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GES186 - Steel Mill, PA, USA

After sleeping on GE080's floor, we woke up to a perfect day, with warm sunshine and clear blue skies. We'd had a good nights sleep, and were raring to go. GE080 had his ladyfriend from Detroit down, looking every inch the type of white young female one would expect to meet in that town that spawned The Stooges.

This time we followed GE080 to the destination, finally we were going to get to see a steel mill. The main thing I hoped to see in my time in the area. We drove off through the affluent neighbourhood that GE080 lived on the outskirts of. Lots of large houses dotted about with large deciduous trees. The road gently twisted downhill, and soon GE074 was driving us on the freeway over river valleys and low hills. We crossed the state line, and were back in the state that was slammed in the Neil Young protest song of the late 60's, 'Ohio.' Only this time it wasn't tin soldiers, it was four explorers. We pulled up in the town, and headed off to some rail tracks through the woods. It felt a bit like a scene out of 'Stand By Me.'  We arrived at the mill and GE080 led us into the power plant. He then went to scope the site out for workers. The power plant is the larger building on the left. The tangled mass of chimneys on the right is the blast furnace.

The inside of the power plant. Two turbines sit next to each other, one dissected like a frog in a biology class..

The turbine split open and innards removed.

GE080 had established that the workers were on the far side of the site, and we'd be fine to go around the main rolling mill. Below is the rolling mill, disappearing into the distance on the left. Continuing the movie connections, the classic 'Deer Hunter' came to mind while I was here. The lads leaving their shift and heading off into the hills to hunt deer.

Leading off the long rolling mill, were several shorter warehouse like buildings at right angles. This appeared to be something of a delivery bay, with a rail line rolling down the left hand side, and a huge yellow crane above the camera. The rolling mill leads off by the sunlight crashing through at the bottom end of the picture. The rest of the buildings are on the right side.

Loading bays in the delivery warehouse, seen above.

In the warehouse next to the delivery bay above, steps up to a crane.

Another warehouse, next to the one above.Kind of gives some sense of scale to the place.

Another warehouse over from the one above, and the fourth one of this size at right angles to the rolling mill. I'm not sure what these were, but they appeared to be like cotton reels on a pin. Some are still here, but it appears a number have been removed, leaving only the 'pins.'

The top of the rolling mill, or bottom, not sure to be honest. The scenes of 'The Deer Hunter' were still playing in my mind. The patriotic stars and stripes in the windows of the office on the left. The stereotypical blue collar insignia. There were also stickers for the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers.

A mass of switches and lights, sadly none of them worked.

Rolling thunder.

A group of  explorers from Buffalo dropped in on us, having just come from Cleveland. The rolling mill ends just over halfway down the left side.

The end of the rolling mill.

As we prepared to leave the rolling mill, it transpired we were a man down. GE074 was nowhere to be found. We searched the building, trying to call his name in a low but loud voice. Eventually he responded to a text, and was over in the furnace buildings. So we headed over to join him. The approach to the furnaces. The power plant was behind us, and the rolling mill to the left.

No doubting that this is the North blast furnace.

The base of the North blast furnace.

Up close with the base, one can only imagine the heat this must have produced when in operation, and if it was a hot day like when we were there, the poor workers must have been in hell.

I climbed up to the tracks that run above and beside the main furnaces. The North furnace on the left, and the South furnace just to the left of centre, hidden by the reddish pipe.

Rail tracks, and the North Blast furnace.

Looking the opposite way to a decommissioned bridge. On the right, an active steel mill on the other side of the river.

Fisheye of the two furnaces and accompanying infrastructure. It was while sitting down for this shot, that I realised what happens when hot sun and metal combined. As I felt my arse catch fire!

It was then a climb up the slowly rusting steps to the top of the furnace. A mish mash of ladders and walkways left in our wake.

Looking across at the rolling mill (white roof, and then dark) with the warehouse like buildings leading off at right angles, as described above. The long unbroken warehouse with the brown roof on the far end, is the one described above as the delivery bay. The entire area is surrounded by dense deciduous woodland.

After working out numerous routes up different ladders and stairs, I reached the top of the South blast furnace. I went to climb the North blast furnace across the shaky bridge in the bottom centre of the picture. The bridge was not looking in a good way, and i was also having to creep in a low position, as workers were just across the way. When I started to climb the steps that lead up from it, they began to crumble. I thought better of it, and came back to climb the South blast furnace.

Back down, i wanted to try to climb up and see inside these buckets that presumably take coal up to be dropped into the roaring furnace. However I had already forgotten my lesson from earlier, and was quickly reminded that metal and sunlight mean burnt hands!

A building next to the blast furnaces was filled with endless pipes and valve wheels. The smell in here wasn't good, and I'm pretty sure that's exposed asbestos on the pipe in the middle of the pic. So I quickly got out of there.

We headed back to the power plant, which was the rendezvous point. And then headed back down the tracks to the cars. GE074 joined the other two, as they headed back to a local UE meet. I headed off to south of Pittsburgh, to find an abandoned town.

Huge thanks to GE080 for taking us here, it was amazing mate!


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