The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Homestead

Investigating the GAP, part one

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I showed you what the historic Homestead Pump House site on the Monongahela River looked like when bathed in thick fog. Lament was offered regarding the lack of a freight train transiting over the Pinkerton’s Landing or “Pemickey” Rail Bridge.

The Homestead Pump House is one of the trail heads for The Great Allegheny Passage or “GAP” rail to trail system. 150 miles in length, the rail to trail pathway follows several incorporated rights of way once operated by the B&O Railroad, Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad, and the Western Maryland Railway. You could theoretically walk or ride a bike to Washington D.C. on this path, which is paved in asphalt or crushed limestone – depending on where you are – and graded in accordance with the rail standard of one foot of elevation for every hundred feet.

Pictured above, this time around my dreams of a train moving over the bridge came true as a CSX freight train appeared and I was able to get a few shots of its transit across the rail bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Homestead site has a parking lot, one which leads to the actual trail after a short walk on a sidewalk. I did all the remote scouting that was warranted, using Google maps and a few other tools as well as watching a YouTube video offered by some bloke who rode the trail on a bike. One still hasn’t purchased a shuttle craft bike which will accompany me in the cargo area of the Mobile Oppression Platform (that’s the nickname I’ve assigned to my Toyota), and be deployed for hyper local transport.

I don’t really keep track of how many miles I walk. Sometimes, after a walk I’ll check my phone to see how many steps it perceived me as taking on an excursion. If there’s any accuracy to that data, I walked on the trail about 4 miles in and 4 miles back. It was an extremely easy walk, thanks to the pavement and the easy grading in elevation. There were even installed park benches for taking a break along the route, but one of my rules involves not sitting down when you’re out. Keep moving until you’re back where you started.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Active rail tracks are visible for the entire section of the GAP I visited. Defunct gas and rail infrastructure was noticed on the water facing shoreline for a good chunk of this distance, and there was a high volume road at the top of a shallow ridge overlooking the whole shebang. The municipality of Homestead was where I entered the trail, and there were markers here and there letting you know what town you were walking through.

That’s how I learned there’s a place called Munhall in Pennsylvania, those signs. There were actually a fair number of people using the trail for running and bike riding for a weekday afternoon in January. A good proportion of the bike riders were wearing the “outfit” – the helmet with the rear view mirror on it and a polyester bike shirt, stretchy shorts, and those special bicycle shoes. Like I said – the outfit. Most of the bikes were road racers, but I spotted a couple of pedal assist electric ones too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Carrie Furnace Hot Metal Bridge pictured above, I believe. Before you ask – of course I looked, and yes you can, and no it’s probably not ok but there doesn’t seem to be anybody watching, so of course, but no, not this time around. Next time, maybe.

I continued along the GAP trail, scuttling along at a leisurely pace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once you’re a fair bit into the GAP trail, you’re completely separated from the surrounding town and of course – there’s no automobile traffic zipping along at high speeds to worry about.

On a personal note – it’s been a very long time since I’ve had the time to take a very long walk like this one. It felt very good to stretch the legs, kick the heels, and point the toes. Ultimately, this was another scouting expedition. It was mid afternoon, and the light was a ghastly thing to handle. For the ultimate destination I had in mind, this scouting revealed it as an early morning or sunset sort of deal. It’s also a winter thing, as the foliage must obscure all of the cool stuff you can see from this path during the warmer months when the trees are clad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The GAP follows under the Rankin Bridge spanning the Monongahela River. The 1951 bridge has a fairly convoluted history, and it once was used to carry Trolley traffic as well as motor vehicular flow, apparently. There’s a few very nice points of view in this section of the trail that I’m going to return to in the future. For this trip, my main interest was in getting close to the Mon Valley works, and I still had a few miles to walk to get there.

More tomorrow, from the GAP.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2023 at 11:00 am

foggy Homestead

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the many things that’s super intriguing to me about Pittsburgh, something that I’ve just dipped my toe into at this stage, is the abundance of “rail to trail” infrastructure hereabouts. As is the case with a lot of things here in this part of the country, the Government types have inherited a lot of land to manage that used to be used for the Steel industry or some other “mill.” The company which owned this sort of land is long gone, and the property has ended up in the hands of the “State.” By state, I don’t necessarily mean Pennsylvania, instead I’m using that word in the Machiavellian sense.

In the Homestead section, there used to be an enormous steel works which sputtered through the 70’s and finally gave up the ghost in the 1980’s. It’s the one where the infamous Homestead Strike occurred. The vast majority of the plant’s footprint has been converted over to a development project called “The Waterfront.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Set along the Monongahela River, the Homestead plant was served by several rail lines. One of these defunct lines has become part of the “Great Allegheny Passage” trail, which incorporates – amongst others – the track beds of the B&O and P&LE Railroads into a combined bike and hike path. One of the spots where you can both access the path and park your car is found at the Homestead Pumphouse, which is the trailhead for the Steel Valley section of the larger GAP.

The weather in Pittsburgh is always dynamic and changes by the hour. When I visited the Homestead Pumphouse on January 2nd, it was an unusually warm day which followed an unusually cold few days. The Monongahela flows out of the mountains of Southern Pennsylvania and West Virginia where it was even colder than it was in Pittsburgh, so when that cold water hit the warm air – fog erupted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself cannot resist photographing in such conditions, and I got busy. When things warm up a bit in the coming weeks, I’m planning on about a three miles there and three back walk along this section of the Steel Valley trail, where I’ll be walking over rail bridges and finding a certain point of view that I’m desirous of photographing the U.S. Steel Mon Valley works from.

What an absolute pleasure it is to discover new things. It’s been a while.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The entire time I was at this location, I was wondering if that rail bridge was active or if it was one of the decommissioned ones you can walk over that was part of the trail. As I found out while driving out of the “Rail to Trail” parking lot later on, when it was far to late to get a shot of the freight train that suddenly appeared and was starting to cross the bridge – it’s active.

It’s the “Pinkerton’s Landing Bridge,” aka the “Pemickey Bridge.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the water, that’s the skeletal remains of the Carrie Blast Furnace rising out of the mists of the Monongahela. Carrie is home to the Rivers of Steel outfit in Swissvale, whom I’m planning on having fun with during the spring and summer months. It’s a National Historical Landmark, Carrie is, and the Rivers of Steel people apparently offer boat tours and other programming that I’m interested in attending. About two miles down river from here, on that side of the Monongahela are the Mon Valley Works in Braddock, PA.

Our Lady of the Pentacle hasn’t described me as looking “like a pig in shit” yet, but all of this is quite exciting to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Homestead Pumphouse, which is set up as a historic landmark and public park, there’s all sorts of gear left behind from the steel mill days on display. That thing in the shot above is apparently a ladle.

I’m still in the exploration phase right now, regarding Pittsburgh. I’m working a series of 20-30 minutes from HQ sites right now, scouting out places which I’ll return to when weather and season are a bit friendlier than what January in Western PA offers.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2023 at 11:00 am

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