We didn't go straight to Eastern Pennsylvania and Hershey. We first headed north
to Kinzua State Park. This is the site of, when it was built in 1882, the highest
(301') and longest (2,053') railroad bridge in the world. It was built out of cast
iron and then rebuilt out of steel in 1900 to accommodate the heavier trains of that
time period. It carried commercial traffic until the 1959. In 1977 it was declared
a World Engineering Landmark and was used by excursion trains. In 2002 rust and
wear had made it unsafe and a $12 million upgrade was in progress when an F1 tornado
struck and knocked down 2/3's of the support towers on July 21, 2003.
Today the state parks system has the site and has built a walkway out to a lookout
platform that gives an excellent view of the collapsed towers.
The winds are reported to have reached 121 miles per hour. The men working on the
site saw the darkening sky and quickly got off the site and took shelter.
At the end the lookout platform has a section of glass panels in the center so that
you can look straight down.
As you can see this is timber country. So, we went to the "Lumber Museum".
They had some railroad logging equipment including an old Shay locomotive and a log
loader in working condition.
And they had a sawmill, also in working condition. The mill had it own log pond
where the logs floated until being pushed into the mill.
When I was attending college for my forestry degree I worked on the pond at the Weyerhaeuser
mill in Enumclaw, WA. I had boots with spikes on the bottom and a long poke with
a steel point/hook on the end. It was my job to push logs into position for the
mill to haul them up and cut them into boards. This brought back some not so fine
memories, like falling between the logs as I ran from one to the next to push one
of them onto the chain that pulled them into the mill.
Now we are headed south toward Hershey and the Amish country. We took Highway 14
southbound and as you can see it is popular with local motorcyclists. It follows
the river that flowed through the Grand Canyon and is narrow, windy and very scenic.
As we neared south central Pennsylvania we encountered the Hopewell Furnace Historic
Site. It wasn't on our list of things to see but we stopped anyway. This foundry
produced iron for the British colonies before the Revolutionary War until the late
1800's when more efficient operations put it out of business. At the time it was
built it was placed here for the nearness of supplies, wood for charcoal, iron ore
The long shed-like roof leads from the unloading area on the right to the furnace
under the steeple.
These were stacked in the furnace in layers, lit and air was pumped into the bottom
by a water powered bellows. When the proper moment came the plug was removed from
the bottom and the molten iron was removed and poured into molds. They made everything
from raw pig-iron to cannons. Their most profitable item was cast iron stoves like
the famous "Franklin Stove".
Now we are at the town of Hershey. It has a famous amusement park but we only went
to the Chocolate World exhibit. It is a large gift shop with a couple interesting
interactive displays. The amusement park has a lot of "roller coaster" type rides
exposed above the side walls but we are not interested in them.
We also made the run up to Pottsville to visit the Yeungling Brewery.
It sits on the side of a steep hill and extends into and up the hill to the right
as well as to the back. The tour was quite arduous as public tours go. But as a
home-brewer I had to make the pilgrimage.
It is the oldest continuous brewery in the country. It is still in the same building. The
brewing has been improved as more modern techniques were developed and is now a warren
of stairs and halls between the various parts of the process. It is very crwded
in the space it has, except for the old tunnels hollowed out of solid rock to age
the beer before refrigeration was invented. They are still dripping with water and
The stained glass ceiling is not decoration as much as diffuser. Before electricity
this room was illuminated by the huge skylight. The glass was installed in the 1800's
to diffuse the light.
We did make it to the Amish countryside in south central Pennsylvania. It is easy
to tell when you have arrived.
The mall parking lot has a section for "Horse Parking" and boys have no pedals on
The farmers have teams of horses and mules to do the field work. This man was returning
from the field and driving the eight mules as a team. He had obviously done this
many times before as he had them perfectly under control as they trotted down the
The Amish countryside is filled with scattered farms to capacity. We read that many
farms have been subdivided among the generations of children down to the point where
it can not be divided again. The article said some Amish are now going into business
and starting to support themselves off the tourists and other enterprises.
Our last stop before Philadelphia is at Valley Forge, Washington's most famous winter
It consists of a large area of rolling hills near Valley Creek, the creek that powered
the Valley Forge. Like the Hopewell Furnace that we visited there was a iron forge
here too. There were many small forges scattered around to supply the colonists. It
was too difficult to haul the ore very far so the furnaces and forges were built
near the supplies.
As well as monuments there are replica cabins and emplacements. Of course the trees
would not have been there when the actual emplacement was built. In fact I imagine
that Valley Forge was probably pretty well denuded of trees during this time. Iron
working uses a lot of charcoal, made from wood. That would, like Hopewell, have
come from nearby trees. Then the encampment had as many as 20,000 soldiers living
in 2,000 log cabins burning wood for heat and cooking. I doubt many trees impeded
Washington's headquarters was in this house on the bank of Valley Creek. Unlike
the British troops, who commandeered their quarters, Washington rented this farmhouse
from its owner. About 25 people lived and/or worked inside it on a daily basis. There
was Washington, his staff officers, clerks, visiting officials from other countries
and the servants that did the cleaning and cooking. The wing on the left is the
kitchen and was two story then. Washington had a log addition, now gone, built on
the other side to expand the building.
The clerks worked 2 or 3 to a table writing orders, bills, notices, correspondence,
and keeping a record of the events of the army during the encampment.
Washington chose this site, to the northeast of Philadelphia, to keep the British
bottled up in the city. The British had captured the capital and Washington did
not want them to come into the vital area of mills and forges here.