Back in October of 2005, this was my first look at a blast furnace, up close and personal. The two towers stood in a large rectangular basin, which was completely surrounded by train tracks, going from one bridge across the river to another one. The public streets of Rankin ended on a pretty steep hill, and it was a breath-catching climb down into the basin, then up the elevated rail, between some cars of a laid up train, then back down and across the field.
We ended up in a very large expanse of brown weeds... "brownfields" indeed. The area was so open to anyone looking down from town, but the very largeness of the site seemed to help obscure us. The furnaces seemed much taller now that we were closer to the level of the river; unfortunately the overcast skies did not help to photograph their dark metal forms.
The old machinery was fantastic - and a 40 foot tall deer head hidden inside! We clambered around the catwalks and ladders 90 feet in the air like grinning kids, but cautiously; the metal was getting so weathered that it was thin in places. It was possible to climb up to the very pinnacle of the furnace, where we enjoyed a few minutes of 360° Pittsburgh fall scenery. Very cool place.