Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Carrie Furnace Tour



Once upon a time, steel mills lined the river banks and clouds of soot filled the air throughout Western Pennsylvania. Very few are in existence today.  Shopping malls, industrial parks, and decaying remnants are what remain in towns once dominated by the industry.  One of these dilapidated structures, the Carrie Furnace, located along the Monongahela River in Rankin/Swissvale has sat abandoned, since 1979.  The Carrie Furnace was founded in 1884 and was acquired by Andrew Carnegie in 1898 to supply iron to his Homestead works across the river.  At the Carrie Furnace, coke, limestone, and iron ore were put into one of the seven blast furnaces and cooked at 2,800 degrees. It was then transported across the Rankin Hot Metal Bridge to Homestead via torpedo cars, where the pig iron was made into steel.  Ninety-two feet tall Furnaces #6 and #7, which were built in 1907 by U.S. Steel are all that remain of the site today.  Years of neglect left the structures to rust and decay.  In 2006, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area opened the 38 acre site to tourists.  The Carrie Furnace is constantly being restored by volunteers in order to preserve history.  The site has also attracted filmmakers and photographers, as several movies and music videos have been filmed here over the years.


Torpedo car used to transport iron to Homestead

To capture Pittsburgh's past, Rivers of Steel offers tours of the Carrie Furnace on Saturdays (10 AM) April 27 through October, and Fridays (10 AM) June through August.  On the roughly two-hour guided tour, visitors walk through the cast house, furnaces, and ore yards where thousands of Pittsburghers' worked 24 hours/day, 365 days/year to create 1,000 to 1,250 tons of pig iron per day.  Tour guides provide a historical perspective of the site, the iron making process, the different jobs an employee held, and describe the working conditions of a mill worker at the Carrie Furnace.  One of the highlights is seeing the Carrie Deer that was erected in 1997.  The Carrie Deer is a 40' tall structure created by a group of artists that snuck into the Carrie Furnace and spent a year constructing using materials extracted from the site.  This is the only mill of its kind that one can tour.   It is a great way for people to learn about Pittsburgh's steel heritage.  Rivers of Steel envisions this historical site as the focal point for development in the future.   

Carrie Deer

Years of driving across the Rankin Bridge to get to my grandparents' house I always looked off into the distance at the ruins of the former mill. When I read that a restoration project was underway and tours were going to be offered I made sure to sign up.  On a recent Saturday morning, I took the tour and was fascinated with the preservation effort and scenery. The tour was very interesting and the tour guide was very knowledgeable. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in history and Pittsburgh. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that is a must-see.  I hope they get the necessary funding to continue to develop the site for everyone to enjoy.

Reservations for tours can be made at www.riversofsteel.com.

43 comments:

  1. I can't imagine a life with furnaces in Guelph. That would be really hard.

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  2. This would be so fun to go to. Hopefully my husband will take me.

    Molly | Calgary Furnace

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  3. My brother works with furnaces in Lethbridge. He says that it is a pretty interesting job.

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  4. No, it is not operational. It hasn't been since 1979

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  5. I bet that would be a good place to take pictures...maybe not engagement pictures or any pictures involving a happy event but it still looks cool. I just need some furnace cleaning in Calgary. Anyone know of one?

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  6. Hey there! I am looking for a company that restores furnaces in Newmarket. Do you happen to have any recommendations? Please let me know, thanks.

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  7. This has been a great blog. Thanks for sharing. I have been trying to find something like this. furnaces edmonton

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  8. Whoa, such a large iron object, wonder what it had been used for.

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  9. Hey, R Korn...could you email me at mikebwesty@gmail.com...I have a question I want to ask you. If you could, please email me at mikebwesty@gmail.com. My name is Mike. Thanks!

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  10. I have been trying to find furnace. Does anyone have a suggestion?

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  11. That's a pretty crazy furnace! I called up someone to come help me with my furnace installation in Utah County, and believe it or not, he did the whole thing from his homemade PVC wheelchair!

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  12. Hi sir, Nice effort we also manufacture and supply a wide range of industrial Furnaces, oven, industrial tray dryer and other products. Please give us an opportunity to serve you better. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. That is a pretty neat idea. I have family coming in to Edmonton for the holidays and we are looking at tours and things to do. I didn't even consider furnaces in Edmonton. Thanks for the brilliant tour Idea.

    | lucedheatingfurnacesairconditioning.ca

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  14. I would think that this would be a really cool tour. I wonder if they do this for newer furnace companies like Knight Plumbing in Calgary.

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  15. Wow, that would be very interesting! There are all sorts of things like this, recent history that changed the nation but has passed. We don't hear and see enough about it! Thanks for the article!

    Jim | http://www.abaileyplumbing.com

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  16. Thanks a lot for sharing on this valuable information with us, i truly appreciate it.

    Furnace Repair

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  17. This looks like a great tour. I would like to get a tour of this with my family this summer. Do you guys offer a group rate?


    bryanflake1984| http://www.summersandsmith.ca/

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    Replies
    1. I would suggest visiting http://www.riversofsteel.com/ for rate information

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  18. This looks like a great tour. I think everyone should go on a furnace tour. It is a great way to understand how things work.

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  19. I would really like to buy another furnaces one of these days. These look like some really nice pieces of machinery. How much would one on the nicer end cost me?

    http://www.mrheating.com/furnaces/8/4

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  20. A furnace tour would be a great way to learn more about how furnaces work. Do small furnaces work in the same way as big ones? Have they changed a lot over the years?

    Norah Chandler | http://www.climecresidential.com/products.php

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  21. This looks fantastic. I have always wanted to go on a furnace tour. I feel like it would really help me understand how the work.

    Aaron | http://www.shortysplumbing.ca/furnaces.html

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  22. Operational or not, there is something about these furnaces that even non-Steelers fans can appreciate. I wonder if the rustic look is truly time+oxidization, or if it is attended to with the care usually reserved for antiques.
    http://www.sullivanservice.com/furnace-and-boiler-repairs

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  23. I'm sure that furnace was a quality machine before it exploded. My furnace did something similar only on a smaller scale. Don't ask me how it happened. All I know is that I have to replace it now.

    Gerald Vonberger | http://www.butlerheatingandair.com/services-new.html

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