EBT Virtual Tour
Harbison Walker Refractory

Photo of Harbison Walker Refractory
Mile Mark: -0.20
Elevation: 590'
Date Built: 1899
Published Photos: EBT 75, 87

This refractory plant was built in 1899-1900 as the W. H. Hawes Fire Brick Company. In December 1900 it was sold to the Harbison-Walker Refractories Company and was expanded in 1903 with a set of round kilns to augment its unusual square kilns. It was the first brick plant in the world to produce exclusively silica brick. Housing for the plant employees was to the north and west of the plant, but was demolished when the company decided to no longer provide employee housing. It benefitted from the fact that it's supply of ganister rock was moved in by the company's own tramway from a quarry adjacent to the plant. HW had a number of quarry locations on Jacks Mountain on both sides of the Juniata River's passage through Jacks Narrows and even had a high bridge over the river. To this day Jacks Mountain shows scars where ganister was taken out and in the winter a lattice of tramways can be seen where the many grades crisscrossed the mountainside. Jack's Mountain is mostly ganister rock and at one time or another supplied all three Mount Union plants as well as another facility Mapleton. The other refractory plants had to have their ganister hauled in by rail.

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.

EBT track originally did not proceed north far beyond the station, but it was extended to service this plant. The plant used a great deal of RI&C coal until February 1955 when it converted to natural gas. That loss of revenue was one of the last nails in EBT's coffin.

The plant ceased operations in 1985 and has been progressively demolished for scrap and landfill between 1991 and about 1998. This was the northmost extent of dual gauge track, which is now standard gauge only. RHI Industries purchased Harbison Walker from its parent company, Global Industries. In 2000, RHI Industries merged Harbison Walker Refractories and North American Refractories, which it had also acquired, to form RHI Refractories America.

HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>
HAER info at the Library of Congess site>

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