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Edition #69, January 1, 2008

Holiday

Photographer: Kevin Scanlon

                                                                  Photo by Kevin Scanlon

Holiday

The sun is bright up on the hill above town. A thin frost on the front porches and yards is beginning to melt. Down along the river clouds of steam from the mill hold the chill and darken the sky.

Itís a couple of hours into the daylight shift and the hot end of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel South Works is roaring. Blast Furnace #5 has just been tapped and needs some breakfast. The railroad crew is shuffling hoppers of iron ore on the high line. The ore is dumped into the ore pit and eventually skip cars will take it up an inclined track to charge the furnace at the top.

Several rail crews are working around the furnace at the same time. Down below they are changing out the hot metal cars and slag cars. Up on the high line they have come to a stop. A crewman is out on the locomotiveís back porch, taking a minute to plan his moves as the sun starts warming things up. Heís been making couples, throwing switches and running the engine from his belt pack remote controller. Now itís time to head back down the ramp for more loads.

Number 5 is the last remaining active blast furnace in the Ohio Valley between Pittsburgh and Ashland, Kentucky. The men working at the Mingo Junction, Ohio mill come from across the river in Follansbee and Weirton, West Virginia. They drive down Dean Martin Boulevard from Steubenville, Ohio and up Route 7 from Brilliant. They come across US 22 from Pennsylvania.

A blast furnace canít be simply turned off and restarted; it needs to run nonstop. As you are sitting down to Christmas dinner or settling in for a New Yearís Day Bowl game, they are making iron.

Kevin Scanlon

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