returned to Virginia to report that the French had politely told Washington they would not obey his commands to leave.

The future first president was then ordered back to the Ohio Country, this time as a newly commissioned lieutenant colonel overseeing a regiment of men ordered to build a road to present day Brownsville, PA, to help defend a small fort that the British had built at the forks of the Ohio River (today Pittsburgh’s Point State Park). Before he’d reached his destination, Washington learned that the French had overtaken the British stockade and built Fort Duquesne on the prized piece of land where the three rivers met. While waiting for further orders, Washington and his men were involved in a skirmish that left 13 Frenchmen dead—including the leader of their detachment, Ensign Josephe Coulon de Jumonville—and no clear picture of who fired the first shot. Explanations were lost in translation, and Washington eventually ended up signing a document that placed the blame on him. This would become the catalyst for the French and Indian War. In the meantime, Washington and his men scrambled to build Fort Necessity out of… necessity. A battle occurred there soon after that left more British casualties than French and Indian losses, and Washington and his men marched back to Virginia as Fort Necessity burned.

Taking things more seriously, the British sent Major General Braddock to North America with two regiments of infantry and a plan to simultaneously attack numerous French forts in the New World. George Washington joined the campaign as a volunteer aide to General Braddock – and for more road building. It was grueling, slow work to widen and extend Washington’s original road (which often followed Native American foot paths) to accommodate large wagons and artillery. Braddock forged ahead with Washington and half of the troops, finally confronting the French and Indians in a wilderness battle in what is today Braddock, PA, about 10 miles from Pittsburgh’s Point. The British losses were tremendous, and a severely wounded General Braddock was carried off the field as they retreated back to the slower-moving half of the regiment. At an encampment about a mile west of the site of Fort Necessity, Braddock died on July 13, 1755. His men buried him in the road they’d been building, and then marched over the grave as they retreated further East to obliterate evidence of it to prevent the enemies from desecrating it. Braddock’s Road would later become a foundational part of the National Road.

The Washington’s Trail driving route begins on the National Road in tracing Washington’s first military ventures—and follies—throughout western Pennsylvania. The National Road section of the trail includes a number of fantastic sites to visit to experience this history. Fort Necessity National Battlefield features an interactive education center that brings to life Washington’s first military battle and the events that ensued, along with the development of the National Road. The National Park Service site also has a re-creation of Fort Necessity, along with walking paths that trace remains of the original Braddock Road. You can also visit Jumonville Glen and Braddock’s Grave nearby. If you don’t mind straying a bit from the National Road, Fort Ligonier in Ligonier, Braddock’s Battlefield History Center in Braddock, and the Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park in Pittsburgh all tell fascinating pieces of this world-shaping history.

Stone House Restaurant, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

A Road is Forged Westward

The completion of the National Road to Wheeling in 1818 opened up the Ohio River Valley and the Midwest for settlement and commerce. Thousands of travelers headed west over the Allegheny Mountains, prompting small towns to pop up along the way with the National Road as their Main Streets. Hopwood, Uniontown, Brownsville, Washington, and West Alexander are all examples. Their positioning allowed them to become hubs of business and industry, and they still boast charm and intrigue for travelers who visit today. Picturesque Eberly Square in Uniontown even features full-sized bronze sculptures of Thomas Jefferson and Albert Gallatin planning the National Road. Gallatin was the first person to suggest the plan for building the National Road; the square is named in honor of Robert Eberly, a Fayette County philanthropist. The National Road Heritage Corridor has mapped out a Sculpture Tour along the Pennsylvania stretch of Route 40.

Taverns also opened up along the way to serve as a resting place for stagecoaches and their travelers. Mount Washington Tavern was built in the 1830s along the National Road and in the “backyard” of Fort Necessity. Furnished rooms and interpretive signs inside show visitors where men would drink and socialize in the barroom while women and children relaxed in the parlor. There’s a kitchen, dining room, and dormitory bedrooms, as well. At The Historic Stone House Restaurant & Inn, you can stop in for a delicious meal and even spend the night at an original wayside tavern of the National Road, just as travelers have been doing since it opened in 1822. In that time, many travelers were seeking the health benefits of the nearby Fayette Springs.

The 1830s saw the Federal Government transfer ownership of the National Road to the states through which it passed, at which point it became known as the National Pike. This gave states the opportunity to erect toll houses to collect fees from the large number of travelers along the road; Pennsylvania constructed six toll houses at 15-mile intervals along its 90-mile segment of road. Two stand today: Petersburg Tollhouse in Addison, Somerset County, and the Searight Toll House in Uniontown. They were in use until the turn of the 20th century.

Railroads would eventually put stagecoaches out of business, but these historic taverns and toll houses offer a view into the past. The invention of the automobile revived the National Road, which became US Route 40 in the 1920s. It was a major east-west artery until the modern interstate system was created in 1956 by the Federal-Aid Highway Act, diverting a lot of the traffic to Highways 70 and 68. The National Road was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1976, and a State Heritage Park in 1994. Along the 90 miles of road in Pennsylvania, 79 sites have been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau offers more itinerary inspiration with a four-day, three-night trip called All Along the National Road.

The famed Seven-Mile Stretch of the Lincoln Highway, courtesy of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor.

The Lincoln Highway

Another monumental roadway winds through the region—though this one goes from coast to coast, stretching from New York City to San Francisco! The Lincoln Highway opened in 1913, and was completed in 1925. This feat of feat of infrastructure gave Americans somewhere to go as the price of cars became more affordable. An entire car culture grew up along the roadway, with shiny new filling stations, tourist cabins, motor courts, restaurants, and tourist attractions—plus post cards to document it all for the folks back home. In Pennsylvania, where much of the Lincoln Highway is known as Route 30, the highway stretches across the southern part of the state. Two hundred miles of the road is designated as Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, running between Abbottstown in the east, and Irwin in the west. A drive along this two-lane road is best enjoyed at a meandering pace, but the quirky roadside structures, vintage diners, and scenic views put the nostalgia factor in overdrive.

The Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe, PA, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

The Lincoln Highway Experience

In Latrobe, The Lincoln Highway Experience brings all of that to life in one place at the largest museum in the country dedicated to the transcontinental roadway. Visitors can watch a short, award-winning video called “Through the Windshield” to learn about the 100+ years of history of the Lincoln Highway. There are interactive exhibits, including an authentic tourist cabin, an antique Packard, and a gas station from earlier times. The tour keeps getting better—it ends with a slice of pie and cup of joe, served in the gloriously-restored Serro’s Diner, a local establishment that operated between 1938 and 1990.

The Original Pie Shoppe

The Lincoln Highway inspired Americans to see the country, and you should too! Some signature sites in the region on Route 30 include The Original Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown, which was opened in 1947 by former World War II Navy cook Melvin Columbus and his mother Mildred, who had previously baked and cooked for guests of her boarding house. The cinnamon roll recipe used at the bakery is the one Melvin created using the rations supplied on his battleship! In addition to sweets, The Original Pie Shoppe also sells lunch items.

Compass Inn Museum & Ligonier Valley Historical Society

The Compass Inn Museum & Ligonier Valley Historical Society tells a different story of transportation of days gone by. Docents in period dress guide visitors on a tour of this authentically restored stagecoach stop in Ligonier, which opened in 1799 as a rest stop for wagoners and drovers taking animals to market. The completion of the Philadelphia Pittsburgh Turnpike in 1817 brought a steady flow of stagecoach traffic to the inn, which was used as a stop until 1862. At that point, railroads and canals were making stagecoaches obsolete. Today the inn is restored to its 1820 days, and features a serving kitchen, a ladies’ parlor, and four bedrooms. Three outbuildings have also been reconstructed, and the barn features an authentic stagecoach and Conestoga wagon.

The Road Toad

As you travel down the Lincoln Highway through Ligonier, The Road Toad restaurant’s sign is sure to catch your eye. A handsomely dressed amphibian waves his hat at drivers as he steers his antique automobile, beckoning you in to enjoy a meal. This stop is right off the road, but the dining room overlooks woods and the beautiful Loyalhanna Stream—delivering a respite into nature while you refuel and relax.

Brush Creek Cemetery

As you drive through Irwin, be sure to tip your own hat to a fellow auto enthusiast as you pass by Brush Creek Cemetery, just off of Route 30. George Swanson, who was a local beer distributor and World War II veteran, was buried inside his beloved 1984 Corvette—just as he always said he would be. Mourners at his 1994 funeral watched as an urn with his ashes was placed in the driver’s seat of the ‘Vette, which was then lowered by crane into the ground while Swanson’s favorite song, Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me,” played from the cassette player.

Big Mac Museum

Just a few minutes away is the Big Mac Museum, celebrating a roadtrip staple that was invented right here in southwestern Pennsylvania! Jim Delligatti first served this now world-famous sandwich at his McDonald’s restaurant in Uniontown in 1967. Today the Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon is conveniently located just off of Route 30, making it an easy stop to pay homage to the double-decker Big Mac. Inside is a fully functioning McDonald’s, and an area with displays and classic memorabilia—including a 14-foot-tall replica of the burger to snap a photo with! A stop here will satisfy your hunger, and will likely leave you with a certain jingle stuck in your head when you get back on the road…

A historic image of a stagecoach rolling through a town in Washington County, Pa.

A stagecoach rolling through a town in Washington County, Pa. Courtesy of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

A visit to the Trails to Trains exhibit at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village explores the evolution of transportation over 19,000 years in southwestern Pennsylvania, using five different vehicles from the collections. Learn about the foot power that our prehistoric predecessors used to traverse the rugged terrain surrounding the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, and compare that with the Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches that sped things up as the National Road was established. Transportation was revolutionized again when the development of railroads cut a path through many rural Pennsylvania farmsteads. On display is a Conestoga wagon built in 1837 in Cadiz, OH by wagonmaker Samuel Amspoker. Designed to transport heavy loads of freight across mountain ranges, these vehicles were named for the Conestoga River Valley in Lancaster County where they were first produced. Meadowcroft’s blog post, Transportation Through Time, explores how each advance in technology brought conveniences and complexities.

Stay tuned for more itineraries through the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, as we continue to explore the region through the lens of transportation. 

Artist Profile: Steven Haines

By Blog

Rivers of Steel Arts is excited to launch the 2020 Mon Valley Featured Artist Series. Showcasing some of the exciting creative professionals working across the Mon Valley Creative Corridor, this monthly blog highlights an artist each month—from a variety of boroughs—to provide a snapshot of the region’s growing cultural vitality.

portrait of the artist, a young man wearing a mask and glove with a coffee mugAbout Steven Haines

As we move these artist features to a new monthly format, we are pleased to focus the month of July on local Homestead artist Steven Haines. Steven’s multidisciplinary work moves between fine art photography, painting, and analog film curation, amongst other mediums. His affinity for historic footage and community-focus draw meaningful connections between the Steel Valley’s industrial legacy and a new vision for the community through creative placemaking.

A Message from Steven

About My Work

I work in many different visual mediums—including film/video, painting, drawing, collage, and sculpture—but I consider myself to be most accomplished with photography and film curation. In both, I am largely committed to working with analog processes. For still photography, I do most of my shooting on film, which I hand-process, and print (both B&W and color) in my darkroom. Creating is a relaxing process for me, so I like to be able to step away from the stresses of the internet, but there are times when I welcome a more hybrid approach, such as when I’m designing posters for my film screenings. For the film events themselves, the majority of the content is shown on film, with some video sprinkled in to some shows. One of my primary goals with the events is to present work that is otherwise unlikely to be shown anywhere in the region, and to contextualize it in such a way so that people will appreciate it. If I were to sum-up all of my art-making practices in two words right now, those words would be organization and preservation.

My Home

I live in Homestead, right on the Homestead / Munhall border. My home has had a big impact on me as an artist, since at this time I consider my primary influences (in broad terms) to be space and materials. I really enjoy sitting with those things until they speak to me. I don’t mean that literally, but I’m instead referring to coming to an understanding of the constraints / possibilities that come with any space or materials.

In practical terms, I’m just referring to the way I walk around my home and my neighborhood and appreciate a particular view dozens of times. Finally, I take my camera, find the right distance, angle, lighting conditions, etc., and I preserve the image on film. I do it for myself primarily. I’m amateur and proud of it.

The microcinema events I organize are my most public-facing events. I’m constantly watching old 16mm films—such as educational films, home movies, commercials, industrials, etc. —and there is just endless amazing work that has been left out of film histories and forgotten by all but the most dedicated of film scholars. While I do love working with contemporary artists, the bulk of my programming is old films that I’m pulling from my collection, organizing into shows that fit a particular theme, and hopefully contextualizing everything in a way that allows the audience to appreciate at least some aspects of each film. I get so excited by so many of these films that I’m compelled to share them. I constantly have to tell people that educational films are not all hokey time capsules portraying outdated social values. There were many brilliant artists making beautiful films in that realm. The sharing of the films with audiences is a key part of the preservation aspect.

To return to the subject of how the place I live has impacted my art: it’s important to note that the lower home prices in my neighborhood (compared to across the river in the city of Pittsburgh proper) is what allowed me and my partner to buy a house, which is so essential to my artmaking. I have space for my film archive, a darkroom, studio space to work on everything else, and room for storing my materials. That was impossible in the one-bedroom apartment we previously rented in Greenfield.

Find Me Online

Twitter: Flea Market Films

Facebook: Flea Market Films

Military Style Jeep with american flags in front of a monument

Exploring the Heritage Area – Automobiles and Roadways

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By Brianna Horan, Manager of Tourism & Visitor Experience

Brianna HoranExploring the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Automobiles and Roadways!

Transportation keeps us moving, so it’s a fitting theme to embrace on your next road trip through the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area! The hilly terrain crisscrossed by rivers and waterways that defines the region—and the need to move people, raw materials and manufactured products across it—has shaped a history rampant with innovations that pushed transportation to new speeds, modes, and destinations. Local residents contributed an immense amount of labor and incredible ingenuity that were foundational to these advances.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing transportation-focused itineraries filled with museums, attractions, collections, and sites that show getting there is more than half of the fun when traveling. It’s also the very means of human connection, opening up throughways between different people and their cultures. The upcoming itineraries will each feature a different way to move: Automobiles and Roadways, Trains & Trolleys, Boats & Bridges, Bicycles, and Aircraft.

Spotlight On: The Liberty Tubes

 

Colored Post Card of Liberty Tunnels

When they opened in 1923, the Liberty Tunnels were the longest automobile tunnels in the world, 
boring through Mt. Washington to connect downtown with communities in the South Hills. 
Such a feat made them a landmark worthy of being pictured on postcards.

Over, under, around, across, through… a description of the ways that Pittsburgh-area roadways conquer geography can end up sounding a lot like a grammar lesson on prepositions! A terrain defined by hills, ravines, waterways–and winding roads to cover it all—really does make getting there half the fun around here. It has also led to innovative infrastructure to get drivers from point “A” to point “B” during the rise of the automobile in the early 20th century.

Take the Liberty Tunnels, which opened after four years of construction that removed about 400,000 cubic yards of rock from Mount Washington, building what were the longest automobile tunnels in the world when they opened in 1923. Pittsburgh Quarterly reports that the dig involved an average of 200 men per day, and lasted for 388 working days. The fact that motorists shared the road with horse-drawn wagons traveling between downtown and the South Hills in the 5,889-foot-long tubes until 1932–with a brief re-appearance during World War II when gasoline was rationed–demonstrates the changing times that the tunnels were built for.

While tunnel constructions was not new, designing longer tunnels for gasoline-powered vehicles was. The Liberty Tunnels engineers needed to accommodate a novel side effect: carbon monoxide emissions. The New York, New Jersey Hudson River Tunnel Authority looked to Pittsburgh’s U.S. Bureau of Mines to help them determine the potency of exhaust and the physics of airflow through the tunnels. The findings, as Tom Imerito writes in Pittsburgh Quarterly, were used to design the ventilation system not only for the Liberty Tunnels which were already under construction, but also a proposed project in Boston and a number of tunnels being planned in New York–including the Holland Tunnel, which would dethrone the Liberty Tubes as the longest automobile tunnels when they opened in 1927.

The ventilation system took longer to complete than the Liberty Tunnels did, and with the public eagerly awaiting the new throughway, the decision was made to open them to traffic without a functioning fan and vent system. Initially, natural drafts worked as hoped until the first traffic jam occurred eight months later. When the Pittsburgh Street Railway Company went on strike, it sent South Hills commuters into their cars–a record 649 entered the inbound tube between 7:30 and 8 a.m. on May 10, 2924. This surge in rush hour traffic brought cars to an idling standstill. Soon drivers were gasping for air and abandoning their still-running vehicles as they ran to the emergency exits. Thirty-three people were hospitalized for carbon monoxide inhalation, and when the tunnels re-opened that afternoon traffic was limited to six vehicles entering per minute until the ventilation system was completed in 1925, making the Liberty Tubes the first artificially-ventilated tunnels. WESA reporter Margaret J. Krauss takes listeners inside the Liberty Tunnel Fan House to experience the technology that keeps the tunnels safe today.

Perched atop Mount Washington on Secane Avenue, the fan house is the output for the 200-feet-high ventilation shafts pull exhaust out of the tunnels– it spews the fumes out through four tall stacks that are easy to spot atop the bluff. In his comprehensive survey of the city’s tunnels for Pittsburgh Magazine, Joe Grata reveals that there are eight fans, 12 feet in diameter and powered by 250-horsepower motors, that maintain a 15-mph airflow through the tunnels. Today approximately 65,000 vehicles pass through the tunnel each day.

Automobiles and Roadways to Visit

As a fitting companion to guest author and The Frick Pittsburgh Assistant Curator Kim Cady’s recent article, Pittsburgh and the Automobile Industry in the Early 20th Century, we’ve assembled an auto-themed itinerary that will take you through Allegheny, Beaver, and Butler counties—starting at the Frick’s Car and Carriage Museum, of course!

If you’re planning to hit the road on these itineraries during the global pandemic, please be mindful of the health and safety guidelines in place from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be sure to contact the sites, restaurants and attractions directly to confirm their operating status and the safety protocols they have in place before you go. We encourage you to bookmark these itineraries as travel inspiration to return to when things are less uncertain.

Bright blue sporty convertible coupe

American Austin Car Company, Butler, PA. American Bantam Model 65 Convertible Coupe, 1940.
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.14. Gift of G. Whitney Snyder.

The Frick Pittsburgh

7227 Reynolds St., Pittsburgh, PA 15208 | 412-371-0600 | thefrickpittsburgh.org

The Frick’s Car and Carriage Museum traces the transition in American life at the turn of the 20th century, as horse-drawn carriages phased out in favor of “horseless carriages.” Housed on the grounds of industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s Gilded Age mansion, the Car and Carriage Museum displays a large number of the Frick family’s carriages and automobiles, and also captures Pittsburgh’s role in the development of the automobile industry.

Automobile Row

Baum Boulevard, East Liberty and North Oakland, Pittsburgh

You won’t be far from the storied Automobile Row when you’re at The Frick’s Car and Carriage Museum. Take a stroll down Baum Boulevard in the East End of Pittsburgh to see the remains of repurposed former auto dealerships, manufacturers, and even the site where America’s first purposely-built, drive-in gas service station once stood at the corner of Baum Blvd. and St. Clair St. (Gulf Oil opened it in 1913, and the eye-catching pagoda architecture also offered free air and water—in addition to the first commercial road maps in the United States. Click here see a photo and learn more from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.) Read up on Pittsburgh’s important contributions to the automobile industry in the early 20th century in a guest blog post from Kim Cady, The Frick Pittsburgh’s Assistant Curator of the Car and Carriage Museum before you go. You won’t be able to miss the turquoise dome of Motor Square Garden, which opened as a public market in 1900 and later hosted frequent car shows. It was also a Cadillac and then Ford dealership throughout the years; today it’s owned by West Penn AAA. In the past, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has offered occasional public walking tours of Automobile Row.

Superior Motors

1211 Braddock Ave., Braddock, PA 15104 | 412-271-1022

This Braddock restaurant is housed in what was once one of the first indoor car dealerships in the country. The open kitchen looks into the former Chevy showroom, which has been converted into a main dining room of exposed brick and concrete. A meal at Chef Kevin Sousa’s Superior Motors is a dining experience in overdrive—Time magazine named it one of the “World’s Greatest Places” in 2018, and Anthony Bourdain savored a meal there during Parts Unknown’s exploration of Pittsburgh.

 

go karts lined up waiting to start a race

Go Karts at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex

Pittsburgh International Race Complex

201 Penndale Exd. Wampum, PA 16157 | 724-535-1000

This auto racing road course hosts amateur and professional automobile, motorcycle, and karting events, offering drivers of all levels a way to get on the track. The 400-acre complex, located in Wampum, offers spectator events, performance driving education, Test & Tune days, and a number of group experiences.

Jerry’s Curb Service

1521 Riverside Dr., Bridgewater, PA 15009 | 724-774-4727

Hop in the car and back into a spot at Jerry’s Curb Service in Bridgewater. Peruse the menu before flicking on your headlights to let your carhop know you’re ready to order from the diner-style menu–just like in the old days. The business was opened in 1947 by Jerry Reed after his tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force, and has held on tight to 1950s nostalgia—chrome and neon adorn the restaurant. It’s the perfect place to show off your favorite set of wheels—or admire someone else’s!

Military Style Jeep with american flags in front of a monument

Military-style Jeep at Diamond Park. Photo Courtesy Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau.

The Birthplace of the Jeep

Butler, PA 16001

Butler County, in the northern part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, is the birthplace of the always-off-road-ready Jeep! When the War Department requested proposals from domestic tractor and auto manufacturers to design a four-wheel drive, 40 horsepower, 1,300-pound reconnaissance car that could haul WWII soldiers and heavy artillery–to be ready in 49 days, only two companies responded. Butler’s American Bantam Car Company delivered the vehicle in 45 days and won the contract. A Bantam Jeep Exhibit is in the works to open sometime in 2021, but you can always visit the Jeep Marker at Diamond Park in downtown Butler in the meantime. You may want to time your trip for the next annual Bantam Jeep Festival, which celebrates Jeep history, culture, and off-roading. Diamond Park is on Main Street in downtown Butler across from the Butler County Courthouse, 124 W Diamond St., Butler, PA 16003. The Heinz History Center’s Great Hall showcases the oldest surviving Jeep, a BRC-40 Reconnaissance Car from 1941 nicknamed “Gramps,” which is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

Stay tuned for Part Two of our Automobiles and Roadways driving tour itineraries.

A black and white street scene of Baum Blvd, showing Motor Square Garden

Pittsburgh and the Automobile Industry in the Early 20th Century

By Blog

Image: A view of Baum Boulevard at South Beatty Street with a view of Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh Auto Club, and the East Liberty Presbyterian Church steeple. Image courtesy Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, University of Pittsburgh.

By Kim Cady   |  Assistant Curator Car and Carriage Museum, The Frick Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh and the Automobile Industry in the Early 20th Century

When asked about the American automobile industry most people think of Detroit and the Big 3—Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors—but at the turn of the 20th century hundreds of automobile manufacturers could be found throughout the Northeast, in cities like Cleveland, Toledo, and Buffalo which benefited from their location along the shipping lines of the Great Lakes. Pittsburgh also found success in the emerging auto industry with its proximity to the shipping lines along the Ohio River as well as its abundance of manufacturing resources—steel, glass, aluminum, and skilled labor.

Five model T cars and attendants in front of a garage

A car dealership and repair shop located on Penn Avenue 1903-1906—the Atlas Motor Car Company 
later turned manufacturer with a three-story fireproof facility on Ellsworth and College Avenues 
from 1906-1907. From the Collections of the Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Automobile manufacturing prior to World War I developed from two sources, existent manufacturing—carriages, bicycles, railroads, and boats—and novice machinists, tinkerers, and inventors who were mechanically inclined. Those in the manufacturing field already had the set-up, and often the capital, to venture out into the booming auto industry. Carriage builders like the Studebaker Brothers in South Bend, Indiana, and bicycle manufactures Société Anonyme des Automobiles et Cycles Peugeot—in France—saw an opportunity to retool their works to manufacture automobiles, a relatively smooth transition. While still other car manufacturers came from various industrial sectors. The Stanley brothers of Maine created the Stanley Motor Carriage Company to develop a car propelled by steam. Prior to the steam car, the innovative brothers were known for inventing a dry-plate photographic process. This innovative spirit could also be found in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Three-wheel vehicle with an open carriage seat

The running gear of this vehicle reflects bicycle technology, while the body is typical of 
carriage construction. The driver steered this tricycle-style vehicle using a tiller. 
Knox Automobile Company, Springfield, Massachusetts Model A Runabout, 1901. 
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.2. Gift of the estate of G. Whitney Snyder.

Red four-seat roadster with yellow wheels

Stanley Motor Carriage Company, Newton, Massachusetts. Stanley Steamer Model R Roadster, 1909. 
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.1. Gift of Laurie Graham in memory of George McKay Schieffelin.

By the mid-1800s, Pittsburgh was ranked the 17th largest city in the US and was home to nearly 1,000 factories making it a force in industry, especially in the area of steel production. By 1900, Carnegie Steel was the largest steel company in America with three million tons of capacity. The increase in manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh created a population explosion. According to Pittsburgh Quarterly, from 1870 to 1910 the city’s population grew from 86,000 to over 530,000. The surrounding region’s population grew at a rate twice as large as that of the entire country. This growth provided Pittsburgh with a huge labor force able work in the booming iron and steel factories as well as the growing automobile industry.

Since early automobiles were expensive to purchase early demand came from wealthy clientele—men from Pittsburgh, like Carnegie, Heinz, Frick, and Mellon. As the demand intensified a robust and independent auto industry grew steadily in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. As early as 1896, Empire Motor Company became one of the first automobile manufacturers in Pittsburgh, specializing in 2-cylinder engines. The following year the Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company (later renamed Autocar) produced various three- and four-wheeled vehicles. It wasn’t just new innovators making a go of it in the auto industry, bicycle and carriage manufactures threw their hat in the ring as well. Although carriages would share the road with cars until the 1920s, the carriage industry knew early on that its days were numbered. Carriage part suppliers—body builders, wheelwrights, painters, and lamp makers—were able to transition their skills into the up-and-coming auto industry. L. Glesenkamp & Sons, a prominent Pittsburgh carriage builder who retooled their shop to create car bodies and offered painting and varnish services produced their first motor wagon in 1909.

Early newspaper ad for Empire Motor Company, Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Automobile Painting Ad

 

Empire Motor Company advertisement from 1896. Image courtesy Early American Automobiles.
Advertisement for the services offered by L. Glesenkamp Co. Image courtesy Coachbuilt.

Auto manufacturers could be found throughout the city but many opened shops in the East End. Baum Boulevard, later nicknamed Automobile Row, offered service stations, dealerships, part suppliers, and the Motor Garden—now the AAA building—which held annual car shows featuring the latest models. The Penn Motor Car Company established their production on Thomas Boulevard in 1910 and advertised their 30 horsepower Penn 30 Touring Car as “the best at any price,” which in this case was just over $1,000. In 1912, the company built a $90,000 factory in New Castle, Pennsylvania, but when investors pulled out, no cars were ever produced there. While this marked the end of the line for Penn, their former sales manager Elmore Gregg stayed in the Pittsburgh car business, introducing the Pennsy a few years later.

Billboard for "Autocar Motor Trucks" in front of a large victorian mansion.

The Guffey estate, seen here in 1920, 
would make way a few years later for 
a new Autocar (formerly the 
Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company) 
branch. This corner of Baum Boulevard, 
at Liberty Avenue, was in the middle 
of the city’s burgeoning Automobile 
Row. Image courtesy Pittsburgh City 
Photographer Collection, 
University of Pittsburgh. 

A four wheel, four seater car with open sides and a canvas roof.

Penn Motor Car Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Penn 30 Touring Car, 1911.
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.7. Gift of the estate of G. Whitney Snyder.

Venturing out of the city manufacturers built factories in Washington (Universal, Croxton), Connellsville (Paragon), Meyersdale (Gurley) and a number of other communities. Fort Pitt Motor Manufacturing Company organized by German immigrant B.G. von Rottweiler built the 60 horsepower racecar known as the Pittsburgh Six at their factory in New Kensington from 1907-1911. The Munch-Allen Motor Car Company moved their factory from Yonkers, New York to DuBois, Pennsylvania—about 100 miles from Pittsburgh—in 1909 creating only one model, the Keystone Six-Sixty, but the company folded in 1910.

A two seater with running boards, solid doors and a canvas or convertible roof

Paragon Motor Company Roadster, 
Connellsville PA, c. 1921. 
Image courtesy All Car Index .

Munch-Allen Motor Car Company, DuBois, Pennsylvania. Keystone Six-Sixty Roadster, 1909. 
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.3. Gift of the estate of G. Whitney Snyder.

In 1913, the Standard Steel Car Company of Pittsburgh, a well-established builder of railroad cars, built a $2 million factory north of Pittsburgh in Butler, Pennsylvania to begin manufacturing automobiles. The Standard was built in Butler from 1914 to 1923, with its highest production rates, about 2,500 vehicles, in 1917. In 1930, seven years after Standard ceased manufacturing, the factory was repurposed for production of the American Austin and American Bantam mini-cars. Established in 1929, The American Austin Coupe was developed in an attempt to combat the effects of the Depression on automobile sales. The company would change its name in the late 30s to the American Bantam Company and continued to make lightweight mini-cars, including the prototype for the Jeep used by the US military in WWII, before ceasing production in the early 1940s.

Standard Steel Car Company, Butler, Pennsylvania. Model E Touring Car, 1917.
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.10. Gift of the estate of G. Whitney Snyder.

The American Bantam Car Company was one of the last Pittsburgh-area auto manufacturers. Unfortunately, long-term, sustainable success eluded many Pittsburgh automobile companies. Due to high production costs and a limited consumer base early on most local manufacturers, like Munch-Allen Motor Car Company produced only one or two models before losing the support of investors. Those that did survive through the 1910s were required to cease auto production during the war and use their facilities to aid in the war effort. The independent manufactures that remained after WWI were either bankrupted by the Great Depression or another factory take-over for the WWII war effort. Following the wars and the Depression most surviving independent firms were consolidated (AMC) or bought up by the Big 3- Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors.

Black coupe with a hard roof

American Austin Car Company, Butler, PA. American Austin Coupe, 1931. 
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.13. Gift of G. Whitney Snyder.

Bright blue sporty convertible coupe

American Austin Car Company, Butler, PA. American Bantam Model 65 Convertible Coupe, 1940.
Frick Art & Historical Center, 1999.1.14. Gift of G. Whitney Snyder.

During its heyday, 1890s-1940, the auto industry in Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region had roughly 50 automobile manufactures. The abundance of manufacturing resources, proximity to shipping lines, a skilled labor force, and a wealthy population that could afford the new machines led to industry success in the region. Although the bulk of automobile manufacturing moved to Detroit following WWII, Pittsburgh resources—steel, glass, paint, and aluminum—still played a major role in the production of automobiles. Where we live and work, how we travel, our landscape and environment have all been profoundly shaped by the car, and the car has been profoundly shaped by Pittsburgh steel.

About Kim Cady

Kim Cady has been the Assistant Curator of the Car and Carriage Museum at the Frick Pittsburgh for three years where she cares for and develops exhibitions related to the organization’s historic transportation collection. Kim has a BA in Liberal Studies from Mansfield University and a MA in Museum Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to her work at the Frick, she served as the Collections Manager at the Pennsylvania State Police Museum in Hershey and the Assistant Curator at the Tioga Point Museum in Athens, PA.

8:46 We remember George Floyd

We Remember George Floyd

By Blog, Press Room

We Remember George Floyd: Rivers of Steel’s Call to Action to Ourselves and Our Region

Rivers of Steel condemns the murder of George Floyd. Starting today, we will work aggressively through our programming and projects to help put an end to racism, bigotry, inequality, intolerance, injustice, and prejudice directed toward black Americans and other people of color.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area was created by an Act of Congress in 1996 to commemorate, interpret, and help conserve the industrial and cultural heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania. Over the years, we have proudly told the stories of the industrial might of Pittsburgh and the region, and how those companies and the hundreds of thousands of people that came here to work built America. We take pride in the fact that our industrial prowess and the sweat, brawn, and blood of the workers manufactured the armaments that defended democracy and won world wars. We see this heritage still reflected in the neighborhoods where we live, the houses of worship in which we pray. We celebrate our diverse ethnicity and tell stories about how our grandparents and great grandparents came to southwestern Pennsylvania and settled in the mill towns, coal patches, and cities to build a better life for themselves and their children. Our romanticized memory has jaded the reality of our history and the conditions of our communities today that stare us directly in our faces.

The reality is that we live in a region with an ugly cultural heritage of racism, bigotry, and segregation, and it is all tied to the industrial heritage—the very issue Rivers of Steel was created to “commemorate, interpret, and help conserve.” Industrial towns and regions—which Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania are—were established to build infrastructure with the labor of their workers. These industrial towns controlled the factories and the community, imposing segregated places on the shop floor and in the neighborhoods. There is a reason why Pittsburgh and surrounding communities have distinct ethnic and racial compositions. Did you ever wonder why there are clusters of ethnic populations in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, some with names like Polish Hill and Deutschtown? Or why Aliquippa has “planned communities,” and within those planned communities there is one that was designated explicitly for black steelworkers and their families? It is not because all the people that settled in these places wanted to live with those of similar backgrounds. It is because the industrial system that we commemorate had isolated our ancestors into enclaves so they could be easily controlled. Our system of fragmented local government is the result of the industrial system, adding to the disparity of services from public safety to public education we live with today. Why does a community like Homestead, Pennsylvania, have so many ethnically-distinct Catholic churches? It’s because a Slovenian Catholic could not worship at the Irish Catholic church, and the Irish Catholics could not worship at the Lithuanian Catholic church. And if you were black…

We celebrate the greatness of our famed Negro League teams, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and often fail to remember that these men, only because of the color of their skin, were prohibited from playing in the major leagues. We also fail to tell the story that many of these same men, and their teams, grew out of segregated “company teams” created to provide some recreational activity for their workers, separated by race—another aspect of our industrial heritage.

Our city and our nation have changed over the century-and-a-half of its industrial prowess. While we lost most of the mills and mines, we wake each morning to a regional economy that was once on life-support but has been reconstructed and rebirthed to a new, high-tech system. We wake to skies that once blocked almost all sunlight and obstructed our views but now permit our gaze at glittering skyscrapers and a vibrant city. We wake to a region whose hills were denuded of trees but now are green, and rivers that once were devoid of life continue to support industry today but also provide recreation and health benefits to our citizens.

And for the past week, we wake to a city, like so many other cities in America, that has erupted with anger and rage at the inexcusable and intolerable murder of George Floyd. We, as a nation, have accomplished so much over our history and changed so many things, but we have failed to solve the most insidious and destructive problem of our society—racism.

Rivers of Steel’s mission―to commemorate the industrial and cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania―has led us to develop successful programs and projects that embrace our culture and celebrate our diversity, but we can and must do more. We have told the stories of those who came to work here, but have skirted the stories of racism in the steel industry. We hold tours at the Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark and point out that it was one of the most dangerous places to work within the mill but fail to uniformly illuminate the fact it had a predominately black workforce. We fail to tell the story that black men were enticed to come to Homestead after the Lockout and Strike in 1892, to act as scab laborers, adding to prejudices and injustices they endured because of the color of their skin. Furthermore, the industrial system intentionally pitted ethnic groups against one another as a way of fending off unionization, and this included taking advantage of black / white animosities.

But today we, the staff and board of Rivers of Steel, recognize our need to do things differently and do more. Today, we issued a challenge to ourselves to work with our partners, the African American community, and our region to tell a story that doesn’t hide behind wistful, romanticized, visions of our living heritage (a term that, properly understood, describes both “the past” and “today”). Instead, we will build our arts and education programs to reach further into the communities of color, and other disadvantaged populations. We will make sure our interpretation does not end with the generalized terms of the struggles of all workers but point out those long-established discriminatory practices that kept black workers from being able to attain equal status in the factory and the communities. We will grow our education programs with our partner schools, intermediary units, and teachers, to make sure that we help break down the prescriptive barriers of the state system of public education which restrict free and equal education in the disadvantaged and black communities we work within. We will build an organization that works to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of us all, recognizing that this mosaic of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual identity, and religion should bind us as human beings―all the same, equal to each other, and deserving the constitutional freedoms that are inherent to us all.

With the Rivers of Steel board of directors, we will work to be more diverse, recognizing our desire to be more inclusive, and re-doubling our efforts to build a more diverse board. We will create a board committee of diversity, equity, and inclusion to work with staff and the board guiding our mission and our policy as we work within our communities of southwestern Pennsylvania. And we will re-examine our strategic plan to improve and establish more programs and projects that reach into our communities and to keep a lens focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion in all of our work, operations, and management.

We do this in the memory of George Floyd, who should be alive today. We do this in the memory of Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We do this in the memory of Jonny Gammage, Antwon Rose, Jr., and so many others. We do this recognizing that it should be done; it must be done. Rivers of Steel, alone, cannot solve the problem of racism in our region or our country, but we have to start to put an end to this evil. We welcome our partners and communities to join and help guide us.

 

August R. Carlino
President & Chief Executive Officer
Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation / Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area

The Restoration of “Miss Carrie”

By Blog

By Keith Clouse, Rivers of Steel Volunteer

Image of Keith ClousePreservation Work on the #101 Locomotive

A large part of iron making is providing the raw materials to the blast furnaces in a timely manner. The logistics require delivery and storage of those materials to allow an uninterrupted supply. The Carrie Blast Furnaces depended upon rail delivery of those raw materials even though it was located beside the Monongahela River. Incoming materials were delivered by three railroads: the Baltimore and Ohio, the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, and the Union RR. Once inside the Carrie facility it was the job of the Materials Department to unload the freight cars and store the iron ore, limestone, coke, and other ingredients needed for the iron-making process.

Carrie used a huge elevator, called a car dumper, to quickly unload each railcar for distribution into one of three separate storage areas, called ore yards. A General Electric 80 Ton locomotive, #101, would proceed to the arrival yard to pick up three loaded cars. They would be pulled up a ramp to the car dumper. Those cars would be lifted by an elevator and turned over, allowing the contents to fall into a large hopper. After those three cars were emptied, #101 would return to the yard for another group.

For most of its time at Carrie, #101 would run back and forth on a quarter mile of track, rarely venturing from the car dumper. Maintenance and servicing were performed in a small service pit on site. #101 was just one of many diesel locomotives used by the US Steel Homestead Works. However, it had a distinctive cab that made it unique. It was a half cab, the result of an industrial accident at the car dumper. Four large steel arms, controlled by heavy steel cables, held the loaded freight cars in place while the elevator lifted them. One of those cables broke while #101 was underneath it, allowing the huge arm to crash down on the locomotive cab, crushing one side. The operator inside was not injured but was later nicknamed “brown pants” by the rest of the crew.

The car dumper and #101 worked right up to the closing of Carrie in the early 1980s, stored as serviceable for a reopening that never came. Over the years, Mother Nature took over the site, hiding #101 in a small forest of trees and shrubs, entangling the car dumper in vines. As with any machinery sitting in the open, the neglect resulted in rust and vandalism. Even though it was in a fenced in area, #101 was soon covered with an assortment of graffiti, the windows smashed out. It would remain like that, rusted and ignored, until the fall of 2019.

Kevin Scanlon and I began volunteering at Carrie in 2010; we both believed in historical preservation. Carrie was the ideal site for restoration, an example of the iron-making process. Recognizing this, Rivers of Steel was able to National Historical Landmark status for the site in 2006. Kevin and I were among the volunteers working to undo almost 30 years of neglect to open the site for visitors. Early on we worked around the car dumper, cutting away the thick foliage, uncovering the 101. Although the idea of restoring her was something we considered, it would have to wait until more pressing work was completed.

In the fall of 2019, Ron Baraff and Ryan Henderson convinced us it was time to move ahead to begin the restoration of #101. First, we needed a thorough cleaning of the accumulated debris and leaves; taconite pellets were everywhere inside. Next the big job—remove the rust. The first attempt at sand blasting didn’t work out well. It was going to take more time, but using grinders with abrasive disks proved to be a better choice.

Kevin Scanlon working on Carrie #101It was interesting to work through the layers of paint, discovering three different paint schemes used by US Steel over the years. We worked our way down to bare metal. The body was in good shape for the most part. The were some rust and holes around the sand boxes. The sand had accumulated moisture and rotted through the outside sheeting. Those areas will be covered with sheet metal patches and the missing roof hatch covers will be replaced at the same time. Because bare metal will quickly rust, Rivers of Steel provided primer to cover it. Each section was painted as the rust was removed. When the painting was completed, we stood back to admire the now renamed “Miss Carrie” in her new red dress.

So far, the work had stabilized the locomotive, but winter was fast approaching. We needed to replace the broken glass to prevent further damage to the interior of the cab. A large sheet of Lexan was cut into the appropriate shapes to replace the glass. The floorboards were warped and broken, so a temporary plywood floor was installed and braced. A decision was made to use the 1960s paint scheme—blue with orange stripes. It was decided that we would wait until spring before attempting to do the finish work. We had taken the dimensions and made sketches of the safety striping while removing the old paint. That will be our guide when we are able to add the final touches.

We are currently in a holding pattern until the virus restrictions are lifted. Even at this point, the project has been very satisfying. We were able to restore and preserve a unique part of the Carrie iron-making process. So far, the only negative was feedback from people who liked the former rusty look for photos…I can live with their disappointment.

"Miss Carrie", a GE 80 ton locomotive, Before and After

Guide to Images

Featured Image: An unrestored Carrie #101 locomotive with the car dumper, ore bridge, and the Carrie Blast Furnaces in the background

Image 1: Tour Guide Keith Clouse

Image 2: Kevin Scanlon grinds away the rust

Image 3: Before and after images of the first phase of the “Miss Carrie” restoration

Jack Boot Safety Posters

A Home for the Culture of Steel

By Blog

By Ryan Henderson, Interpretive Specialist

Ryan HendersonTo Collect, Preserve, Display & Share

A key component of Rivers of Steel’s mission has always been the collection and preservation of materials related to steel and industrial history.  While Rivers of Steel may now be best known for our historic properties, our historians have been collecting documents, objects, photographs, clothing, and all manners of ephemera for more than twenty years.  One of our organization’s earliest goals was to create a safe place for those items that threatened to disappear during the turmoil that engulfed the steel industry during the 1980s.  Hard hats, ID badges, books relating to metallurgy, work clothes, technical drawings, commemorative lighters and paper weights, industrial magazines, safety posters, and all manner of ‘everyday’ items from that era faced the potential to end up in the landfill, or consigned to a corner of the attic or basement.

When Rivers of Steel first put out the call for donations decades ago, the community responded with overwhelming support.  Our archive has had the good fortune to receive the support of local organizations and businesses, dozens of former industrial workers, and a number of dedicated longtime donors, some of whom have made thousands of individual donations.  We have managed to unearth truly incredible items: an exceptionally vibrant series of safety posters by local artist Jack Boot, letters from a National Guardsman during the Homestead Strike, the menu that once hung in the Open Hearth 5 Canteen at the Homestead Works (image below), hundreds of black and white headshots of workers from Jones and Laughlin.  We have managed to collect and retell the stories of the men and women who made this region what it is today through oral histories, audio / visual collections, and artwork.  Above all, we have attempted to ensure that these pieces will not only remain for future generations, but will be available now for all those who wish to access them.

Not only has Rivers of Steel created an archive that safely houses over 50,000 unique items, but it also makes these collections open to the public. Our archive is free to access by appointment, and almost any of the items in our collection can be viewed in person with a few exceptions.  Additionally, portions of our collection are frequently displayed in our exhibition rooms on the third floor of the Bost Building.  We have created a number of exhibits honoring the industrial and cultural heritage from southwestern Pennsylvania, with past shows focusing on topics like Jones and Laughlin Steel, the Little Steel era, folk art from around the region, industrial photography, and our current show which features hidden gems from our collection. Rivers of Steel also frequently works with outside groups or individuals to contribute both art and artifacts our exhibits, such as our current display on the 1919 Steel Strike.

Various exhibits inside the museum.Even during the current Covid-19 crisis, Rivers of Steel is working to facilitate access to our archives as safely as possible.  While we are not currently receiving visitors to the archive, our staff is more than happy to work with researchers, students, and community members to access our collections online and to fulfill requests as best we are able.  Our collections can be searched in their entirety here.  Additionally, we have created a new Covid-19 policy for the duration of the crisis in accordance with Pennsylvania State guidelines, viewable here.

We encourage anyone interested in contributing to our archives to get in touch with us at archives@riversofsteel.com about next steps.  We have been working hard to preserve our community’s history for the past twenty plus years, and we will continue to protect our valuable cultural resources during these difficult times.

Guide to Images

Featured Image: Two of Jack Boot’s Safety Posters

Image 1: Ryan Henderson speaks to a group in the archives at the Bost Building.

Image 2: Menu board from the Open Hearth 5 Canteen at the Homestead Works.

Image 3: A view of the Bost Building’s third floor gallery, featuring the “From the Vault” exhibition.