Industry

Youngstown Steel Door

Austintown, O. - Founded in 1924, Youngstown Steel Door was primarily known as a builder of boxcar doors and rail car sides. Prior to it's closing in the 2000s, Steel Door converted to a war time manufacturer in the 40s that employed quite a few females according to the photos available on the Ohio Memory collection website.  Rosie the Steelworker built external fuel tanks for some of the most legendary fighter planes of the Second World War. See below for a sampling of those, as well as a photo of their outgoing products from the mid 50s courtesy of Bob Abbatto. Stay tuned for a full post featuring some of the photos Bob took in Youngstown, specifically the West Side, during the industrial heyday of the Valley.

 

 

Details on the fuel tanks built at Steel Door.

Fabricating the tanks featured above.

Below: Steel doors shipping out from Youngstown Steel Door in the mid 50s, on what was then the Erie RR. When I was a kid this line, which ran near my house, was the Youngstown and Austintown RR aka my playground.

J&L Steel + P&LE RR

Youngstown, OH: These photos, which i borrowed from eBay, show the transition of industrial assets during the fall of the steel industry. Re-industrialization maybe?

J&L Steel - Campbell, OH: What once was Sharon Steel Hoop Corp. transitioned to J&L Steel. J&L did not have much of a presence in Youngstown, but their mills dominated the south side Pittsburgh skyline. The Youngstown mill is where my great uncle Al Grilli worked most of his life. When he retired this was known as Cold Metal Products. The photos below show the way they transitioned these mills in the 80s, in this case they just slapped some paint over the iconic J&L, and didn't even take care to cover the whole logo. The mill is still active, and is now known as Youngstown Pipe and Steel. 

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR: Locomotive #1501, which once was a workhorse for the "Little Giant" P&LE RR. At some point this loco transitioned to use on the Youngstown & Austintown RR. What once pulled massive amounts of raw materials and finished prodcuts for the steel industry, became my alarm clock in the summer. I grew up 8 houses from the Y&A line on North Hazelwood Avenue. Every morning around 9:15, the Y&A would blast it's horn, which let me know it was time to go down by the tracks and play. I would run outside and count the cars, which was usually 3 or 4. This loco was on light duty in it's retirement compared to what it used to pull I'm sure. Either way, it played a major part in my childhood. It makes me think of the men who ran it for the P&LE in it's heyday, and how their lives were affected by the closing of that rail road. Photos below courtesy www.railpictures.net

Shenango China, Inc.

New Castle, PA - Having lived in New Castle for a time, I drove past this place often on my way back to Youngstown. You can't see much from 224, but behind the trees sits a 100+ year old factory that looks like it was carpet bombed. This place has a fascinating history, and played a huge part in the employment and lives of the people of New Castle. I could post photos of the sections that look like they were shelled, but I'll leave you with some documentation of the things left behind, some company history, and an emotional statement from one of the employees a few months prior to the factory closing for good. See below.. BUT FIRST, this photo of a china coffee cup. Nothing too exciting right? I noticed it was marked "Mayer China, Beaver Falls PA" so I ask myself what is pottery from Beaver Falls doing in New Castle? It dawned on me when I first got a real camera, I took a trip to a china factory in Beaver Falls, which was demolished shortly thereafter. Turns out I was at Mayer China's original factory. The company was bought out by Shenango, and in the 90's they closed Mayer and transferred the production to New Castle. I will post the images from the trip to Beaver Falls in the future. 

 

The New Castle News of May 8, 1991, printed a passionate editorial from Shenango China employee Patti Ryan that read in part, “As the first wave of permanent layoffs took place April 12, myself included, I’d like to share a few thoughts with my fellow Shenango China employees and people of this community. For all of the “Rah-Rah Shenango China” people who had tremendous pride in their work, it was more than just a job. It was a group of people who grew closer through good and bad times. For those who never felt that sense of pride, it is difficult to put into words. Those of us who have, need no further explanation. Upon visiting Washington, D.C., this past summer, I proudly showed my 8-year-old daughter the Castleton China display in the White House. It was obvious to me that she also understood the pride. It wasn’t necessary to have worked there to felt it. This community will feel the economic impact of this plant closing, along with a sense of loss… Now, the Shenango logo which, to me, always symbolized the pride, is being taken to New York. To put it bluntly, after the corporate rape, our Shenango Indian is being dragged to Syracuse. As consumers, I hope the area people will remember this when making purchases, because the Pfaltzgraff Corp. and its stooges at Syracuse China have done the good and loyal people of this community and Shenango China a great injustice.”

http://www.lawrencecountymemoirs.com/lcmpages/896/shenango-china-company-new-castle-pa

 

"During the late 30’s, Mr. Smith became convinced that America would soon be in the war. He began building three bisque 70′ tunnel kilns and one 105′ kiln. Delayed steel shipment caused the kilns to be raised under circus tents. Wartime created many difficulties. Young skilled workers went off to war. Many employees went to work in defense industries, which paid higher wages.

Although government contracts made up over 50 percent of all production, critical materials forced substitutes. Due to this hardship, more creative methods of decorating, mixing color and packing were devised. In addition, during the war CIO-USWA won the right to represent the workers. With the end of the World War II, it became apparent that a balanced expansion would have to be achieved. The government ware made during the ware was one fire, plain white ware or with little decoration. In the post-war economy there would by a large demand for dinnerware and overglaze hotelware. A building plan was initiated in 1945 and completed in 1947. The addition contained 150,000 square feet for decoration and a 60,000 square foot building with a 200′ tunnel kiln was built for a new refractories division.

During the war, they also made the ceramic parts for land mines. A group of local businessmen including officers of Shenango formed a company for this express purpose. Later this led to a minority stockholder suit, which occupied the officers and directors for a ten-year period."

 http://www.lawrencechs.com/museum/collections/shenango-china-collection/

 

P&LE Gateway Yard

Youngstown, OH. Today is the 50th anniversary of a milestone for the now defunct Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Per the Youngstown Vindicator, "Railroad officials gather at the Gateway Yard in Youngstown for the "humping" of the 5 millionth car (enough to circle the earth). Humping is the act of shoving a line of freight cars over a hill onto multiple tracks, to be divided into a new train. 

The P&LE got it's nickname, The Little Giant, because they moved so much tonnage in relation to the amount of track they controlled. While they did offer passenger service, they primarily moved steel, and the ingredients to make it in its raw form: coal, limestone and iron ore. 

I have photographed what is left of the Gateway Yard many times, but on an occasion such as this anniversary, I wanted to show it in it's prime, not the post industrial wasteland I know it as. Check out the video below from YouTube user Erie1264.