Saturday, May 17, 2014

Carrie Furnace

I ventured to western Pennsylvania last weekend with friends from Road Runner Photography. Saturday afternoon and evening, we were at Carrie Furnace outside of Pittsburgh. I arrived an hour early before the official start time in a pouring thunderstorm. Our start was delayed a hour due to the storms. After the rains passed, the skies remained gray and overcast adding to the grungy feeling to the old industrial site. Long exposures were the order of the day as the light faded into night. With special arrangements made to stay until 10:30pm light painting and spinning woolies (seen above) kept us busy after sunset. All of the images shown are single exposures- I continue to be amazed at the details in the D800 files. My older D300 would require blending of multiple exposures to make these images.

Carrie Furnace is said to be the last remaining example of pre-WWII steel making technology. Only a small portion of the once mighty complex remains, just blast furnaces 6 and 7. Built in the late 1800's, it was soon bought by Andrew Carnegie and added to his steel empire which later became US Steel. Carrie sits along the Monogahela River. The molten iron produced in the furnaces was shipped by special rail cars over the river to the Homestead Steel Mill. During the peak, over a 1000 tons of iron per day was produced. Shut down in 1978, it is now a National Historic Landmark. Tours are available through the Rivers of Steal organization.

Raw materials arrived by rail and were dumped into these large hoppers (above right). Then rail cars distributed the materials to the blast furnaces. The guide told us the furnaces were operated continuously to moderate the scorching temperatures from melting the furnaces.

The maze of pipes, ducts, valves, etc. I found fascinating. The rain gave the rusty metal a special glow. Huge amounts of air was ducted into the furnaces for combustion and millions of gallons of water used daily for cooling.

With so much to see, I was barely able to scratch the surface photographically. I hope to return again.


  1. I am a Homestead native. My family immigrated in the 1880's to work in the mills. A proud history for hard working Slovaks. Will be seeing the Carrie Furnaces when I visit Memorial week from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Nancy. Surely your family history will make your visit all the more special.