Mile Mark: 0.20
Date Built: 1911
Published Photos: EBT 74, 135, 137, 166; AEBT 91
This refractory plant was built in 1911-12 by the Mount Union Refractories Company. It was located between the EBT yards and the Juniata River. It used RI&C coal and hauled all its ganister on the EBT from its quarry on the south end of Jacks Mountain, just north of Three Springs. The town of Kistler, just across the river from the plant, was constructed for the employees of the plant. The plant later became part of United States Refractories then North American Refractories (NARCo). The plant used EBT coal until the Fall of 1954, when it was converted to oil. The plant hauled ganister on the EBT until the EBT closed, then trucked it from the Three Springs quarry until the plant closed in 1990. The EBT delivered ganister at the north spur, delivered coal from a dump in the Mount Union yards and received finished bricks at the south spur into the plant. After the end of EBT operations, the EBT main was kept open through the yard and some switches removed from it to side tracks to provide continued service to the brick plant from the PRR. It is unknown when this practice ceased.
Refractories are materials highly resistant to heat and are usually used in industries such as steelmaking where very hot liquids are handled. In the case of the Mount Union refractory plants, they manufactured refractory materials out of ganister rock, a sandstone with a high concentration of quartz (silicon dioxide). The ganister was crushed into a powder and mixed with a bonding agent like fireclay and could then be formed into the appropriate shapes. The 'bricks' could be made in any shape needed and were then stacked and cooked for several days in large kilns to drive out all the moisture. The result was a hard material capable of resisting intense heat.
All but two kilns were demolished and those used for special orders. The remainder of the plant was demolished about 1995 and the north tracks removed. In 1998 the new US 522 bypass was built through the plant remains and wiped out most signs of its existence, including the EBT spur into the plant.
North American Refractories was purchased by Didier-Werke, a German company, in the mid to late 1980's. Didier-Werke was later acquired by RHI Industries. In 2000, RHI Industries merged North American Refractories and Harbison Walker Refractories, which it had also acquired, to form RHI Refractories America.
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
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