Friday, January 20, 2012

Shoaf Coke Works. Last of the beehive coke ovens. Shoaf, PA Fayette County

Larry cars left on top of the oven banks

A few days ago, Danielle and myself took a drive from Greene County, PA, over the river to the Shoaf Coke Works in Fayette County.  As you look at our blog posts, coke ovens are really nothing out of the ordinary in SW PA.  We even have one in Greene County at the Poland Coke Works.  

The larry cars today....

....and then.  (photo courtesy Lost Monongahela)

What makes the Shoaf Coke Works unique is the fact that it was the last operating, profitable beehive  coke oven in the United States. Shoaf started out as a coal mine and ceased mining in 1951, but remained coking until 1972.
 Menallen Coke Co. bought the Shoaf mines
 from H.C. Frick Coke Co., who built the operation and patch town in 1904.

Oven banks now

...and from the 1930's (photo courtesy

The old mine  (from

Shoaf could not meet the new clean air standards being imposed upon the country. Pollution control devices were installed and worked, but the rules kept changing.  Even though profitable, it was forced to shut down. 
 It was once said that this is the best preserved coke ovens in the nation, as they basically walked away from the operation, leaving everything as it was,  but 40 years of abandonment are taking their toll.  Another business has moved into part of the location and the area is now heavily posted, except around the point we went in. 

The historical video below shows Shoaf, probably in the 1950's, operating at full steam

What I find interesting about this video is that at around the 40 second mark, we stood under the bridges where the larry cars were crossing and took the following picture, albeit 50 some years later....

I have heard that this place is on the historic register from some people, but I have also read that the current owners plan on razing the whole thing to strip mine the coal below the site.  So I guess its future is undecided.

Below are some images we took on our walk around this massive site, that grey, wet day.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Inside of the tipple

tipple machinery

Look at the cart in this shot from 2 years ago....

...and it was gone this visit.

The tipple in the background was brought in from the anthracite coal fields in the  early 1960's and reassembled here.

The early bagger, or pollution control device on the left

You can see this old extractor in operation on the video above
The old coke extractor sits rusting away near the ovens.

Larry car elevated tracks


More old equipment, just left behind.

Railroad car dated from the 1930's

Ladders to the larry car tracks

I see these Garfield bricks at a lot of oven locations.

These pipes collected the smoke and ran it to the bagger pollution control area.  I heard it worked, but the EPA changed the rules after they saw that it functioned.

Coke extractor machinery.

Bags of graphite.

Tipple control box.


  1. Sort of a weird coincidence several years ago I was attacked with a brick, I never found out who did it but was knocked out cold, they left the brick behind and it was Garfield brick, don't know how common these bricks are?

  2. Wow! Great shots and memories. I grew up in Shoaf and remember the glow from the ovens, as late as 1972. In the '80s and '90s I used to lead trail riders to the top of "Super's Hill" overlooking the ovens and give my Shoaf History Speech. You made my day!

  3. Great job, photo documenting the site. Shame if it's true about the demolition. Hopefully that won't happen. These industrial archaeology sites, are probably some of the most overlooked and forgotten. You guys really are doing a service to the community and to history to document them. I don't know if it's listed on the National Register, but even if it is, that does not guarantee protection, so at least people like you are providing a visual record of such places.

  4. Replies
    1. Short didtance from Uniontown.

  5. Replies
    1. shoaf is not a town

    2. It's listed on the map as shoaf Anonymous, it's a town

    3. It's listed on the map as shoaf Anonymous, it's a town

  6. These are great photos. Check out the Dunbar Historical Society website. The coke oven they built used materials from Shoaf and Shamrock Coke ovens.