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Edition #253  September 1, 2015

Who Scraps the Scrap Yard?

Photographer: Keith Clouse


                                                                                   Photo by  Keith Clouse


Who Scraps the Scrap Yard?

I walked through Dietch’s scrap yard today; it is in the final stages of being demolished. I worked there briefly as a laborer back in the mid-60s. Most of my friends in the neighborhood worked there; it was a place to make a couple of bucks until your “greetings “showed up from the draft board.

I found out later that Dietch Company had been originally founded in the 1950s to scrap steam locomotives. There were several innovations for the industry; iron breaking using gantry cranes, scrap shears to cut heavy metal into manageable sizes and scrap balers for compacting material into smaller size loads. All of this meant nothing to the guy in sweat stained jeans and shirt, covered with rust and dirt.

It was hard dirty work being in a noisy, dust filled environment. You had to have your head on a swivel watching out for the gantry cranes moving back and forth. The cranes didn’t have hooks.  Instead there were large magnets to attract the piles of scrap. The booms and crashes they made dropping piles of heavy metal resonated through the valley

The young guys were barely tolerated by the older workers, everyone knew we were temporary. The foremen were not much better; they made sure we had all the dirty jobs. Being a “water boy” meant hauling around a couple of hundred feet of heavy hose to spray over the gantry floor to hold down the dust.

A lot of railcars and locomotives met their demise at Dietch’s. At this time there were tracks full of B&O heavyweight passenger cars to dispose of. Company practice was to notify a local volunteer fire company for a training exercise. Oily rags were piled up inside the cars and set on fire. After most of the consumables burned off the fire company would put out the blaze. A good deal for the company, they didn’t have to spend time removing seats and panels. The burners then moved in with long lance torches to cut the hulks into manageable pieces

In a couple of months I received my summons from the government, ”Your friends and neighbors have selected you to serve in the Armed Forces.”

I left never looking back. I furthered my education going to college at night, determined not to have to do that kind of work again. Now the scrap yard is devouring itself, I feel no loss.

Keith Clouse



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