The spectacular night-time firefalls of the pouring of the liquid slag from steelmaking in Castle Shannon, Pennsylvania in early 1950.

by James K. Sayre

When my parents moved from their nice large house with a large yard in suburban Ridgewood, New Jersey to a small second-story hillside apartment in Castle Shannon, a suburb of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania around Christmas, 1949, I didn't really think much about it, being only seven and a half years old at the time.

However, we did have an exciting new show several nights a week: on the hillside across the small valley from our apartment building was a slag dump for one of the local steel mills. At night, a small railroad engine would pull several tank cars that were loaded with very hot liquid slag on tracks, and one by one, the tank cars were turned sideways and the liquid slag was poured down the hill. It was quite spectacular: some of like have a private fireworks show in your neighborhood several nights a week. Sparks were flying everywhere and then the molten slag would slowly cool down from red hot to a darker and darker shade.

In those days, there were practically no environmental regulations to speak of, and so the steel company could dump their steel refining waste on any nearby vacant land.

After several months of living in that hillside apartment in Castle Shannon, my parents bought a modest home in Mount Lebanon and we soon moved in. A return to traditional suburbia and no more nighttime firefalls to watch, but they were soon forgotten in the new life in Mount Lebanon: school, bugs, birds, neighbor kids: a whole new world to learn about.


P. S. if you want to read about modern efforts around Pittsburgh to clcan up the slag heaps, search on the term, "slaggardens" and you will find some interestng sites.



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