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Coke Ovens
c. 1970
Bill Beal
Heinz History Center's Use and Restrictions
Windows Media (broadband); Quicktime (dial-up) not recommended
Description: Filmed at the Shoaf Coke Works in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, this film documents some of the last operating coke ovens in the region. Fire emerges from the top of the ovens as the coal inside burns for as long as 72 hours. Electric-powered larry cars can be seen using the tracks above the ovens. Coal would be deposited, or charged, into the ovens from openings at the top. This process eliminates impurities in coal and produces coke, a hard, gray substance used to smelt iron ore into iron.

The H.C. Frick Coke Company built the coke works at Shoaf in 1904. By 1930s, many beehive coke ovens had been abandoned in favor of by-product ovens, which were more efficient and less polluting. The Shoaf coke ovens, however, stayed in operation until 1972, when its current owners were not able to comply with newly enacted clear-air regulations. Abandoned coke ovens remain intact in Shoaf and other locations throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.

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