Owned and operated by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the W.A. Young and Sons Machine Shop and Foundry is a prime example of America's industrial heritage.
William A. Young, owner and operator of the business built the Machine Shop in 1900 with lumber from the family farm. In 1908, the shop expanded to include the foundry. The other major change to the shop occurred in 1928 when it was electrified.
All of the equipment dates from 1870 to 1920. An intricate system of belts and pulleys throughout the shop runs 25 pieces of machinery, each independent of the other and fully operational powered by one motor. The motor was originally a 12-horsepower steam engine which was followed by a 20-horsepower electric engine, and finally replace by a 20-horsepower gasoline engine.
Young was a master carpenter and crafted many of the patterns used by the foundry. A special type of wood was used which could withstand changes in humidity without warping. Patterns for parts were made from sketches by clients and are on display along the foundry walls. After some study of these sketches, Young would make the pattern and the finished product would be ready for pickup the next day.
Business for the shop came through repairs to the steamboats traveling the river, as Rices Landing, being almost centrally located between Fayette and Greene Counties, was the hub for commercial distribution in the county at that time. Much work was done for the local mines and as an extension of the boiler trade, a hardware store was added. The hardware store can still be seen, fully intact, on the second floor.
Before the existence of gasoline filling stations, the shop would furnish motorists with gasoline, which eventually led to auto repairs and a grease pit in the foundry.
During its operation, a father and two sons of the Young family manned the shop, except during World War II when the workforce increased to 30 and included women.
An apprentice in the shop was required to build his own toolbox and tools in order to pass his apprenticeship.
The foundry produced almost anything that can be cast in molten metal with the huge coke fired furnace, which still stands with an unburned pile of coke beside it. The shop craftsmen worked on and made everything from bronze castings, pipe fittings, locomotive wheels, and even mouse traps. A huge gear, probably crafted to accommodate a river lock, still hangs on the wall in the foundry.
The Machine Shop closed its doors in 1966. After years of neglect and vandalism, it was saved through purchase by the Greene County Historical Society in 1985. Immediate repairs and stabilization were undertaken by volunteers from the community and the facility opened to the public the following year.
The Machine Shop has undergone thorough documentation by historical recording engineers under the auspices of the National Park Service and the Steel Heritage Task Force, and was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1998. The site has undergone extensive stabilization with monies in part from the above two organizations and private donations.
The Machine Shop is located at 116 Water Street, Rices Landing, PA
Summer Sunday tours: Noon to 4 PM
For reservations, contact George Blystone at 724-710-4898