were used to store raw materials to make iron: coke,
iron ore and limestone. Four tons of raw materials
were needed for every ton of iron produced at the
Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, Pennsylvania.
complex with the giant furnaces and associated buildings
in Rankin and Swissvale boroughs is an industrial ghost, a
relic of Pittsburgh’s colorful steel-making past.
92 feet tall, the two furnaces are the biggest attraction
in the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area and are
becoming a bona-fide tourist draw. The Rivers of Steel
Corp. offers tours of the Carrie Furnaces where 3,000
workers once toiled.
two remaining furnaces offer an up-close look at the time
when the Pittsburgh area was the No. 1 steel region in the
world. Iron from the Carrie Furnaces became steel that was
used in the Empire State Building, the battleship
Missouri, the Gateway Arch, the Sears Tower, the Golden
Gate Bridge, Panama Canal, the United Nations Building,
the George Washington Bridge and the Alaska oil pipeline.
Carrie Furnaces are rare examples of pre-World War II
iron-making technologies, the only two blast furnaces from
that era that survive in the United States. Carrie 6 is
intact; Carrie 7 has been partially dismantled on the
13-acre site. They were constructed of 2.5-inch-thick
steel plate and lined with refractory brick to withstand
temperatures as high as 3,500 degrees.
first Carrie Furnaces were built in 1884. The furnaces
operated as independent merchant iron furnaces that sold
their pig iron to other companies.
furnaces were named after women; the Carrie name was a
family name of one of the initial owners.
furnaces were acquired in 1898 by Andrew Carnegie and
became part of U.S. Steel in 1901. Carrie 6 and 7 were
built in 1907 by U.S. Steel.
Carrie Furnaces operated until 1978 as the heart of the
giant Homestead Steel Works, the adjoining steelmaking
complex across the river in Homestead.
blast furnaces consumed approximately four tons of iron
ore, coke and limestone for every ton of iron produced.
The cooling system required more than 5 million gallons of
6 and 7 each at its peak produced 1,000 to 1,250 tons of
iron a day. The molten iron was moved in special 35-ton
ladle rail cars across the river on a special bridge —
the Hot Metal Bridge — to the Homestead Works to be
turned into steel.
Carrie Furnaces were among 48 blast furnaces in and around
Pittsburgh in the early 1900s.
two remaining furnaces are a National Historic Landmark
and the focal point of the proposed 38-acre Homestead
Works National Park devoted to the region’s industrial
history. Under that plan, the two furnaces would undergo a
stabilization and renovation costing tens of millions of
dollars to enable visitors to climb catwalks and see the
furnaces up close.
its 105 years, the Homestead Works with its open-hearth
mills produced more than 200 million tons of steel. It was
the flagship plant for U.S. Steel and one of the world’s
largest steel mills, covering 430 acres with 450 buildings
and employing 200,000 workers over the years, 15,000
during World War II. It was shut down in 1986.
old complex has been redeveloped as The Waterfront with
stores, hotels and restaurants in Homestead.
of Steel offers two Carrie Furnaces tours: guided, and
self-guided with docents at appropriate stops.
Furnace attractions include the two furnaces, an oversized
brick blower house, the ore yard, car dumper, torpedo car,
blowing engine house, hot stoves, cast house and a 15-ton
crane for moving iron ore.
is a big and unpolished facility. For example, the blowing
engine house for the two furnaces is 220 feet long, 104
feet wide and 84 feet high. It housed four large gas
engines to produce air for the blast furnaces.
love an unlikely attraction: a metal sculpture of an
oversized deer’s head that towers over part of the
facility, about 45 feet by 35 feet in size. It was
constructed in 1997-1999 by a crew of artists, the
Industrial Arts Collective, using materials found on the
tours are designed for ages 8 and up. No high-heeled or
open-toed shoes are allowed on the industrial site.
to the Carrie Furnaces was an adventure. The interstate
was closed for tunnel repairs and traffic was detoured on
a long, winding route through the streets of Pittsburgh
and suburbs. That killed our printed directions and
delayed our arrival by 40 minutes.
industrial furnaces are in the middle of nowhere. You can
cross active railroad tracks and pass through tunnels and
wind along dirt roads that are barely passable to get to
the fenced-off site. It is surrounded by a lot of
desolation and nothingness.
of Steel offers tours of the Carrie Furnace site from
April through October. Guided two-hour tours are offered
at 10 a.m. on Saturdays May through October and at 10 a.m.
Fridays June through August.
tours are scheduled every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 11:30
a.m. on June 15, July 6, Aug. 31, Sept. 21 and Oct. 5.
both tours, tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for senior
citizens and students with valid IDs and $15 for ages 8 to
17. Advance reservations are recommended. Tickets are
available at www.showclix.com.
volunteer guides likely will be retired steelworkers who
worked in the plants. The tours are supported by the
National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Department of
Conservation and Natural Resources.
of Steel, a federal historic area, also houses a museum at
the Bost Building in Homestead. That’s at 623 E. Eighth
building, an old hotel built in 1892 and a National
Historical Landmark, played a key role in the infamous
1892 Homestead Lockout and Strike. That pitted the
Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers against
the Carnegie Steel Co.
is $3 for adults and $1 for children under 14. Hours: 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Pump House in Munhall is the site of the bloody battle in
which locked-out steelworkers squared off against
Pinkerton guards who had come up the river on barges to
reopen the plant. After a day of gunfire, 10 were dead and
the Pinkertons had surrendered. But Carnegie kept the
steelworkers from unionizing for decades.
Pump House at 880 W. Waterfront Drive houses exhibits
today. It is near a trailhead on the 141-mile Great
Allegheny Passage trail that runs from Pittsburgh to
of Steel also offers a look at a historic foundry in Rices
Landing on the Monongahela River in Greene County. The W.A.
Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop is open for
tours from April through October.
also offers two bus tours: Pittsburgh Memories and
Babushkas and Hard Hats. It also offers cellphone and MP3
of Steel won federal designation from Congress in 1996,
spotlighting the industrial, cultural and ethnic heritage
of eight counties around Pittsburgh. For information, go