Youngstown museum preserves significant steel mill pieces

Rick Rowlands works to preserve some of the big steel mill pieces in his Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum

Three weeks ago, the Valley's last blast furnace was knocked down in Warren. There's not much left of our steel past, which is why one man is working to preserve some of the big pieces.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Three weeks ago, the Valley’s last blast furnace was knocked down in Warren. There’s not much left of our steel past, which is why one man is working to preserve some of the big pieces.

Wednesday, Rick Rowlands gave WKBN a tour of his Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum on Hubbard Road.

He showed three old trains once used to help operate various steel mills. One used to run at Hubbard’s Valley Mold — another a steam engine from Jones and Laughlin in Pittsburgh.

“We acquired it about three years ago and moved it here,” Rowlands said. “We completely tore it apart and have been reassembling it.”

There were also items as big as a hot metal car built by Youngstown’s old Pollock Company. Meanwhile, there were ones as small as mill rolls from McDonald Steel.

But it’s inside where you’ll find the museum’s centerpiece: The Tod Engine that once powered part of Youngstown’s Brier Hill Works.

“It drove what they called a six-stand merchant mill,” Rowlands said. “Basically six rolling mill stands in a row.”

The idea of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum dates to 1993, when Rowlands was part of the failed effort to save the old Jeannette blast furnace. It was then he learned about the Tod Engine and convinced what was then North Star Steel to donate it to him.

“Basically it was a consolation prize for the inability to preserve the blast furnace,” Rowlands said. “Well, we got this nice engine.”

Land was bought and a building constructed on Hubbard Road, which allowed the collection to grow. There are signs everywhere — one touting products from the Brier Hill open hearth and blooming mill.

The concrete sign on the floor reads “Carnegie Steel, Youngstown District,” which was once part of the office’s entrance. Rowlands found it while salvaging the old Ohio Works property.

“I quickly went and got my pick-up truck and came back and loaded these up and hauled them home,” he said.

The whole place has the feel of a mini steel mill.

“That’s exactly the feel that we’re going for here,” he said. “We need to have big machines like this, so that you’re not just looking at it in photographs or a video. You’re actually standing there and ‘Wow, look how big this stuff is.'”

Contact Youngstown Steel Heritage at 330-272-4089.

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