Recycling – Pittsburgh Style

WW II Submarine at Science Center

WW II Submarine at Science Center

Pittsburgh has been recycling for years. When I was a child, Pittsburgh was definitely a blue collar town; the largest employers were the steel mills and related factories. Today, most of the jobs are of the white collar variety. The mills are long gone, but the spirit of the city lives on.

The submarine shown in the above picture is a WW II vintage vessel. It now serves as part of a science exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center. The USS Requin holds the distinction of being the Navy’s first Radar Picket submarine; but that’s just the beginning of her story.

Rook Station near Carnegie

Rook Station near Carnegie

I grew up within miles of the above structure. It was a roundhouse for the steam locomotives and known as Rook Station. I only saw it in operation once or twice. Back then, such things were taken for granted and my parents saw no need to take me there to see things first-hand. Today, most of the structure is gone, but the terminal building serves as office space for various companies.

I apologize for only showing the top of the building. When I went to take the photograph, a work crew had dug a large hole in the front of the building and their equipment blocked my view.

St. Car Barn - Ascension R.C. Church

St. Car Barn - Ascension R.C. Church

Another vestige of the bygone days was the streetcar, or trolley. As a child, I rode trolleys as often as I rode buses. It all depended on the final destination. Unfortunately, the powers-that-were decided to replace all the trolleys with buses, and they removed the tracks and sold the right-of-ways that made it possible for the trolleys to travel their routes much faster than the buses… that had to contend with rush hour traffic. Some might suggest that General Motors made contributions to various candidates, but such allegations would be difficult to prove.

In any case, when the trolleys disappeared, there was no longer a need for car barns – the buildings used to maintain the trolleys. Many of them were sold off and demolished to make room for other construction. One exception was the building shown in the above photo. People around the area still refer to it as Saint Car Barn, but the Diocese of Pittsburgh calls it Ascension.

It’s interesting to note that over the last twenty years the Port Authority of Allegheny County has laid new tracks and opened old right-of-ways to accommodate what they call their “light rail” system.

While we’re on the subject of rail systems… when I was a child, what is now Point State Park was railroad yards and warehouses. The Wabash Building was the center of attention back then as people crossed either the Point Bridge or Manchester Bridge on their way into downtown. A bridge just up river from the Point Bridge carried trains across the Monongahela River and through a tunnel under Mt. Washington.

The bridge is long gone, but the piers are still there… as is the tunnel. However, the rails inside the tunnel have been removed and replaced by a concrete roadway. The tunnel is now used by express buses that travel along the path of the old railroad tracks. I recently rode one of those buses to the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport on my way back to Georgia.

P & LE RR Station

P & LE RR Station

Another symbol of the old railroads that has been recycled is the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad station on Pittsburgh’s South Side. It is now known as Station Square and is the center of a complex of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and an indoor shopping mall.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture for my last item on Pittsburgh-style recycling. But I can send you to a website. A friend of mine – former fellow employee at IBM – is now selling pens made from recycled materials. In the words of Bill Poliziani – “I am a native of Western Pennsylvania and a self taught woodworker who enjoys creating things for others.  I try to use recyclable materials whenever possible, such as old furniture, counter tops and even corn cobs.  Each pen is made individually.  There is no mass production … that would take all the fun out of it.”   To see some of Bill’s work and learn more about it, please visit his website at

I still have lots of photos from my recent trip to Pittsburgh, but I may move on to other topics for a while, It will give us all a break!


2 Responses to Recycling – Pittsburgh Style

  1. g2-aa3d1145cda478669d467d6a57f7f783 says:

    I drive by the Rook station all the time and have wondered about the Egyptian style architecture. Do you know anything else about the building? Thanks.

    • jimsjourney says:

      You got me curious. I did some searching on the Internet and found this web site – and this explanation – “Rook Yard was built in 1904 as part of George J. Gould’s new Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad. Gould named the yard in gratitude to Charles Alexander Rook, influential owner-publisher of the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper, who had supported Gould’s efforts to bring a new railroad to Pittsburgh in the face of political pressure from existing railroads. Today the yard belongs to the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.” So, that explains the name, but not the reason for the Egyptian style architecture. Perhaps we would need a history of the Wabash-Pittsburgh railroad. When I was a child, what is now Point State Park was the Wabash building and rail yard.

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