Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Abandoned Mather PA Mine Railroad Bridge


 Even though Chip, Danielle and myself have lived in this area for most of our lives, sometimes we find something close by, but "new" to us all.  This Bridge was one of those finds.  While I was doing some reading on the Ten Mile Creek Country blog concerning the Jefferson/Mather railroad station, I noticed he mentioned a branch of the then Monongahela  RR crossing the creek into the Mather mine.  I had never seen and/or heard about this before so I looked at the Bing maps, hoping to see at the very least the remains of the bridge, but to my surprise, the bridge was still erect.  Well, most of it.  

     It being an overcast, rainy day and all, Chip and I set out to find our bridge.  Now the Mather Mine is a blog in itself, and we will cover that in the future, but quickly, the Mather mine was a huge mine built in 1917 and operating into 1964.  Say "Mather" to anyone in our generation, and they will respond w/ something to do w/ the waste pile.  The waste pile was, and still is huge.  Some said it was one of the few man made objects  that could be seen from outer space.    Through the years, they have reclaimed some of it, but its size is still looming as one stands under it. 

A rather terrible picture depicting just how big the Mather, PA waste pile is.  Trust us, it's large.

Bing image of Mather, PA and the pile.  The fallen bridge can be seen upper left.

  But back to the bridge...

A rambling video discussing Mather, trains, waste piles, bridges, Van Halen, chicks and whatnot.  If you just wanna see the bridge, head past the 4 minute mark

     We just had to walk a short distance to the bridge and found it as we were told about it, with a section fallen.  It seems that the two end abutments were both concrete and wood, while the center was purely concrete.  From our best guess, the timbers on one side simply failed, or we noticed some fire damage to the top,  causing the one section to collapse.  

Fallen Mather, PA RR bridge

Chip explaining his "falling bridge theory" or telling me why I should go to Van Halen w/ him

The top of the wood supports was burnt.  Maybe this is how it fell?

     I'm sure one of you out there can clue us in to some more history of this bridge, and we welcome your comments!



  1. i know that "Big Bridge was Intact but damaged into the 80s ,it was a spot us local kids would dare to walk across the narrow steel beams ! it was fire damaged on The mather side way back then but still standing !

  2. I lived in Mather in the late 50's. My friends and I walked across this bridge many times in the summer to go swimming in the creek beyond. I do not know much about the bridge itself. Lynne Hewitt Walker.

  3. Just found your blog and I've been greatly enjoying it! I'm from up north in Brookville, PA and we always had mostly strip mining up here later on. Now what the older folks always called the waste piles was boney piles. I guess because it was like the bones that were left over. Another term up here is a spilley pile, not sure what that one means but the kids always call it "going to the spillies" for ATV riding or parties. Keep up the good work!
    Greg C.

  4. Hello! My name is Fred Baniecki. I grew up in Mather from 1953 (born) until about 1973 when I got married and moved to Ohio.

    The old reservor was the happening place in Mather, winter & summer. We would swim & fish there. Swimming was tough as there was not a good place to get into and out of the water. It was always mucky also. In the winter we would ice skate there and play hockey. The ice wasn't always the safest place to play on. I remember one time I was testing the ice thickness and it broke & I fell in. I yelled for my buddies to throw me a rope to get out and they threw the whole rope out to me. I did make out alive but we would laugh & laugh about that adventure.

    We would also swim in the 10 miles creek at various places. The old railroad bridge area was one of them. In the winter we would cut (using an axe) piece of ice from the edges of the creek and float them down the creek until they broke up. Kind of a challange to see how far you could float down the creek on that ice burg. When we got out it was cold. We would take our clothes off and beat them against some rocks to dry them out as much as possible. Always had matches to make a fire to warm us up. An NO we did not burn the old rail roadbridge down!

    We would play at the old rail road bridge, that's when you could walk across it. We used the center cement column for a hiding place or fort. Never remember any trains coming thru there, as the mine was already shut down.

    Tom Sawyer had nothing on our adventures in Mather. I got a million of them, lol...

  5. From my buddy Pat (via Facebook):

    Just saw your Mather rail bridge video. A lil history........Bridge was still standing until late 1990's. The first building in the yard was the coal loading building. Large concrete building you could see from the road. The coal washer sat adjacent. Both torn down in last 5-6 years. Huge explosion at the mine in the late 20's killed 198 miners. Mine sold houses off in the 40's. The end came around 62-63 due to a huge fire. My pap was union safety rep at that time there. there are a few buildings left in the yard, if you sneak in. The lamp house and shaft building is there but shaft is of course sealed.The yard was used by Atlas railroad from the late 70's thru the 80's to cut and cresote treat new railroad ties. The dump was the largest in the US, at 63 acres and 100ft+ at the high end. I've been here since 76 and nosed all around there. You forgot to mention the cross burning on the dump during Homecoming 86 ceremony. I was up there the following day and saw the remains. On my way out, state cop blocked me in and started accusing me of having a part in it. i had a good alibi.....was at the game!
    Across that old bridge is directly behind Kurtz trailer park. The old concrete car wish is still there but broken into 2-3 pcs. It was a draw bridge type structure you drove onto and creek water flowed across it for the sole purpose of washing cars.The bridge we are talking about is called Big Bridge. Ask anybody from our age and back to great grand parents age about Big Bridge.....They all know exactly where you mean. There is a granite monument in front of Mather church wilt the names of the miners killed in the explosion. don't know if this matters....just filling you in.

  6. Nice work on Mather Mine. My Grandpa wowrked at the Mine and was off-shift during the explosion. He told my Dad after the explosion the mining company forced the widows to move out (guess they had too, but what pricks). My Dad has some great stories about growing up there (especially around the beer garden). Here's a link to the monument mentioned above:

    Keep up the good work and look forward to your next video adventure... Camacci


  8. I have heard the gob pile refereed to as "The Matherhorn". I have a couple of photos of trains from 1989 taken from the top in case you are interested.

    1. I have not heard that term for the pile.....and oh yea, we'd love to see the pictures, we could use them here, if that'd be OK. Send them to us @
      Or post them up on our facebook site if you have that.


    2. Ah yes: Big Bridge, as we used to call it. I was born (1937) and raised in Mather. As a youngster, I can remember walking across Big Bridge and swimming in the area beneath the bridge. I am really surprised to see the destruction of this well-known bridge. I believe Mather mine closed in the early 1960's and my parents, Guy & Connie Cooley, lived in Mather until the late 70's. I am also dismayed to see that most of the beautiful silver maple trees have disappeared from the streets. They were the glory of this little town. Michael Cooley, Seattle, WA.

  9. Remember big bridge we used to cross almost every day through the summer my family lived on first street we crossed the old bridge to swim at little rock just past 1919 bridge . We even use to go to the coal washer and see who could dive in from the top of the bridge that went to the center not one of our better ideas. Great to see the pictures. Thanks

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  11. Boney Pile, Slate piles, Crap piles... i never been to this area since i am a new local to this area, before i would visit from upstate NY. and yall say Yinz is still odd to me lol. Any who, Cambria county is also coal mine country too, Mine 33 where ConGen plant is was 1 of the largest in the county. There's air vents/chimneys seen from US219 near the old section of 219/Plank Rd in East Carroll Twp line, only place i know of that are for mines. Theres one just about a mile from the airport in Johnstown that was supposedly 33 miles long.... Heck in Carrolltown, my bf's mom's house is the only one on a rock while everyone else is above old mine tunnels.

    I gotta find that bridge....

  12. Big locomotives pushed empty coal cars up the grade past the coal washer and took the filled ones away. You couldn't be on Big Bridge at the same time as the locomotive. The coal cars had hand wheel like brakes so when released the car would coast by the coal washer and be filled with coal. I was one of the last to be hired in 1952. Worked there one year then was drafted. My Grandfather, Uncle and I were all named Mike Stefanik

  13. Crossed Big Bridge many times. The slate dump is covered by soil now. We got red dog for the roads there when I was a younger man . My grandfather Russell Shriver worked at Mather mine .