Looking for some local / not-so-local rides that feature some of the region's relics of industry. And, that can be combined with a beer / food stop.
Well, you're in the right part of the country. The GAP is great for this -- the beehive coke ovens near Connellsville, for example. There's a book "The Great Allegheny Passage Companion: Guide to History & Heritage Along the Trail" that specifically discusses the history (among other books about the GAP).
There's also the Ghost Town Trail, which specifically runs through abandoned towns where iron ore smelting to pig iron took place. There's an impressive blast furnace, built from hand-fitted stone, along the trail.
Closer to home, our local trails have various relics too, of course, and signs about them
If you want to drive up to Cambria County sometime, road ride to the Lemonhouse, Schwab Estate, Horsheshoe Curve... Ghost Town Trail has a few points of interest. I could meet you and ride along.
I'd suggest going to Connelsville and riding toward Ohiopyle on the Yough River Trail. When you get to the Camp Carmel Christian campground, make a right on the access road and go up the mountain. Make a right at the top of the climb. After maybe a mile the road will turn sharply to the left and go up a hill. Immediately before that turn, on the right, is an old iron furnace that's slowly falling apart. Go up the hill and keep following that road; you will eventually come to an intersection. Make a right and go down the hill. When the grade flattens out a little you can see some old, dilapidated dams on the creek, and maybe a few foundations of old industrial structures. Eventually you come into Dunbar, and from there you can pick up a rail trial "spur" and go back to the Yough River Trail, just up the river from Connellsville.
I'll have to pick up that book.
The guy who wrote the“The Great Allegheny Passage Companion," Bill Metzger, lives in Confluence and is open to having people visit and talk. Or at least, he was open to meeting me.
Nice guy. Knows everything you would ever want to know about trains.
Abandoned industrial sites:
* Weirton, WV (wow!)
* Apollo (Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp - not much to see here, but take your geiger counter?)
* Carrie Furnace, Swissvale (closed, except for occasional tours)
* Donora Smog Museum
* Cleveland, along the Cuyahoga River
Generally speaking, follow the rivers, and follow the railroad tracks, and you'll find abandoned industrial sites all over: Mon Valley, Westinghouse Valley (Turtle Creek), Aliquippa, Wheeling, Youngstown, Akron, Cleveland, ...
The ebook "Freewheeling Easy in Western Pennsylvania" has a lot of history about sights along a number of trails within an hour or two of Pittsburgh: http://freewheelingeasy.com/
Michael Mance, Delmont resident and blogmaster, will give a free presentation on the railroad and coal & coke history of Southwestern Pennsylvania, on Sunday, May 3, 2015, at 2:00 PM (at Harrold Hall of the Baltzer Meyer Historical Society, 642 Baltzer-Meyer Pike in Greensburg); see:
I'd like to follow up on Mick's comment
Bill Metzger is a very interesting person, somewhere on the spectrum between a raconteur and a "character". Short version: if you're going to be in Confluence, it's well worth trying to match up with him if you want to talk history and trails. Usually if I'm stopping in Confluence for dinner, I invite Bill and Pam to the River's Edge Restaurant (as my guest) and it's like going to Rome and eating with the Pope.
I may mangle some of the details, but the backstory is: Bill was a photographer, then an aerial photographer, then he got into the train industry and was a writing/photographer and cartographer of train routes. He knows some train stuff.
When the trains started folding up, Bill said: dang! Now I've got all these maps of railroads that are closed. Then he realized: what he's really got is maps of potential rail-trails. And he's been a trail cartographer ever since. You pick up a map of the Montour Trail, or the GAP, or the paved trail around Hancock Md and you're using a Bill Metzger map. They're excellent.
Bill was a Point Park college student, a Navy sailor during VietNam, and a long-time touring cyclist. He lost the use of his legs a while back, and so now he rides a hand-crank recumbent trike. I've got to try a ride on it, it's fast as hell.
Bill and Pam spend winters in Florida. This winter he had a cardiac event and I think he's ok; he's still grousing and that's a good sign.
Pam is very cool. She has a banking background, did a lot of development work along the trail. I urge you, if you're spending an evening in Confluence and want some local knowledge, Bill is the go-to person.
He likes the River's Edge because he can get up the stairs there, with his arm-braces and his non-functioning pins, and he can pretty well navigate the patio.
Also, last fall Bill said he was working on Version2 of the GAP Companion.
a book which, among other things, identifies the Dead Men that Dead Man's Hollow is named after.
Also, between Perryopolis and Layton is a neat old railroad tunnel that has been converted to automotive use. It is just above the Yough River Trail. If you go through Layton and up the hill, make a left and go over to the little hamlet of Jacob's Creek. Ride along the river toward Smithton; on the right there is a nicely preserved row of "beehive" coke ovens next to the rail line, which is next to the road. You can get back on the YRT across the bridge from Smithton.